‘Soaring’ over hills or ‘playing’ with puppies, study finds seniors enjoy virtual reality

Category: Education/Family


Unlocking Word Meanings

Read the following words/expressions found in today’s article.

  1. stimulate / ˈstɪm yəˌleɪt / (v.) – to cause something to react, become more active or engaged

    The professor’s interesting lecture stimulated a lively discussion among the students.

  2. isolated / ˈaɪ səˌleɪ tɪd / (adj.) – unhappy due to a lack of interaction or communication with other people

    Jane felt isolated when she moved to a new city and didn’t know anyone.

  3. deteriorate / dɪˈtɪər i əˌreɪt / (v.) – to become worse in condition over time

    As my grandmother grew older, her memory deteriorated. She started forgetting names and faces.

  4. caregiver / ˈkɛərˌgɪv ər / (n.) – a person who takes care of a child, elderly, or someone who is sick

    The caregivers at the nursing home provide continuous help and support to the elderly people living there.

  5. spur / spɜr / (v.) – to encourage something to happen or develop

    The coach gave an inspiring talk to spur the team’s motivation to win the championship.


Read the text below.

John Knox Village was one of 17 senior communities around the country that participated in a recently published Stanford University study that found that a large majority of 245 participants between 65 and 103 years old enjoyed virtual reality, improving both their emotions and their interactions with staff.

The study is part of a larger effort to adapt VR so it can be beneficial to seniors’ health and emotional well-being and help lessen the impact dementia has on some of them.

During the testing, seniors picked from seven-minute virtual experiences such as parachuting, riding in a tank, watching stage performances, playing with puppies and kittens, or visiting places like Paris or Egypt. The participants wore headsets that gave them 360-degree views and sounds, making it seem like they had been all but dropped into the actual experience.

Anne Selby, a 79-year-old retired counselor and artist, found VR “stimulated virtually every area of my brain, all of the senses.”

Stanford’s peer-reviewed study, working with the company Mynd Immersive, found that almost 80% of seniors reported having a more positive attitude after their VR session and almost 60% said they felt less isolated socially. The enjoyment lessened somewhat for older respondents whose sight and hearing had deteriorated.

Those who found VR less enjoyable were also more likely to dislike technology in general.

In addition, almost 75% of caregivers said residents’ moods improved after using VR. More than 80% of residents and almost 95% of caregivers said talking about their VR experience enhanced their relationships with each other.

Separate from the study, John Knox Village uses virtual reality in its unit that houses seniors who have Alzheimer’s disease and other dementia. It helps spur memories that lead to conversations with caregivers.

Chris Brickler said Mynd Immersive systems will soon attach to Google Earth, so seniors can virtually visit neighborhoods where they lived, schools they attended, and places they have visited, sparking further conversations with caregivers.

This article was provided by The Associated Press.

Viewpoint Discussion

Enjoy a discussion with your tutor.

Discussion A

  • The study found that seniors who disliked virtual reality were more likely to dislike technology in general. Why do you think some seniors dislike technology? Do you think it’s possible to address this barrier? Why or why not? Discuss.
  • What do you think will encourage seniors to use technology more (ex. teaching them how to use it, making specialized tech that is easy to use)? Discuss.

Discussion B

  • In your opinion, should caregivers receive specific training on incorporating virtual reality into their interactions with seniors? Why or why not? What considerations do you think should be taken into account before widely using VR (ex. frequency of use, health impact)? Discuss.
  • If you were a senior resident, what virtual experience mentioned in the study would you be most interested in trying (ex. parachuting, riding in a tank)? Why? Discuss.