CREATE Virtual Reality for Older Adults

Virtual Reality to Support Cognitive Health and Engagement and Socialization Among Aging Adults

Principal Investigator: Dr. Wendy Rogers
Co-Principal Investigator: Dr. Avinash Gupta

Maintaining cognitive health has become a topic of increased importance with population aging, given the criticality of cognition to quality of life and independence. Unfortunately, changes in life circumstances, health declines, and other factors such as mobility limitations, limit opportunities for cognitive, social and activity engagement for older adults, all of which are important to cognitive health. Virtual reality (VR) systems have evolved, are more powerful and accessible to consumers, and present unique opportunities to foster cognitive and social engagement among older adults in their own homes. VR systems provide an immersive and engaging experience that give users the realistic impression of being present in a context or situation outside their home, alone or with others. Despite the significant potential of VR, few studies have examined usability and acceptance of VR applications or their efficacy with older adults.

In this project, we are applying human factors methodologies to develop a suite of VR-based cognitive, social, and activity engagement applications for older adults so as to help maintaining their cognitive health and support quality of life and wellbeing throughout the aging process. We aim to foster cognitive, activity, and social engagement among older adults from the comfort of their own homes, who experience health declines and mobility limitations, all of which are closely related to one’s cognitive health.

Several engagement types offered by VR applications

Being an interdisciplinary team that comprises engineers, applied health researchers and software developers, we are building out immersive VR environments to experimentally evaluate the experiences of older adults. To that end, HXRI Laboratory is collaborating with Human Factors and Aging Laboratory (HFA) to:

  • foster cognitive and social engagement, enhanced well-being, and quality of life of aging adults ​through Virtual Reality interventions
  • develop a suite of application to limit user burden and support cognitive, activity, and social engagement ​using human factors approach
  • assess feasibility, usability, perceived value, enjoyment, safety/comfort of the VR program  ​
  • gather information on application preferences, functionality and usability problems of the VR program, and approaches for instructional support