Opportunities and challenges in using virtual reality to improve cognitive functioning of the elderly

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Tavakoli, Ali
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Over the past decade, researchers have utilized novel technologies to improve the lives of the elderly population. Virtual Reality (VR) is among the most promising platforms that could help the elderly stay cognitively active; However, the extent to which this population is willing to seek out and engage in VR activities remains unclear. In this document, we have discussed our two studies regarding VR and seniors. Our first study is a pilot project including three senior residents of Winnipeg. In this study, we assessed the impact of VR game name “DoVille” on the cognitive capacities of the elderly. We designed a two-week procedure with 20 minutes of VR sessions per day. While the comparison of pre-DoVille and post-DoVille test scores were statistically insignificant, we have gained valuable information about the feasibility and possible challenges of similar projects in the future. Among these issues, we have discussed the eligibility criteria, VR sessions’ setting and length of training sessions for the seniors. The second study is a survey project assessing the attitudes of the elderly toward VR during the COVID-19 pandemic. All senior residents of Manitoba between the ages of 65 and 90 were eligible to participate in the study. The survey was administered online and by phone, and 103 individuals responded to our questionnaire. Our results suggest that a large proportion of elderly individuals have become interested in VR technology as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. We developed two models for VR use based on the responses. Our model of VR use for communication/interaction could account for approximately 50% of the variance in interest levels in VR, and our model of VR use for cognitive benefits accounted for 35% of the variance. These models included variables such as previous experience with technology, age and gender. In conclusion, these two studies provide us with a better understanding of the elderly’s interest in technology and how we could implement new VR interventions for them in the future.
Cognition, Technology, Virtual Reality (VR), COVID-19, Technology acceptance, Elderly population