Lowe. CMSS will be the first to be trained with the module when it’s released. In the meantime, staff have responded

well to The Alfred Lab. In a busy environ- ment, where staff is sometimes overbur- dened, Brennan is aware of the importance of staff buy-in for the success of any new program. “People are really excited. We’ve had 100 percent support,” she said. “It’s been universally impactful—and they’re excited to talk about it. Even people with lots of experience talk about doing things differently [after the training.]” The com- munity has trained all employees using the Embodied Labs technology. CMSS accesses the Embodied Labs platform and the labs through three off-the-shelf Oculus Rift VR headsets. The VR headsets have screens inside that create stereoscopic 3D images and motion sensors that adjust the images as a user moves, giving the participant the sensation of being in a 3D world. The head- sets are shared between two communities and so far, that’s been sufficient to support their training goals.

VR for resident programming Some are also experimenting with the use of virtual reality for recreational programming to entertain and engage residents. Rendever, a Boston, Mass.-based company, seeks to reduce isolation and depression with a VR content platform specifically designed for seniors. Once they agree to try it, users can

go places and see things that would prove difficult or physically impossible for them otherwise. Reed Hayes, Rendever’s co-founder

emeritus and board member, explains the care the company took to ensure ease of use and eliminate some of the barriers to acceptance. For example, they’ve tailored the technology with dual screen control so that others can assist a resident who might have difficulty navigating the application. They’ve also added group synchronization functions that make it possible for multi- ple people to go through an experience together. The experience has been so engaging

and immersive, in fact, that one customer relayed a story of an unintended conse- quence: an inquisitive call from a family member. The family member inquired about why a resident was talking about hav- ing been to Niagara Falls. The resident was sure they’d “been there” but couldn’t give enough details to satisfy the family member, who called the community to hear more about the supposed trip. “We’ve seen it as a good way for people

to check things off their bucket list, to satisfy that resident who says, ‘I’ve always wanted to go to Mardi Gras,’” said Hayes. A solution like this “makes it a bit easier

for staff, since residents are engaged—es- pecially residents experiencing dementia who may be more prone to agitation,” said

Hayes. If a staff member can use a virtual reality “excursion” or experience to soothe an anxious resident, their job becomes less complex and more satisfying. Rendever also works with business

customers—many from assisted living communities—to design custom solutions, which can be used by program directors for group activities or taken from residence to residence for individual use.

Addressing VR implementation challenges Some of the challenges of implementing a VR program are familiar to senior living executives. They are the same as introduc- ing any new process or tool: staff buy-in, ongoing training, securing the equipment when not in use, and generating awareness among staff and residents. VR hardware is advancing at a rapid pace, so senior living professionals may also consider budgeting for upgrades more frequently than one might for other equipment. Introducing VR through a controlled

process like employee training could side- step some of these challenges and provide a community time to implement the addition- al procedural steps they might face when introducing the technology for resident programming. Whether for education or entertainment, senior living communities are starting to see that virtual reality has real benefits for residents and for staff.


VR has applications beyond training and entertainment that senior living professionals looking to demonstrate innovative leadership should follow:

VR FOR WELLNESS. VR exercycles are starting to show up in the market now after studies have shown that virtual reality can be used to motivate people to exercise—including seniors. What may seem like a novelty now could soon become a requested amenity.

VR FOR PAIN MANAGEMENT. Researchers are demonstrating that VR has physiological benefits for reducing pain. In the future,


communities that find ways to embrace VR programming to relax residents can expect improved wound care protocols and reductions in overall narcotic usage, with numerous studies citing VR’s success in reducing pain over longer periods of time as compared to other therapies.

VR FOR REHABILITATION. VR is gaining recognition as a tool for improving function in stroke survivors. Companies and researchers are using VR tools, including smart gloves, to gamify physical and occupational therapy. Patients can practice performing activities of daily living like reaching and pouring, as well as other complex tasks like walking.

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