Sometimes you start out to go one place and you end up in another. I am not talking about memory lapses or directional difficulties that are a hallmark of early dementia. I first wanted to revisit my opinion of the use of virtual reality headsets that now are being utilized in residential care for advanced seniors.
It is easy for people of the pre-digital revolution generation to be skeptical of high tech for seniors. I am sure you may have a passing familiarity with the giant visor and gaming controller that may remind you of a preteen birthday party at the fun arcade.
I have thrown some shade as they say at this concept before, but after some additional reading, I wanted to revisit my opinion. Different firms are approaching it with a bit more subtlety and customizing for the maximum positive impact. One firm is creating specific virtual reality ‘trips’ at the request of the user. I doubt if reliving that trip to Europe will be at 70’s rates but what would it be worth to ‘be’ somewhere special again.
Wired Magazine has always been a personal favorite of this aging nerd. It presents one company’s approach https://www.wired.com/2017/04/vr-for-seniors/ and takes a fresh look at the value of pure entertainment aspect of VR. Other research has found that the VR experience can stimulate cognitive skills, enhance mood as well as memory. Note to self , when I am 90 maybe I will be thrilled to go where I did not manage to go before.
But here is the twist. Maybe some of this emerging technology could be directed at connecting others not just solo excursions? You have to recognize that more boomers and seniors are already living on their own. The phrase ‘solo aging’ is now creeping into articles on retirement. There are certain truths that can not be denied, the boomer generation has the highest rate of divorce and a lower birth rate than previous generations. Up to 24% of households are already single.
Many of the initiatives for Aging in Place in states like Maine that already have a larger portion of seniors, are putting put a lot of effort into communication for keeping people in touch in person and otherwise. Yes, there are cell phones, texting, Skype, Facebook and multiple social media opportunities to be in touch at least digitally.
So what will the future bring as we bridge the gap between the old and the new comfort levels of being alone and lonely? Maybe multiplayer video games where you have at least a real voice to voice connection? Group virtual trips to the coffee shop? Hopefully there will be a better ‘app’ out there that helps brings us more together than keeping us apart.