Can Virtual Reality Engage Adults with Dementia?

Can Virtual Reality Engage Adults with Dementia

When it comes to healthy aging, quite honestly, there’s a lot to do. You’re supposed to make sure to keep your body active and your brain engaged all while maintaining your social connections as well. Sure, the benefits to your overall well-being are worth the effort, but retirement is supposed to be a time with less responsibility on your plate, right? Well, it turns out that in senior living you can have your cake and eat it too, so to speak. Here’s how programs like our Vivid Life make keeping active, engaged, and connected easy and fun! 

Benefits of Healthy Aging 

Good things happen when you focus on healthy aging. In addition to feeling better overall, which in and of itself is a win, other benefits of keeping active, engaged, and connected include:  

  • Improved ability to do everyday things ​ 
  • Reduced impact of illness and chronic disease​ 
  • Enhanced mobility, flexibility, and balance
  • Improved sleep
  • Increased energy level
  • Reduced feelings of depression and stress
  • Increased feelings of happiness and self-confidence
  • Reduced risk of cognitive decline 
  • Increased mental adaptability and cognitive reserve 
  • Improved memory recall and problem-solving skills 
  • Improved concentration and attention to detail  

How Senior Living Can Help 

At home, particularly when living alone, it can be hard to stay as active, engaged, and connected as you’d like. From lack of opportunity to lack of motivation to lack of transportation to mobility challenges, and more, it’s tough, we get it! That’s why we created the Vivid Life program in our senior living communities. It’s composed of three parts: Vibrant Body, Vibrant Brain, and Vibrant Connections. Here’s what each entails:  

Vibrant Body We offer amenities such as a state-of-the-art fitness center, a pool, walking trails, gardening opportunities, and even a dog park to help you stay active. A sample of activities includes:  

  • Walking club – Daily walks at different outdoor locations using pedometers to measure steps. 
  • Yoga – At least once per week for gentle yoga, and once per week for mindful breathing. 
  • Fitness classes – At least two times per week using a variety of hand weights, resistance bands, and circuit-type exercises. 
  • Tai Chi – At least once per week with a live instructor. 
  • Non-traditional exercise – Dancing, gardening, etc. at least two times per week. 
  • Physical games and sports – Golf, putting, bowling, croquet, bocce, and ping pong available daily with organized events one to two times per week. 

Vibrant Brain We offer monthly calendars filled with classes, events, creative arts, and enrichment opportunities to help keep you engaged. A sample of activities includes: 

  • Visiting lecture series – Twice per month with topics such as cultural, historical, local interest, career-oriented, etc. 
  • Creative art series – At least one per week with a theme that runs 3-6 weeks, such as poetry writing, storytelling, painting, digital photography, etc. 
  • Learning series – At least three times per month with an emphasis on learning something new such as foreign language, sign language, technology, hobbies, etc. 
  • Games – At least one time per week and may include poker, bridge, Scrabble, etc. 
  • Mindfulness – A meditation class once per week and gratitude discussion group twice monthly. 
  • Church service – At least once a week through visits by local churches. 
  • Stress reduction – At least once per month class that offers deep breathing exercises, nature walks, music appreciation, spa-type treatments, etc. 

 Vibrant Connections We offer resident-led clubs, social events, outings and volunteer opportunities for any interest to help you stay connected. A sample of activities includes: 

  • Outings – At least twice per month and may include going to concerts, art shows, museum visits, theatre productions, etc. 
  • Intergenerational programming – At least once per month and focuses on building relationships between young adults/children and residents. 
  • New resident welcome party – At least once per month to formally introduce all new residents, and includes ice breakers, social games, etc. to encourage connection. 
  • Philanthropic program – At least once per month provide residents the opportunity to give back to the community, such as volunteering for a local food bank or pet shelter. 
  • Resident-led clubs – May include game clubs, professional clubs, common interests, etc. that meet at least monthly.  

What’s more, it’s all right outside your door (or transportation is provided offsite) and all in a supportive environment with home maintenance, housekeeping, and restaurant-style dining freeing your time to make it even easier to stay active, engaged, and connected. 

Learn more about Vitality Living’s Vivid Life programs. Or find a Vitality Living community near you today to schedule a tour. 



If you are the adult child or spouse of a senior with Alzheimer’s disease, you know how challenging the days can be. And how unpredictable. The very nature of the disease means an adult with dementia may have a great morning followed by an afternoon fraught with frustration and agitation.

Dementia experts say engaging in meaningful activity can help calm anxiety and restlessness. But finding activities that allow a senior with memory loss to feel successful can be a struggle. This is why the idea of virtual reality is intriguing to many.

What is Virtual Reality?

Virtual reality (VR) is a broad term that is used to refer to everything from three dimensional games teenagers play online to training programs for professionals like pilots and police officers.

Participants wear a virtual reality headset and goggles that work together to stimulate a particular environment. It might be an exercise to help the military teach preparedness or for a pilot to practice flying maneuvers.

Now there is growing interest and research surrounding the idea of using virtual reality to help improve the quality of life for adults with dementia.

Virtual Reality for Adults with Dementia

Part of the challenge in helping adults with dementia feel joyful and productive is that their memory is impaired. Short-term memory is often affected most profoundly.

Virtual reality can allow a senior to be transported back to a time that looks and sounds familiar. And programs like The Wayback seem to be leading the way in helping to connect people with dementia to virtual reality.

For Dan Cole, the program’s co-founder, the work is personal. His father had Alzheimer’s. He watched the disease rob his Dad of his ability to remember and to communicate. His hope is to make it easy for families to use familiar photos and props from a senior’s past to create short virtual reality experiences.

And then there are physicians who are using virtual reality to schedule “appointments” with patients who have dementia. Instead of requiring an already overloaded family caregiver to bring the senior to a physician’s office, VR allows the office to come to them.

It is a little more involved than just a simple Skype call. Virtual physician appointments take advantage of tools such as a digital stethoscope to listen to a patient’s heart or a digital otoscope to look in to their ears.

This eliminates the stress that often results when a person with memory loss is taken out of their familiar environment. And it makes it easier for the caregiver who might worry about a loved one’s safety on the way to and from a physician’s office.

While the use of virtual reality is still new when it comes to working with seniors who have dementia, it is a promising technology to watch.

Vitality Senior Living Complimentary Dementia Guide

Sometimes the signs of dementia are clear and leave no doubt there is a problem. Then there are times when an adult child may sense things aren’t quite right, but can’t articulate why. It might be several small concerns that have them wondering.

Negative stereotypes about older adults, especially those with dementia, may stand in the way of a senior receiving the best possible care. Storytelling can change attitudes by revealing an older adult’s personality beyond the disease. It can also help paint a picture of the senior’s life story for those who didn’t know them before the diagnosis.

This is why Vitality Senior Living created The first signs of dementia are often subtle. Learn what to watch for in our free guide.. Our free guide walks you through an overview of dementia, including the earliest signs and symptoms.

We hope this guide helps you and your family find the answers you are seeking. If you have more questions, we encourage you to call the Vitality Senior Living community nearest you. One of our experienced team members will be happy to help!

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