Does anyone have experience/info re using virtual reality devices for elderly people with dementia?

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My 96-year-old mother can no longer stand and walk, and has fairly advanced dementia. Today she was talking about going to Hawaii, and was enjoying watching the Audrey Hepburn "Gardens of the World" DVD. I was thinking how great it might be for her to be able to "get out" using this virtual reality technology, about which I know next to nothing. Thought I would start some research here. Thanks.

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VR headsets available at the moment are pretty expensive to buy without knowing how a senior will react...

I feel like watching movies and looking at glossy travel magazine photos is better and more familiar.

I'm not against them! I'm actually really excited for VR applications in education and enrichment but honestly...the tech just isn't there yet.
Lynn, I would be afraid a senior may get very dizzy and/or frightened using a virtual reality device.... especially if one has dementia.

For myself, I would get a major case of vertigo if I tried to use one :P
OneLastStraw, that's not true at all. For $200 you can get a very good VR headset.

Even the best consumer ones available right now are about $400.

Of course you need a computer to drive it, but for OP's application you don't need much of one.

Freqflyer, that's not necessarily true either. While everyone is different, unless you are watching fast motion you will tend not to get motion sickness with a VR headset. Especially in a seated position. It's the mismatch between what you are seeing and what your body is doing that causes motion sickness. If you are doing a stationary experience while seated the chances that there will be motion sickness are extremely low.

OP, I think it's a great idea to at least try. May I suggest Google Earth in VR. It's amazing. I used to travel a lot and miss it. It brings me back to many places when I use Google Earth in a VR headset. Street view is key here. The combination of 360 degree spherical photos with headtracking is very immersive.

In general, I think gaming is a great idea for the elderly. It keeps them engaged and active. Studies have show that it does work as therapy for various forms of dementia. So much so that some computer games are going through clinical trials to be FDA approved as medical devices. The brain like a muscle is use it or lose it. I started my dad on handheld gaming. Now I'm moving him to flat screen gaming. I'll migrate that to triple screen and then finally VR.

I know quite a bit about VR. So please feel free to ask questions. Before picking a headset, make sure that it will work with your mom's IPD, the distance between her eyes. If it isn't 63mm, the adult human average, then you'll need to get a headset with adjustable IPD. That $200 headset I linked to is static IPD.

I guess we come from a different place on this but to me $200 is expensive for me if the senior decides to never use it.
I agree with OneLastStraw about the cost. Plus one needs a computer to drive it... both my parents gave up their computer when they had issues with eyesight in their late 80's.

As we age eyesight become a bigger issue. Macular generation becomes common.

Vertigo/dizziness is also an issue as we age. Both my parents had this. My sig other gets dizzy using his iPhone as one has to scroll and scroll. That's the main reason I kept my flip phone.

Ah, Google Earth, I use that in my work on occasion, but I have to limit myself to just a couple of minutes because I would start to get woozie.  My Dad wishes he could have used Google Earth but he had the same issue as I :(

What is exciting to use when one is younger may not work for someone who is elder.
OneLastStraw, that's simple then. Return it. Microsoft Store has a 30 day return window. There's no risk, only possible reward.

Freqflyer, that's even more reason to use VR. Yes, older people tend to have balance issues. Balance is a learned skill. Like many things, use it or lose it. Unfortunately many older people don't and thus they lose it. The therapy for this is to get them to use it. One abrupt way to treat this is to use a treadmill and trip them up. Don't worry, it's safe since the person is suspended by a harness so they can't fall. While abrupt it's benefits are very rapid. Similarly a treadmill in VR can reteach balance.

Balance is not the only thing that VR can help the elderly with. There are a wide variety of things that can be addressed from anxiety to as the OP asked for, virtual travel.

Time and time it's been shown that growing old, at least mentally, is more a choice than a certain fate. The brain remains plastic. It's whether you use that plasticity or not. Mentally active people can stay "young" through out their lives. It's been found that people who have all the physical characteristics of alzheimer's, spots and shrunken brains, show no signs of dementia because they remained mentally active. They challenged themselves throughout their lives and kept learning.
I'm with OneLastStraw. For $200 I can make a payment on my mortgage, or buy enough seed packets for 2 years' worth of gardening. Why waste it on some electronic device, especially if it has batteries that will be close to my brain?

And it should be remembered that many people do NOT have $200 to spare, and that buying something and then returning it is a waste of time, energy, and gas costs.

I also agree with FF. As we age, different physical activities become more challenging. Unless you're of that age, it's probably hard to imagine how uncomfortable dizziness can be.

I prefer immersion experiences, like walking in gardens, in forests, along the seashores - real experience with real sounds and fragrances.

I think "reality" is best experienced as it is - in real life. Can you imagine, for example, getting a thrill from seeing Yosemite, Yellowstone, Denali, Bryce Canon, in VR as opposed to in real life?

Can VR substitute for the freshness and rhythm of waves, of birds singing, of petting an animal and feeling it snuggle up against you?

Needtowashhair wrote:

Time and time it's been shown that growing old, at least mentally, is more a choice than a certain fate."

I'd like to have cites to such studies. Growing old is part of being alive, whether it's a human, grasshopper, butterfly or elephant. It's a natural process. Anyone can "make a choice" not to grow old, but the body is going to wear out and die one way or the other.

Unless you're a metamorphic, sedimentary or igneous rock, you're going to grow old. Even the magnificent Redwoods grow old.

I think the expressions stated and the embrace of tech devices is one of the reasons I feel that people need even more to embrace other people, other living things, and not creations from some lab or assembly line to stimulate real life.

And I think also that people who do shy away from real living lose their ability to interact with other humans, and that's a major deficit and shortcoming for individuals, groups, and society in general. There's been too much friction on racial, ethnic, genetic and similar issues for hundreds of years. We need to do more with other people, not with devices.
I guess I'm unusual in thinking that $200 is a cheap price to pay to give a loved one even a tiny bit of happiness.

How can someone who can't stand or walk, go walking thorough a garden, forest or seashore? They can in VR. Have you tried it? If not, don't knock it.

As for your battery close to the brain comment. I think you are confusing a battery with a radio. Since a battery has little to no EMI emissions. So why would it matter?
The issue of paying $200 for happiness is one I won't argue as we're clearly on different wave lengths in terms of expense and happiness.

And I wasn't referring to radios. I might be geriatric, and mentally challenged, but I do know the difference between a battery and a radio.

I recognize the issue of being unable to stand or walk, and that's a legitimate concern.

Obviously, we come at this from different viewpoints. I suspect you're much younger and work in a tech-related field. I wish you success in caring for your parent.
needtowashhair, I just did some quick research on the VR, the pros and cons. Yes, there are good points to the VR, but like anything else in todays device world there are cons.

Apparently some of these head sets have magnets in them which could interfere with a pacemaker. And I for one, wouldn't want magnets so close to my brain, especially with all the microwave signals that we have everywhere now a days since the invention of the cellphone and other devices that depend on electronic microwaves.

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