Writer: Alejandro Sanchez
2 min read July 2021— Senior-living facilities are driving a new trend in healthcare: the therapeutic use of virtual reality (VR). John Knox Village, an award-winning retirement community in South Florida, in conjunction with Stanford University, is at the forefront of this trend.
As telemedicine and artificial intelligence become an integral part of retirement communities, new tools have continued to emerge as efforts ramp up to satiate the needs of the senior population. VR, in particular, has been recently used to treat a variety of health complications, including cognitive disorders, chronic pain and depression. Thanks to a partnership with Stanford University’s Virtual Human Interaction Lab (VHIL), John Knox’s 1,200 residents will have a chance to tour popular destinations such as Paris, Cairo and Venice without leaving the comfort of South Florida.
MyndVR, the company that provided the headsets for the research, ensured that all precautions were taken to guarantee a safe and pleasant experience for all participants. Through a compassionate understanding of the elderly, the company carefully curated the content delivered in the VR experiences. According to Monica McAfee, John Knox’s chief marketing and innovation officer, in about three years Stanford “will provide the empirical data” collected during the research phase, to determine whether VR can be beneficial for senior patients with dementia or other neurological illnesses.
As reported by Senior Living News, the therapeutic use of VR can also stimulate better social engagement in retirement communities, a population that experienced extreme levels of isolation during the pandemic. Ideally, VR users will be able to reinforce relationships with other seniors, family and staff. Northern Ohio University associate philosophy professor Erica Neely, a researcher on the ethics of technology, acknowledges that the program carefully screens the physical and mental health of participants. Professor Neely also highlighted, “The fact that there is a companion/caretaker who can go with (the participant) is utter genius.”
During an interview last year with Invest:, Gerald Stryker, president and CEO of John Knox Village, expressed how the community is determined to keep residents engaged through innovative projects and initiatives. “Many of the residents at John Knox Village want to be able to live purposeful lives up until their last breath. With help from other collaborators, we are making this possible,” Stryker explained.
As the study with Stanford continues, expectations are high for the acceptance of VR as a therapeutic treatment for the physical and mental health of the elderly.