Virtual reality

What is virtual reality?

Virtual reality (VR) involves a computer software system that generates simulations of real or imagined 3D environments that a person can interact with using their own movements. [1]  Virtual reality usually involves the user wearing a headset and holding handheld sensors or wearing gloves to interact with their surroundings. Virtual reality has advantages in the field of health promotion in aged care and is often used to increase engagement and motivation for older adults. Virtual reality may involve interactive games, exercise, or relaxation environments such as a simulated garden. [2]

How is virtual reality used in aged care?

Virtual reality technologies can be used for a range of activities in aged care including pain management; VR can engage an individual to distract them from their pain by guiding them through relaxation exercises, virtual reality games, and even calming scenery. [2] Virtual reality can be used to support reminiscence therapy by recreating historical events, settings and even personal memories which can be a pleasant experience for older adults living with dementia. [3] This technology can also be used to provide interactive physical exercises and supporting social experiences without having to leave home.

How can virtual reality benefit the aged care sector?

Virtual reality has the potential to benefit aged care services and increase quality of life for older adults. It can improve the mood of older adults by allowing them to explore new and exciting environments, revisit familiar places, and socially interact without leaving their home. [4] The use of VR can provide cognitive stimulation for older adults and can be tailored to the individual to improve memory, problem solving skills, and spatial awareness. [5] Virtual reality may also be useful to reduce pain, anxiety, and social isolation by providing a distraction to an individual or guiding them through relaxation exercises, VR games, and even calming scenery. [2]

Examples of virtual reality technology in aged care 

  • Virtual Forest™: A peaceful and enjoyable immersive environment designed specifically to improve the quality of life for people living with dementia. 
  • Neurons VR: A therapy tool used in aged care to engage older adults in physical activity and allow them to revisit childhood memories and familiar destinations.
  • Dementia-friendly home app: An interactive 3D game that can be used to provide carers with ideas to make homes more accessible for people living with dementia.

Connect to PubMed evidence

This PubMed topic search is focused on research conducted in aged care settings (i.e., home care and residential aged care). You can choose to view all citations or free full-text articles.

  1. Samal L, Fu HN, Camara DS, Wang J, Bierman AS, Dorr DA. Health information technology to improve care for people with multiple chronic conditions. Health Serv Res. 2021;56(5):1006-1036.
  2. Levac D, Glegg SMN, Sveistrup H, Colquhoun H, Miller PA, Finestone H, et al. A knowledge translation intervention to enhance clinical application of a virtual reality system in stroke rehabilitation. BMC Health Serv Res. 2016;16(1):557.
  3. Li G, Li X, Chen L. Effects of virtual reality-based interventions on the physical and mental health of older residents in long-term care facilities: A systematic review. Int J Nurs Stud. 2022:104378.
  4. Tominari M, Uozumi R, Becker C, Kinoshita A. Reminiscence therapy using virtual reality technology affects cognitive function and morale of elderly with dementia: Developing topics. Alzheimers Dement. 2020;16(S7).
  5. Brimelow RE, Dawe B, Dissanayaka N. Preliminary research: Virtual reality in residential aged care to reduce apathy and improve mood. Cyberpsychol Behav Soc Netw. 2020;23(3):165-170.