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Tech Tuesday: VR Company Is Helping Senior Citizens Improve Brain Function

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A virtual reality company is working on developing new therapy programs aimed at senior citizens. 

MyndVR, in partnership with therapy service Select Rehabilitation, is creating VR applications to help elderly people with memory and cognitive issues. Using VR goggles, the seniors are able to exercise their minds through different simulations. One such simulation is the “garage simulation” where they can safely use tools to challenge their memory through a series of tasks. 

Senior citizens can also transport to different places and cities throughout the world to help them recollect any past experiences. They are given the opportunity to do things such as attend a show on Broadway, go scuba diving underwater or go skydiving for a thrill-seeking experience. One of MyndVR’s own creations lets its users explore the famed Route 66 through different stops along the highway.

“The beauty of VR is that it teleports older adults out of their four walls to a different time, place and experience. For someone who hasn’t done the trip, they get a chance to have this as a bucket list experience,” said the co-found of MyndVr, Chris Brickler, in conversation with health magazine Fierce Healthcare

The company was first founded in 2016 in Plano, Texas, where its main location is now based. Brickler contacted Shawn Wiora, a friend who worked in nursing homes, for help in getting VR to elderly people. While VR has always been mainly advertised as a gaming device for younger people, both Brickler and Wiora saw the potential this device had in healthcare for senior citizens. 

The company has now expanded since then, adding another VR company known as Immersive Cure to the MyndVR family. They’ve also landed partnerships with MJHS Health System to get their product to hospital patients and with the Virtual Human Interaction Lab at Stanford University.

MyndVR is working alongside Stanford University researchers to study just how VR affects the elderly. Previous studies have shown that the use of VR has improved brain function in senior citizens. 

In a 2020 study, researchers found that over the course of eight weeks in which 24 sessions were held, older people with mild cognitive impairment, otherwise known as MCI, were positively impacted once they started using VR. After performing a series of tasks such as making juice and remembering the order in which fireworks were set off, the participants had better function in the frontal lobe of their brains. This improved both cognitive functions such as memory and physical functions like mobility. With such findings, Brickler is optimistic about the future of his company. 

“The regulatory climate is warming up for VR so we’re seeing FDA breakthrough designations and [the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services] warming up to the idea of affordable therapy through VR,” said Brickler to Fierce Healthcare.“I think we are entering that next wave of VR.”

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