Picture for a moment how it would feel to struggle with the cognitive complications of Alzheimer’s. The people who are closest to you are no longer familiar. The words that would roll off your tongue without a second thought are now just out of reach. In fact, the whole world as you once knew it has turned completely upside down, leaving you longing for a recognizable foothold.
However, one of the kindnesses imparted by dementia is the long-term memories that often remain intact long after short-term memories have subsided. It’s why connecting them to the past is usually a remarkably effective way to engage and provide care for seniors with dementia – through music, photos, movies, and reminiscing. Now we can add a high-tech tool to the list of ways we can help seniors mentally connect with the past that’s demonstrating remarkable results in older adults with dementia: virtual reality.
Skip Rizzo, director for medical virtual reality at the USC Institute for Creative Technologies, has been utilizing the technology to aid veterans experiencing PTSD. He’s now broadening his reach to seniors – beginning with his own 89-year-old mother, whose wonderful response to a virtual visit to Rome showed exactly how effective the technology can be for seniors.
Rizzo relays an experience in which he visited a senior living home where a group of residents were simply sitting around a table in silence, until he began showing them flashcard-like pictures of objects they might recognize from their past. The transformation within the atmosphere was electric, as the older adults began sharing memories with each other. With the ability of low-tech tools such as simple photographs to create delight for older adults, just imagine the possibilities available to us now with high-tech options like virtual reality!
The advantage of virtual reality for providing care for seniors with dementia goes beyond merely bringing enjoyment and boosting memory, such as:
Improved Medical Care
The distraction of virtual reality is showing to be a very good tool for easing pain for older adults. It can also be used to improve motor skills and balance and improve spatial reasoning. It may even help doctors detect health issues by noticing how seniors respond in various activities and games.
We all know that senior isolation is a contributing aspect in a variety of physical and mental health problems. A recent study conducted by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine presented that as many as 1 in 4 seniors feel socially isolated. To address this concern, AARP Innovation Labs has created an app called Alcove, in which seniors and their family and friends can enjoy virtual reality experiences together.
Want to explore creative options to improve quality of life for a senior in your life? Reach out to our care team to learn more about our in home care in Kalamazoo and other nearby areas! For a full list of the areas we serve in Michigan, please visit our Locations page.