ROCKVILLE – Charles E. Smith Life Communities (CESLC) recently began using MyndVR, a virtual reality-based digital therapeutics platform, to improve the lives of its residents. The technology offers a range of immersive and interactive experiences designed to benefit older adults, with an aim on positive therapeutic outcomes.

Virtual reality has been shown to reduce anxiety and enhance cognitive stimulation through use of sensory-rich and immersive environments that older adults might not otherwise experience.

The program’s initial rollout is taking place at Hebrew Home of Greater Washington with services for long-term and post-acute care residents and patients. The goal is to eventually offer the technology in all residences.

While the technology offers recreational activities, says Anand Balasubramanian, director of rehabilitation and wellness services at CESLC, the immediate focus is on using virtual reality to improve outcomes in therapy.

“Virtual reality is an adjunct to traditional therapy methods and can be used in physical, occupational and speech therapies,” he says. For example, the platform can provide an activity or game that reduces self-imposed physical limits or pain sensitivity, resulting in improvements in joint range of motion, balance, tolerance for standing or sitting while performing an activity of daily living, and cognition, he adds.

In one instance, the technology assisted a patient reporting pain at nine points on a scale of 10 while working on exercises to increase range of motion in a limb. Experiences ranging from relaxation modules to virtually visiting a former vacation site helped the patient to complete the therapy session and report pain in the range of six on the same scale.

Virtual reality experiences can also serve as alternatives to psychotropic or pain medications and employed to help alleviate issues related to dementia-related sundowning or feelings of isolation, depression or anxiety, Balasubramanian says.

Beyond therapeutic uses, virtual reality can be an addition to activity calendars in senior living communities. The platform features an extensive library of content designed for older adults including such experiences as taking a gondola tour of Venice, skydiving over the Swiss Alps, or attending music concerts.

“The result is that residents can rediscover and reconnect with the world, retaining their curiosity and important connections,” says Balasubramanian. “The opportunities truly are limitless.”