Summer 2020 was probably not what you thought it was going to be. Whether you planned a trip abroad, across the country, or mapped out a staycation of sorts, travel restrictions likely threw a wrench in your travel plans.
But the residents at Belleview Heights Assisted Living and Memory Care community in Aurora, Colorado, are still able to experience new destinations whenever they like. The community recently launched a virtual reality therapy program for its residents, which uses an Oculus headset to transport residents to simulated experiences, places, and events outside of the community’s grounds.
Aside from pure entertainment, virtual reality experiences offer unique benefits to residents, particularly now, when physical travel is restricted.
Virtual Reality Travel Experiences are Safer and Less Expensive
As amazing as traveling is, there are some parts that are not very much fun: long flights in small airline seats, unfamiliar public transportation, language barriers, and the high cost of accommodations, just to name a few. And currently, travel restrictions and social distancing recommendations can make taking a trip a less enticing idea. For those experiencing memory challenges or who need help with the activities of daily living, physical travel can be even more difficult or outright cautioned against by their doctors.
In addition, because of the spread of the COVID-19, Belleview Heights and other assisted living and memory care communities temporarily canceled local recreational trips and family visits in order to protect their residents. Even though that decision keeps residents safe, Belleview Heights still wants to ensure that residents receive the benefits of recreational outings and new stimuli.
With virtual reality experiences, residents at Belleview Heights can experience the joys of new, faraway places without any of the typical hassles of physical travel. Just by putting on the headset, they can relax and enjoy museums, landscapes, cities, and monuments from all over the world from the comfort of their familiar community. They can travel on-demand and immediately—no airport security lines or luggage required. If they want to travel from Asia to Europe to South America and back again, there’s no travel time in between. It’s the world’s easiest, safest, fastest, and most cost-effective way to travel!
Virtual Reality Can Help Those with Memory Challenges
There is also evidence that virtual reality experiences can improve mood and may even improve memory recall for memory care residents.
In a small study led by Dr. Chee Siang (Jim) Ang, a senior lecturer from the University of Kent, researchers found that virtual reality experiences could help people living with memory challenges. As part of the study, Dr. Ang’s team used virtual reality devices on eight participants with a mean age of 69 and living with some type of dementia, including Alzheimer’s and Huntington’s.
Each participant was monitored during the 15-minute virtual reality sessions. Dr. Ang’s team subsequently reviewed feedback from the participants and their caregivers to learn the effects of the experience. The study found that virtual reality may help participants recall old memories by offering new stimuli that they could otherwise not experience while living in their community. For example, one patient recalled a holiday after seeing a bridge that reminded them of that trip. Because of the increased recall, caregivers were also able to learn more about the participants’ lives, so it improved their social interaction and relationships.
VR experiences may also improve mood. Dr. Ang’s team reported that “at an art session some weeks later, one of the patients who had taken part commented that it had been ‘brilliant’. He appeared to enjoy reminiscing about the experience and was inspired to draw a seaside picture, suggesting that his VR experience had had a positive effect on his mood and motivation to engage with the art session.”
Even though real-life traveling is off the table right now, residents at Belleview Heights are still enjoying travel experiences. Thanks to the community’s virtual reality program, residents can experience the world from the comfort and safety of their community.
To learn more about residency or to schedule a tour of Belleview Heights, contact our friendly team today.