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A study shows how effective VR therapy can be for seniors. In the U.S., one insurance company even covers the cost.

A recent study by a French research team shows that Virtual Reality can improve the well-being of older people. At the same time, VR therapy is being recognised as an insurance benefit for the first time in the United States.

VR studies conducted on more than 500 elderly people

The French researchers, led by Dr. Laurent Tatu, studied the effects of 360-degree video on the elderly. The subjects included people with and without cognitive impairments.

Through a review of ten studies involving 524 older adults between the ages of 68 and 87, the impact of VR on various aspects such as anxiety, apathy, loneliness, depression, social engagement, quality of life, and emotions was analysed.

Even short VR trips can help

The study concluded that 360-degree VR is a promising technology for healthcare. Positive effects were observed after just a few sessions. Seniors found the VR experience pleasant, realistic and positive, despite rare side effects such as dizziness and motion sickness.

The researchers also found that even short trips to natural VR environments such as forests, parks, and beaches can evoke positive feelings and reduce negative emotions. They concluded that VR, especially in times of social isolation such as during the Covid-19 pandemic, offers a unique opportunity to help older people escape their often limited reality.

VR’s growing role in healthcare

The study highlights the growing role of VR in healthcare and emphasises the need for collaboration between research and industry to develop new, personalised VR applications for the elderly.

Market researchers estimate the potential of VR in medicine to be in the billions of dollars. Virtual reality is already being used as a therapy for chronic pain, anxiety, depression, and even as an anesthetic before surgery.

VR therapy, an insurance benefit for the first time

Insurance companies also seem to be slowly recognising the value of VR therapy. Specialty insurer AgeWell New York offers VR therapy sessions to nursing home residents as part of its CareWell plan.