Digital Dawn: Embracing Virtual Reality in Senior Living


In This Article

When thinking of VR, most people associate bulky VR headsets and handheld controllers with younger generations like kids or gamers. Today, VR technology has extended beyond its social stigma by making a breakthrough in every aspect of life. It has become an effective communication tool between people around the world in addition to being a form of entertainment.

In recent years, virtual reality has been predicted to be a promising tool in bolstering the older generations’ quality of life and invigorating their wellness and well-being, following the fact that a growing number of senior communities are seeking innovative ways to elevate wellness and the social life of their residents. Many researchers also show that using such cutting-edge technology in senior living can add exceptional benefits to seniors physically, mentally, and emotionally. What benefits can seniors reap from virtual reality? Discover the benefits of using virtual reality for seniors in senior living.


Virtual Reality Isn’t Just for Kids: Here’s How the Cutting-Edge Technology Can Help Seniors Feel Happier and Thrive in Senior Communities

What Is Virtual Reality?


Virtual reality (VR) is defined as a computer-generated environment that allows users to become immersed in altered visuals or surroundings. The imitation of reality in VR approximates as closely to the real world as possible by implementing high-resolution digital images. These 360-degree images cooperate with users’ real-life sensors and physical movements to construct a virtual world where they can engage and interact from an integrative perspective while wearing a headset or using handheld devices.

Although the discovery of simulated environments dates back to the 1800s, it wasn’t until nearly a century later that the term “virtual reality” was widely recognized following the intense research of Jaron Lanier, the founder of VPL Research. As the pioneer in VR technology with immense contributions to bringing “virtual reality” into reality, Lanier eventually introduced virtual reality to the public by introducing VR glasses and gloves called EyePhone and Dataglov, respectively, in 1987.

In the modern era, the popularity of virtual reality has increased thanks to technological advancements in recent years dramatically. Alongside groundbreaking VR creations that enhance people’s entertainment experiences, Apple unveiled its augmented reality (AR) headset that transforms how we work, connect, communicate, and play in June 2023.


Virtual Reality: How Does It Benefit Seniors?

Keeps the Body Moving


Even when you are 80 or older, staying active is essential. It helps combat age-related progressive diseases and invigorate the brain with sufficient blood delivered to every cell and tissue when moving.

However, getting up and moving in the dusk of life can be a huge challenge to overcome. In addition, not many gym centers for seniors cater specialized lessons to people in their 70s or 80s.

Virtual reality is a perfect alternative to traditional physical activities. It is a reasonably priced option for seniors without space and a massive budget to pursue the benefits of doing standard exercises right from the comfort of their homes.

By exploring new activities in a brand-new virtual setting, seniors can get moving and get their blood pumping easily, reducing health risks and improving joint lubrication.


Stimulates the Brain

As seniors age, their bodies and minds often undergo significant changes that may interfere with how they move, think, behave, and react. Although forgetfulness is not breaking news, nourishing the brain is essential for seniors to delay dementia and early-onset Alzheimer’s, sharpen their mental acuity, and boost cognitive health.

A 2018 study by the University of Maryland found that virtual reality can be a pathway to better memory recall and learning. Following the split test, participants were asked to memorize famous faces and match the images to the areas in which they were previously placed. The group using the VR headset had better performance than the group doing the test on the computer, with the accuracy improvement coming to around 8.8%.


Relieves Physical Pain

As seniors age, it is not uncommon to live in fear that varying degrees of pain may stop them from enjoying their life — or worse, send them to the hospital.

While some pains are acute, others may stick around longer and cause inconvenience in daily life. Although modern medications and healthcare can relieve the pain, sometimes the root cause can remain and continue to cause problems.

In a study asking 30 participants with a diverse range of chronic pain disorders to rate their pain before, during, and after a VR session, 100% of participants experienced varying degrees of pain reduction after completing the session. Ten of the participants reported that they felt a complete sense of pain relief during the virtual session.

Beyond alleviating chronic pain, researchers have discovered that virtual reality can divert seniors from acute pain during anxiety-inducing treatments and procedures like blood draws.


Enriches Social Life

Having a rich social life sometimes doesn’t mean you have to put yourself out there and strike up a conversation with new people. Whether you believe it or not, virtual reality can provide an excellent way for seniors to tackle social isolation and loneliness.

Through the help of head-mounted VR gear, they can gather, socialize, explore, and experience new activities right from their sofas while interacting and strengthening the bonds with their friends and extended family during a shared virtual experience. It is ideal for seniors whose children live far away or are too busy to stop by.


May Help with Memory Issues & Dementia

Concerning deteriorations in the brain’s structure and cognitive functions make seniors susceptible to memory loss.

As more and more methodologies and geriatric care are being experimented with to hinder the onset of dementia in seniors, virtual reality has captured a great deal of attention as much of the evidence demonstrates that it may improve the lives of people with dementia. One of the best-known features that VR offers is the implementation of realistic visualization, and visuals can be exceptionally beneficial to a person’s ability to retain and learn information.

In seniors dealing with memory issues, showcasing photos and videos of cherished memories and introducing new activities or places they have always wanted to try or visit, as a form of “memory therapy,” helps stimulate their brain activities and boost their moods. A study from the University of Kent has unveiled that exposure to virtual reality helps dementia seniors regain long-gone memories, minimize agitation, feel more elevated, and improve their bonds with caregivers.


Busts Stress & Depression

Can virtual reality help with stress and depression in seniors? While the use of VR to improve mental health issues may not be available to many, the technology has been a game-changing ally in supporting people dealing with chronic stress, anxiety, phobias, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in busting their stress, easing depressive symptoms, and fostering more relaxation.

In many ways, virtual reality allows seniors with limited mobility or health issues to enjoy a change of scenery and connect with their long-distance friends and family via a head-mounted headset. This is incredibly helpful in curtailing feelings of loneliness and alienation in seniors, especially for those who choose to age in place.


Cultivates Knowledge

One of many reasons virtual reality has taken the world by storm is its versatility in many aspects of life. In addition to the numerous benefits mentioned above and much beyond a form of entertainment to pass time, virtual reality can be a safe and wonderful outlet for seniors to explore the vast world around them, gain life-like experiences, cultivate more knowledge, learn more skills, and maintain their mental sharpness whenever they are, whether at home or in senior living communities.


Some VR Sets and Applications to Consider


There’s not much that virtual reality can’t deliver, from jet-setting around the world to visiting places without setting foot on the ground. Are you thinking about getting VR gear for your parents so they can experience a diverse range of entertainment and multimedia at home? Here are some VR sets and applications that might be worth looking into.

  • Zen Zone
  • Alcove
  • Wander
  • Appility
  • Sony PlayStation VR Headset
  • Meta Quests 2
  • Meta Quest Pro
  • HTC Vive Pro 2
  • Valve Index VR Kit
  • HP Reverb G2 Virtual Reality Headset
  • National Geographic


The following are some of the best VR games and apps for seniors:

  • First Steps
  • Puzzling Places
  • Moss
  • ASTRO BOT: Rescue Mission
  • Brink Travelers
  • Google Earth VR
  • Nature Treks VR
  • Real VR Fishing
  • Bait!
  • GOLF+
  • Walkabout Mini Golf
  • Wander
  • Oculus TV
  • Youtube VR
  • Venues
  • Bigscreen
  • Supernatural


If you have questions about virtual reality for seniors or any topics discussed here, connect with us and learn more. 

At 12 Oaks, our team of caring professionals is dedicated to keeping residents safe, engaged, and connected to their families and friends while leading fulfilling lives. 12 Oaks senior living communities are an ideal place to enjoy the encore season of life.

For questions or to schedule a personalized tour, don’t hesitate to contact us. 


Searching for senior living help? At 12 Oaks Senior Living, we would love to learn more about your unique needs and the opportunity we may have to help you meet them. Our blog is one of the valuable resources we provide to inform and encourage seniors to lead fulfilling and thriving lives. Contact us today to schedule a visit.

Rate This Article

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *