Virtual Reality Helps People with Dementia and Cognitive Impairment

Lora Appel helps a senior use virtual reality

Award Date: 2017

Project Lead(s): Lora Appel, Post-doctoral Fellow

Project Title: Prescribing VR (Virtual Reality)

What is the issue?

Many people with dementia suffer from depression, anxiety, and a lack of enthusiasm. Virtual reality has the potential to improve these symptoms.

What did we do?

We tested the use of virtual reality with 66 older adults with dementia or cognitive impairment at Kensington Gardens, Runnymede Rehabilitation Hospital, Baycrest Health Sciences, and the Dotsa Bitove Wellness Academy. Our goal was to see if experiencing simulations of natural environments would reduce their negative moods. They wore a head-mounted-display and viewed 360-degree films of natural settings while sitting on a rotating chair.

What did we find?

All participants completed the study. None reported dizziness, disorientation, or interaction with their hearing aids. Most of them liked the headset. Some forgot they were wearing it, and others said it was worth the mild discomfort. There were some issues with image focus. Some participants said that they would like more narrative content. Most participants reported feeling more energetic, 40% said the virtual reality helped them relax, 80% wanted to try it again, and 75% would recommend the experience to a friend.