Researchers from the University of California Santa Barbara found evidence that using virtual reality can help improve the quality of life for older adults who have cognitive impairments. This study went on to earn the Gold 2023 Mather Institute Innovative Research on Aging Award. The study examined whether using virtual reality can help these older adults with mild cognitive impairment, as well as their family members who live far away.
This study included 21 older adults who reside in a senior living community. The study consisted of three VR sessions a week, where the participant was led through the VR experience with a researcher, who controlled the VR experience through a control tablet. The family members of the older adults in this study also had an opportunity to participate in the VR experience, from their own homes. All older adults and family members completed a brief survey after each VR session. The results indicated that the VR experience was associated with improvements in older adults’ affect and stress, relationships with their family members, and quality of life. Similarly, for the family members of the older adults in the study, they experienced a decrease in negative affect, depressive symptoms, and caregiver burden.
This study seems to have found evidence that virtual reality can be used as a tool to help improve the quality of life for older adults who have cognitive impairments. In addition, it can act as a relationship maintenance mechanism to keep the family members of the older adult engaged with the older adults and the senior living community.
Afifi, T., Collins, N., Rand, K., Otmar, C., Mazur, A., Dunbar, N. E., … & Logsdon, R. (2023). Using virtual reality to improve the quality of life of older adults with cognitive impairments and their family members who live at a distance. Health Communication, 38(9), 1904-1915. Using Virtual Reality to Improve the Quality of Life of Older Adults with Cognitive Impairments and their Family Members who Live at a Distance – PubMed (nih.gov)