Virtual reality

Can Virtual Reality Make Older Adults Happier and Healthier? – Texas Monthly

Summary

Sali Fonda hasn’t been scuba diving in twenty years. She was seventy the last time. Now, at ninety, the former bodybuilder is about to jump into the deep again—this time into a cage that will protect her in the shark-filled sea. “I’m ready to get in the cage,” shouts Fonda, the daughter of silent film star Gloria Fonda and distant relative of the other famous movie Fondas.

In reality, there is no shark cage here, no sharks, either, and certainly no ocean. Fonda has virtual-re…….

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Sali Fonda hasn’t been scuba diving in twenty years. She was seventy the last time. Now, at ninety, the former bodybuilder is about to jump into the deep again—this time into a cage that will protect her in the shark-filled sea. “I’m ready to get in the cage,” shouts Fonda, the daughter of silent film star Gloria Fonda and distant relative of the other famous movie Fondas.

In reality, there is no shark cage here, no sharks, either, and certainly no ocean. Fonda has virtual-reality goggles strapped to her head, and she’s sitting in a padded swivel chair inside an activity room at Atria at the Arboretum, a senior living apartment complex in northwest Austin. It’s there that she dives into an immersive experience—an underwater scene filmed in 360 degrees. Fonda moves her head up and down, left and right, the view changing with each turn. Schools of fish bobble above. Sharks glide all around. Fonda reaches a hand out toward one of the ocean predators. “Whoa,” says the nonagenarian with blondish white hair.

After a few minutes, the goggles come off, and the “dive” ends. Applause breaks out among the Atria residents who have been watching Fonda’s adventure on a large screen, in two dimensions as opposed to the three Fonda has experienced. “That was fun!” Fonda says, laughing as she talks. “I was right there! I loved it!” Later, when some of the adrenaline has worn off, Fonda tells me, “When you’re ninety, your life is over. This is going to make life new again.”

That’s exactly what a Plano-based company called MyndVR, which develops VR content specifically for seniors, is banking on. Virtual reality, with its bulky headsets and future-forward controllers, is most often associated with young gamers who have plenty of companies chasing after their dollars. But MyndVR is one of just a few tech firms targeting the senior set with custom-made virtual experiences that range from skydiving to Broadway shows. The company believes that kind of content can provide more than entertainment; it can also serve as therapy—perhaps even FDA-approved therapy—for seniors in assisted living and memory care units. “I’d like to see MyndVR be that new, easy VR product with recreational and therapeutic benefits for a booming population of older adults,” says Chris Brickler, the company’s cofounder and CEO.

Some predict the current $6.1 billion VR market will be worth $21 billion by 2025, and that number could get even bigger if older people embrace VR for fun or for health reasons. According to survey data from the market-research company GlobalWebIndex, only 6 percent of those aged 55 to 64 in the U.S. and UK have ever used a VR headset. MyndVR and the two other leaders in the nascent industry, Scotland’s Viarama and Massachusetts-based Rendever, which has developed a VR tool for AARP, are out to change that. All three companies offer VR experiences that they say can provide a brief escape …….

Source: https://www.texasmonthly.com/news-politics/virtual-reality-in-eldercare/