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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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Our senior center had an event put on by the library with VR headsets that seniors could wear with a "tour" of Hawaii. I was with our non-profit managing the event and there weren't any issues with dizziness for the 30 or so seniors who participated. I doubt any of them had advanced dementia though. For the amount of time the senior would be wearing the headset, I don't think any damage to the brain would be possible.

The original poster could check with their library to see if they have any kind of VR headsets that can be loaned out to try. I'm 68, but the idea of VR for a senior is a great one in my book!
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I can't imagine one demented person in mom's facility who would be able to wear it and enjoy it

Stick to movies and music in fact try musicals like seven brides for seven brothers or South Pacific
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Remember when people thought penicillin was just moldy bread that should be thrown away. That's why it took 25 years for penicillin to be widely accepted even after it was shown to work. Some people just couldn't grasp a new idea. Happens all the time. Just like how it took the US 70 years longer than the rest of the world to ban lead paint. People just couldn't believe that paint could hurt anyone. Those who choose to live in the past, die in the past. I prefer to embrace the future based on science and not fear.

More examples of VR for the elderly.

www.reddit.com/r/oculus/comments/8r0rv0/help_ideas_vr_for_the_aged/

The only people I would steer away from VR are kids. That's solely because headsets are sized for adults and thus can't accommodate kids with a much smaller IPD.
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Several years ago people were developing wrist syndromes, such as carpal tunnel and tenovitis, from texting, according to an arm and hand doctor I was seeing then. He said he had seen an increase in number of patients, especially younger ones, with these problems.
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There will be pros and cons for the VR, as for any new devices. One magazine C/Net says that motion sickness is still an issue with its users, similar to that of flight simulators used by pilots for training.

As for travel, if I can't get to a place, I can always watch Rick Stevens on TV, as his travel logs are excellent.

I am old enough to remember when cigarettes were considered healthy to smoke. I am just concerned that cellphones, VR, and other devices will be the next cigarette type health risk. But that's just my opinion. I could be wrong. I wasn't wrong back in the 1960's regarding health hazards of tobacco.
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Since we've been side tracked a bit. I'd like to bring it back to topic with a couple of more posts. New, just today!

Here's an 80 year old pilot that can "fly" again after being grounded for 40 years thanks to VR.

www.reddit.com/r/oculus/comments/8qmd07/my_80_yearold_father_flying_again_after_giving_it/

And for people that can't make it to Holland or climb those stairs, you can now visit Anne Frank House. I've been there in person and even a fairly fit person will find it a bit of a challenge to get up those stairs near the top. I can't imagine how someone with walking problems could possibly do it. In VR, they can.

www.oculus.com/blog/introducing-anne-frank-house-vr-an-immersive-experience-that-recreates-amsterdams-secret-annex-and-preserves-a-piece-of-holocaust-history/
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Freqflyer, I can't think of a single real VR headset that has a magnet in it. You must be thinking of the various "cardboard" adapters for phones. Some of those may have a magnetic clasp. Those are really low power. Like the same as on a cell phone case or a purse. Considering that you hold a cell phone or purse much closer to your pacemaker than a VR headset, if those don't have a problem neither would the magnetic clasp on a VR adapter for a phone. Yes, having a pacemaker in a MRI is a problem. But the magnetic field in a MRI is MUCH stronger than in a little magnet for a clasp. Otherwise beware your refrigerator magnets the next time you go for a midnight snack.

As for your concerns about EMI and brain damage. I refer you to the links I posted above. Those claims belong with vaccine scares and Elvis is alive and working in a diner.
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Gardenartist, as for your brain comments. Once again, batteries do not put out EMI fields like that. You are thinking about radios. There was a scare a few decades back concerning cell phone radios. It was soundly dismissed. But of course with most things that are popular scares, like the vaccine scare, the scare lives on long after the science has put it down. Fake facts took hold in American long before this current fake facts fad.

Here's a couple of articles you should read.

www.cancer.gov/about-cancer/causes-prevention/risk/radiation/cell-phones-fact-sheet
www.snopes.com/fact-check/cell-phone-cause-brain-damage/

I've known people that have done research with many 100's of times more radiation than you would get from a cell phone. Brain damage is the least of their concerns.
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Gardenartist, once again, how's someone that can't stand let alone walk going to do that stroll through a forest you keep proposing. How many people even live close to and can access said forest or seashore? With VR everyone can.

As for citations, here are few. They are quite easy to find. They have been widely reported.

www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/healthyliving/healthy-ageing-stay-mentally-active
www.health.harvard.edu/healthbeat/7-ways-to-keep-your-memory-sharp-at-any-age
www.webmd.com/alzheimers/guide/preventing-dementia-brain-exercises#1
www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/the-athletes-way/201601/regular-exercise-along-standing-is-the-key-longevity

Those are popular media articles. Here's the nitty gritty if you are used to reading research papers.

www.nature.com/articles/nature12486
www.nature.com/articles/ncomms6504
www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19587326

It's pretty conclusive. If you keep using your brain, you will be mentally sharp. If you don't. You won't. Many people simply give up with the excuse that they are old. They are "old" because they gave up.

Look no further than the notorious RBG for a prime example of the benefits of keeping physically and mentally active. I don't think I can keep up with her work out. Personally, I've known plenty of people who still did science well into their 90's and 100's. I'm no longer young and kids assume I can't keep up with them. I still show them up after suckering them in by playing the role of the old guy.
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FF, I read recently that neuroblastomas, typically seen in children, have been developing in adults who use a particular form of tech device....I don't recall if it was a specific cell phone, or something else.

It might have been related to li-ion batteries; I have a vague recollection of that as well. I didn't bookmark the site but it was a medical site, not like Web MD but a real one, perhaps something like an NIH site.
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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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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.
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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?
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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.
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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.

medicalxpress.com/news/2017-04-virtual-reality-falls-elderly.html

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.

www.senioradvisor.com/blog/2016/08/scientists-test-virtual-reality-tools-to-help-seniors/

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.
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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.
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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.
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OneLastStraw, that's not true at all. For $200 you can get a very good VR headset.

www.microsoft.com/en-us/p/lenovo-explorer-windows-mixed-reality-headset-with-motion-controllers/8n5sn73q2xvg

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.
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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
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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.
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