Virtual reality technology helps Tallahassee seniors connect to outside world

Posted at 6:09 PM, Jul 08, 2020
and last updated 2020-07-08 18:58:51-04

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WTXL) — The pandemic is forcing many seniors to say inside, but new technology is helping them feel a little more connected to the outside world.

Virtual reality is relieving some of the pressure and helping an entire community rebound in Tallahassee.

"You go to those places, and you don't even have to pack your suitcase," said Bobye Townsend.

Townsend is a resident at Azalea Gardens Assisted Living and Memory Care in Tallahassee.

"It was the most amazing thing that's ever happened to me," Townsend said. "And I've done a lot of things and been a lot of places."

When the pandemic forced visitors out, virtual reality came to the rescue.

"This is the honest truth," said Townsend. "It was out of this world!"

The experiences the VR headsets provide include African safaris, new cooking skills, and even a ride in a space shuttle.

"It seemed like I was shooting off from Cape Canaveral," Townsend said.

Becky Preidis is the executive director at Azalea Gardens.

"It's been wonderful," Preidis said.

She says the new technology is reducing stress and anxiety in the community, especially for residents with memory-related disorders like Alzheimer's.

"This stimulates the memories of things they may have done in the past," said Preidis.

For Townsend, the virtual adventures re-create an actual SCUBA experience on the Great Barrier Reef from decades ago.

"It was as if I was re-living going there," Townsend said.

The new tech helps bring a little bit of comfort during these difficult times. Townsend said it has helped her feel more relaxed and appreciative of the things she has done.

Studies show that virtual experiences in memory care facilities can help caregivers learn more about their patient's lives, making for better interaction.

That better quality of life can lead to less anxiety, depression, and hostility according to research published by the University of Kent last year.