Virtual Reality to Improve Cognitive Health and Quality of Life

Award Date: 2019

Project Lead(s): Kate Ellis, Research Coordinator

Project Title: 3D and Virtual Reality Experiences to Improve Cognitive Health and Life Enhancement for the Elderly

What is the issue?

The population of older adults with dementia is growing, placing increasing demands on family members and caregivers. Technology-based activities may improve the psychological well-being of seniors with dementia.

What did we do?

We tested a virtual reality program for seniors produced by 3Scape Systems, Inc. The virtual reality movies were high-quality, 3D images with colours and sound adjusted for seniors. Each movie was about 20 minutes long, and used storytelling techniques to provide positive, realistic experiences, such as walking down a path or watching baby animals.

We asked study participants to view five movies in a row. We measured their cognitive health, participation in recreational activities, behaviours, and moods before the study began and after it finished. Staff and family members rated participants’ behaviours and moods before and after participants watched the videos. They also provided feedback on areas of improvement and whether the program could be incorporated into regular activities for seniors at the end of the study.

What did we find?

Seniors’ psychological and emotional scores generally improved after the study finished, suggesting that the 3D videos had a positive effect. Most seniors enjoyed watching the movies and reminiscing. Negative behaviours and moods decreased significantly after each viewing.

Future research should include a comparison group of seniors with dementia who do not watch the movies. The study could be expanded to multiple institutions.