Research conducted by Stanford University’s Virtual Human Interaction Lab in collaboration with Mynd Immersive and AT&T 5G Healthcare

(PRNewswire) — Virtual Reality (VR) technology is not just for the young. It’s paving the way for enhancing relationships between the aging population and their caregivers, as research from the Virtual Human Interaction Lab (VHIL) at Stanford University demonstrates.

This research comes just months after the American Medical Association issued CPT codes that recognize VR for various therapeutic services, a major milestone for the growth of digital therapeutics.

The study sought to understand older adults’ attitudes towards new technologies, including virtual reality, and how professional caregivers felt about facilitating VR experiences for older adults. Research was led by Dr. Jeremy Bailenson, founding director of the VHIL and one of the world’s leading experts on understanding and exploring individual behavior and social responses in VR, and Ryan Christopher Moore, Ph.D. researcher.

“This study showcases how a tool which is typically associated with youthful entertainment has transformative applications in healthcare, particularly geriatric care,” said Dr. Bailenson. “The response from both the caregivers and seniors has been quite positive, suggesting 
that VR can be a sustainable and beneficial tool in Senior Care communities.”

Key findings include that 81.5% of caregivers reported they enjoyed interacting with residents more while using Mynd Immersive (Mynd), formerly MyndVR than while doing other activities, and 94.9% said that using Mynd was moderately to extremely beneficial to their relationship with the resident. Similarly, 83% of residents reported that using Mynd was moderately to extremely beneficial to their relationship with the caregiving staff.

The study also found:

  • 74.2% of the caregivers reported that the residents’ mood improved after using Mynd, and 79.2% of the residents reported feeling more positive
  • 57.9% of older adults reported feeling less isolated from the outside world after using Mynd
  • While positive attitudes towards new technology often decline with age, the study population overwhelmingly felt positive about using VR and the decline in attitude was less than compared to other technologies like cell phones and voice assistants

“Shared experiences in VR, like revisiting a senior’s hometown or traveling to a place they’ve always wanted to see, can stimulate greater communication, bridge emotional gaps, and create deeper bonds,” said Chris Brickler, CEO of Mynd Immersive. “We are experiencing explosive growth of our aging population, while simultaneously seeing a significant decline in available caregivers, so it’s imperative that we create tools like Mynd that can help create a more enjoyable and fulfilling environment for both the cared and caregiver.”

Mynd has brought together a powerful consortium of industry collaborators to support this research and beyond, including AT&T, HTC VIVE, Select Rehabilitation, and some of the world’s most innovative senior living communities, such as John Knox Village in Pompano Beach, Florida, Commonwealth Senior Living, Sodalis Senior Living, Long Island State Veteran Home and more.

“We’re entering a new era of delivering immersive, digital therapeutics,” said Joe Drygas, Head of AT&T Healthcare. “The combination of XR experiences with 5G and AI will have a tremendous impact on the many ways we can provide top quality care for our elders and support their caregivers. The Mynd Immersive and AT&T collaboration is bringing the future of connected healthcare into sharp focus for older adults and their families.”

“We launched HTC VIVE with a belief that VR could positively impact humanity,” said Cher Wang, Chairwoman of HTC. “This type of data from industry partners like Mynd and esteemed independent researchers, such as Stanford University, further supports our belief and moves the entire industry forward.”

Stanford’s pioneering lab, focused on the psychological and behavioral effects of virtual reality, conducted a survey of 245 older adults and 39 caregivers in 16 Senior Care communities across 10 states. The study, the largest ever conducted on VR and older adults, was done in collaboration with Mynd, the leading provider of immersive therapeutic experiences for the aging population.

The study has already won a “Top Paper Award” by the National Communication Association and will be presented at their upcoming annual convention. The paper has also been accepted by the journal, Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking and will be published later in 2023.