World Exploration by Senior Citizens Using Virtual Reality
A lot of seniors living in assisted living communities would never be able to travel to far places again. Their health and body condition just won’t allow it. And truth be told, the case is hopeless for many of them. But with virtual reality, their explore-the-world dreams can now be turned into a reality they will forever remember.
Introducing the New Startup Rendever Health
Rendever Health, a startup by two graduate students at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Sloan School of Management, is the dream fulfiller for many of these people. A virtual reality software is being developed by Rendever that would be used in assisted living communities. The software is being developed for Samsung Gear VR headsets.
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With this technology, assisted living citizens can visit the Eiffel tower, walk down the streets again, take a walk along the Hollywood Walk of Fame, and visit the Champs Elysees.
They can do all this without lifting a foot from their ground or leaving their environment.
One of the program’s founders, Dennis Lally, says that Rendever’s virtual reality program has been used by lots of people at assisted living communities around the country and they all loved it.
“The residents love a large variety of the content that we’ve been showing them,” Lally’s partner, Reed Hayes, says. “We take them to outer space and on other world travel experiences, but the most powerful always ends up being their childhood homes. We feel that virtual reality is the easiest technology for seniors to use. All it requires of them is to look around. If they have sight, they can use it.”
Hayes shared that the project also helped strengthen the bond between the seniors, as it gave them new experience to talk about.
“We started to notice once they were done with the demo they would go back to their friends at their table and talk about what they experienced. It was social, it lit a spark,” Hayes adds. “Can you imagine coming up with a new conversation after being there 10 years and you haven’t been out?”
Rendever Health: Where and How It All Began
The idea for the virtual reality program originated from Hayes. He talks about his personal experience as a motivational factor for creating the app.
“A couple of my family members lived in assisted living communities, and I hated the quality of life that they had,” he says. He felt a desire to reconnect his relatives with the places they once knew and expand their worlds beyond the communities where they lived. This desire has resonated with many of the communities Rendever has approached about its virtual reality programming.
“We’ve been going to the communities explaining our proprietary technology, and they’ve invited us to come in and share it with the residents, with no strings attached on any side,” Lally explains.
They are hoping to expand the usage of the program to more personal experiences like attending family weddings and other special events the seniors wouldn’t have access to ordinarily.
Hayes says that he and Lally are also thinking of engaging in a research to evaluate the effect of virtual reality on aging and depression. They are in talks with the Massachusetts General Hospital to find out more about the emotional and clinical side of the technology they are pioneering.
“Our goal is to reduce depression,” he says. “We want to know how our technology affects rates of depression in the senior patient population, how we can use virtual reality programming to diagnose early-stage cognitive impairment, and whether virtual reality programming can be used as therapy to treat cognitive impairment.”