Reaching Seniors with Dementia Effectively – Virtually

Imagine for a second how it might feel to struggle with the cognitive complications of Alzheimer’s disease. The family and friends who are closest to you are no longer familiar. The words and phrases that would roll off your tongue without an additional thought are now just beyond your grasp. In fact, the world as you once knew it has completely turned topsy-turvy, leaving you yearning for a recognizable foothold.

However, one of the kindnesses imparted by Alzheimer’s is the long-term memories that oftentimes remain intact long after short-term memories have vanished. It’s why connecting seniors with dementia to the past is often an incredibly effective way to engage them – through music, movies, photos, and reminiscing. Now we can add a high-tech tool to the ways we can help seniors mentally connect with the past that is showing impressive outcomes in those diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease: virtual reality.

Skip Rizzo, director for medical virtual reality at the USC Institute for Creative Technologies, has been utilizing the technology to help veterans experiencing post-traumatic stress disorder. He is now expanding his reach to older adults – starting with his own 89-year-old mother, whose delightful reaction to a virtual trip to Rome confirmed precisely how powerful the technology can be for seniors.

Rizzo shares an encounter in which he visited a nursing home where a group of residents were just sitting around a table in silence, until he began showing them flashcard-like pictures of objects from the past. The change in the atmosphere was electric, as the older adults began sharing memories with one another. With the ability of low-tech tools such as simple photos to create delight for older adults, imagine the opportunities available to us now with high-tech solutions like virtual reality!

The benefit of virtual reality for seniors goes further than simply boosting memory and bringing enjoyment, such as:

Improved Medical Care

The distraction of virtual reality is proving to be a highly effective tool for easing physical pain for seniors. Additionally, it can be used to enhance balance and other motor skills and improve spatial reasoning. It may even help doctors identify health conditions by watching how seniors respond in different activities and games.

Increased Socialization

We all know that older adult isolation is a contributing aspect in a number of mental health and physical issues. A recent research study conducted by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine announced that approximately one in four older adults feels socially isolated. To address this concern, AARP Innovation Labs developed an app called Alcove, in which seniors and their family and friends can enjoy virtual reality experiences together.

Would you like to learn more about live in care in Norfolk and the surrounding communities to improve quality of life for an older adult you love? Call the Seniorcorp aging care team at 757-640-0557 for more information about our innovative and compassionate home care services!