How VR Tech is Helping Senior Living Communities Live Their Healthiest, Happiest Lives
The global population is aging, and with that comes a number of concerns. But MyndVR is proving you can teach old dogs new tricks. Or, more importantly, you can address serious elderly concerns with new tech. The Dallas based company is implementing its Virtual Reality (VR) technology into senior living communities and it’s showing amazing results combatting health and wellness issues.
Depression and Dementia
Dementia and depression often go hand in hand. While dementia affects 7% of adults aged 60 or older, it often looks like depression, or vice versa, because both illnesses share symptoms such as memory problems, sluggishness, and low motivation. Also, both can cause the other. Although the complex relationship between the two disorders is far from conclusive, the prevalence of depression in dementia patients is reportedly between 9% and 68%.
According to the CDC, depression affects up to 5% of the general elderly population. That number rises to 11.5% in older hospital patients, and 13.5% in those who require home healthcare. Why are these numbers so high?
Health Problems: Depression is more common in those with another illness, and about 80% of older adults have at least one chronic health condition. What’s more, certain medications are associated with depression, including blood pressure, arthritis, and high-cholesterol drugs.
Loss of Purpose & Social Isolation: Combine physical limitations with retirement and suddenly it’s harder, and less necessary, to leave the comfort of a home. This means many elderly people are spending more time alone, without a sense of purpose.
Misdiagnosis: Depression symptoms can look like regular aging: fatigue, difficulty concentrating or persistent aches or pains. Often this means that family and friends, health care professionals, and even the patients themselves miss the signs.
Companies like MyndVR are seeing the benefits of using VR to combat these illnesses. Studies and clinical trials have used the technology as a simulation and interaction tool, which can expose patients to their fears, and present interactive environments with cognitive-behavioral challenges. In doing so, these VR systems have been linked with: helping overcome mental illness; prompting cognitive and behavioral changes in patients with psychiatric disorders including autism and dementia; and reducing chronic pain and intensive stress.
Fear of Falling
Many older adults have a constant fear or falling, which cannot be explained by physical examination. Logically, it makes sense that seniors would be worried about fall-related injuries and how these can impact their lives, both in terms of life quality and health care costs. But for many, these concerns morph into a heightened psychological fear. This can result in mental or physical issues, such as anxiety or muscle depletion from self-induced mobility restrictions.
A 2016 study found that VR exposure therapy, in the form of serious games, can be used to treat the fear of falling. This is because it requires both sensory and cognitive processing. Top-down processing refers to cognitive perception, where your brain uses patterns to perceive and fill in information. Bottom-up processing requires piecing sensory information together to create a picture. VR requires the cognitive organization and execution of synchronized motion (top-down process), while serious games allow for embodiment (bottom-up process). The combination of these two had a positive effect on the psychological or phobic reaction that patients had to falling.
Quality of Life
MyndVR knows that not only can VR impact major health concerns, it’s also fun. The interactive technology encourages dancing, singing and laughing, often giving patients a sense of inclusion, relief and happiness. The company’s goal is to ‘lift spirits, improve quality of life, relive cherished memories, and create new ones’.
Are you developing technology with health benefits for elderly people? Did you know your R&D experiments could be eligible for the R&D Tax Credit and you can receive up to 14% back on your expenses? To find out more, please contact a Swanson Reed R&D Specialist today or check out our free online eligibility test.
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