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.
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.
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 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.
Stick to movies and music in fact try musicals like seven brides for seven brothers or South Pacific
For myself, I would get a major case of vertigo if I tried to use one :P
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.
More examples of VR for the elderly.
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.
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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