A group of elderly residents recently took part in a study designed to measure virtual reality’s impact on the emotional well-being of seniors. For many people, growing older often leads to a lack of mobility, and it can be harder to get out and about. This, in turn, can create feelings of isolation, frustration and sadness. A virtual reality company in the US called Visual carried out this experiment. It was designed to provide seniors with an experience that actually improved the quality of their lives – not just give them a one-time diversion. Twenty five residents at a retirement living centre took part in the study which consisted of eight virtual reality experiences spread over a four week period. Each virtual ‘trip’ lasted about 10 minutes and was completely realistic. The idea was to take the participants to places which would give them a feeling of peace and wonder. These included waterfalls, boat rides and aquariums.
The study found that virtual reality exposure helped the seniors to maintain a high level of positive emotions and relaxation. All of the participants said that they enjoyed the experience, and that it had a positive impact on their mental health by making them feel happier, more relaxed and less worried. Whilst virtual reality may not be a replacement for getting out and exploring the world, it does at least seem to provide an uplifting and enjoyable option for people whose age or disabilities cause them to have fewer opportunities for real life adventures.