While virtual reality (VR) has been around for quite awhile, the technology has only entered the realm of consumer technology in the past decade or so. Since then, neurologists and psychiatrists alike have been interested in exploring the potential health benefits of VR. Recent studies have specifically looked into potential benefits of virtual reality technology for those with dementia and Alzheimer’s, and the results are promising.
If you or a loved one have ever experienced dementia, then it is easy to understand the appeal of potential treatments. While many think dementia is related only to memory loss, those who have experienced it on a more personal level understand that the more insidious aspects of the condition include violent mood swings, persistent angry episodes, and significant bouts of depression and anxiety — all of which affect quality of life for dementia patients as well as their caregivers. The search for relief from these symptoms can often feel like a desperate plea — one which advanced virtual reality applications may be able to answer.
Multiple studies in the past five years have looked into virtual reality treatment for dementia and Alzheimer’s with impressive results. One such study out of the University of Kent in 2019 found that VR was able to improve patients’ quality of life and helped the patients to recall lost memories through the use of new visual stimuli. Others have found results such as elevated mood and overall reduction of depression by providing patients with sensory experiences in interesting locales that their health or physical constraints may not otherwise let them experience.
Rendever is a VR platform which has been shown to reduce depression and loneliness in patients by fostering personal connections with others. rendever.com
UprightVR uses virtual reality to improve balance and help fall prevention in those with limited mobility. uprightvr.com
While adaptive VR platforms often come with a steep price tag, there are signs that virtual reality is becoming more affordable and accessible. PlayStation has dipped its toe into virtual reality and Meta’s Quest 2 has marketing applications that go well beyond gaming, inviting users to explore new worlds or exercise in community spaces. It is only a matter of time before these companies and others also find a way to be more inclusive of their aging clientele and create applications that help to facilitate memory care and learning. In the world of VR, the possibilities really are endless.
By Vanessa Hutchison