How virtual reality vacations help seniors cope with isolation, loneliness

MyndVR and AARP Innovation Labs’ Alcove help connect seniors to the world

Even though many seniors across the U.S. may be isolated because of the coronavirus, some companies are helping them connect to the rest of the world using virtual reality technology.

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These VR technologies can help seniors cope with loneliness and isolation by virtually bringing them on international tours or allowing them to interact with loved ones, even if they can’t be in the same physical space, according to a recent report from CNET.

Two examples are MyndVR and AARP Innovation Labs, the website reported.

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MyndVR has its own headset specifically made for older adults and people who are completely unfamiliar with how VR systems work, according to the company website. The system also includes a tablet that another person can use to also participate in an experience, the website said.

The company offers more than 200 VR experiences in a wide range of areas including travel, music and arts, CNET reported.

Those videos can be especially helpful for engagement therapy and reminiscence therapy for seniors suffering from dementia.

"As their stimulus diminishes due to age and disease, we have to find other ways to keep them stimulated and engaged," MyndVR CEO Chris Brickler told CNET.

Companies like MyndVR and AARP Innovation Labs are using VR technology to help seniors stay connected and engaged with the world, even if they can't physically be there. (iStock)

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Meanwhile, AARP Innovation Labs has created a product called Alcove, which connects seniors with their relatives through a VR experience, according to CNET.

Alcove is a VR app that allows seniors to spend time with up to four loved ones in a virtual space where they can talk, watch videos and play games together, according to the Alcove website.

The app is available on Oculus Go -- a portable VR headset owned by parent company Facebook.

Cezara Windrem, AARP Innovation Labs’ head of VR, told CNET the VR technology could be a way to bring younger and older generations together.

"We know how much the young generations are attracted to this new technology," Windrem told CNET. "It's wonderful having them find a connection through this new medium and be able to share their love for it with older family members but on their own terms through experiences that everyone can relate to."

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Even before the coronavirus, VR technologies were picking up steam among senior living communities as a way to keep older people connected and avoid isolation, AARP reported in January.

According to that report, being isolated is “one of the most pressing problems in people’s later years.”

More than 8 million older adults are affected by social isolation, which can cause other health issues like depression, anxiety and early onset of dementia, AARP reported.

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