Virtual reality technology has been used in the entertainment and gaming world for years. So when you think of virtual reality, you probably think of someone playing video games. You probably do not think of health and wellness.
But did you know that virtual reality can be used as a tool to improve health and fitness? And even more surprisingly, virtual reality has benefits for a population not commonly associated with using new technology—seniors in assisted living and memory care communities.
At Ashley Gardens, contact our friendly team today. Ashley Gardens Assisted Living and Memory Care Community in Charleston, South Carolina, residents are not just using virtual reality for entertainment. The community recently launched a virtual reality therapy program for its residents, which uses an Oculus headset to allow them to experience places and events outside of the community’s grounds. Not only does the technology provide a new entertainment experience for the residents, but it may also help them maintain physical and emotional wellness.
Virtual Reality Can Help Residents Maintain Physical Health
Virtual reality, by its nature, is an interactive experience. Because of this, VR experiences can promote healthy movement. If a resident wants to take a virtual walk through a garden or museum, they can do so seated if necessary. But they can add physical movement to the experience by moving about the room to their level of ability. VR headsets can also be used to play games that keep residents excited and active.
There are also physical benefits associated with pure entertainment. Activities such as experiencing nature through a virtual reality headset can have the same positive effects as physically experiencing the same event. Through VR, residents can get the same physical benefits of a relaxing nature walk, such as lower stress hormones, improved heart rate, and relaxation of tense muscles.
VR Therapy Has Emotional Health Benefits, Too
In addition to the physical benefits virtual reality experiences offer, there are emotional health benefits, as well. VR therapy can promote socialization and decrease loneliness, as well as improve the connection between caregivers and residents. Regular social interaction is vital to seniors’ emotional and even physical health, as it creates a sense of purpose, improves feelings of belonging, and increases self-esteem.
Residents and caregivers alike are able to share in experiences together through virtual reality, improving their social connection. They can use VR to travel together to faraway places, take in amazing new landscapes across the world, visit museums, or listen to live music events. These activities bring Ashley Gardens’ residents and staff closer together, improving their relationships.
Research Suggests VR May Benefit Memory
Finally, as the cherry on top of all of the benefits, virtual reality provides residents at Ashley Gardens, research suggests that VR therapy may specifically benefit people with dementia and Alzheimer’s.
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 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. 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. And even if old memories were not triggered, researchers saw improvements in participants’ mood simply from partaking in the experience.
For residents at Ashley Gardens, VR will allow them to revisit locations from their past, including prior homes and vacation destinations. These experiences can inspire them to reminiscence and can improve their relationships with other residents and caregivers, ultimately improving their quality of life.
Whether Ashley Gardens residents use virtual reality therapy for entertainment, relaxation, social connection, or any other reason, the community is happy that they’ll be getting profound physical and mental wellness benefits from simply enjoying the experience.
To learn more about residency or to schedule a tour of Ashley Gardens, contact our friendly team today.