Supporting older adults with innovative immersive technologies
The use of immersive virtual reality (VR) technology has grown in popularity in social and leisure settings, as well as in healthcare settings and among the older adult population. Over the last several years, the Sheridan Centre for Elder Research (CER) has explored innovative uses of this immersive technology collaboratively with long-standing community partners.
One such project is the Tri-Agency-funded “Emerging Technologies: Exploring the health and well-being benefits of using virtual reality with adults living in long-term care communities”, which wrapped up its pilot phase with Sienna Senior Living and has started its second phase with Acclaim Health. The initial pilot brought the experience of travel (in a VR headset) to Sienna Senior Living long-term care residents who might be experiencing physical, sensory or cognitive challenges. Residents responded well to the immersive technology as it provided an opportunity to experience a new virtual environment, use a new technology and was a distraction for those with chronic pain. CER also developed virtual training materials for recreation programs across 45 Sienna Senior Living sites.
The project’s second phase presents several new elements – a different community partner in Acclaim Health, who run day programs for people living with dementia. Rather than using VR headsets, Acclaim is in the process of building an immersive room for residents; and CER’s role is from an evaluation standpoint. Dr. Leigh Hayden, Project Coordinator at CER, is spearheading the evaluation which will result in the development of a framework and set of guidelines for incorporating immersive technology in Acclaim’s recreation program. “In both phases of this project, we’ve supported the introduction of innovative technology in recreation programming for older adults in different settings,” says Dr. Hayden. “Immersive technologies can be adapted to different settings and populations to provide meaningful recreation, opportunities to relax, as well as opportunities for engagement and adventure.”
For more information on the work undertaken by the Centre for Elder Research please visit elderresearch.sheridancollege.ca.
Pictured top of page: Illustration of Acclaim Health building. Pictured above left: Acclaim Health rendering of a subject sitting in an immersive virtual reality (VR) room. Images provided by Acclaim Health.
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