Virtual reality and serious games to improve wellbeing of elderly and vulnerable groups

Experts of the EU-funded VERVE project have developed serious games and virtual reality scenarios that improve the lives of older adults and those living with conditions such as Alzheimer's, Parkinson's and phobias.

First of all the VERVE researchers meant to tackle the loneliness these groups often experience. "Social exclusion has many causes, but major factors are the fear and apathy that often accompany a disability", says project coordinator Prof. Carol O’Sullivan (Trinity College Dublin). "Fear and apathy may also prevent an individual from successfully completing a treatment prescribed for them by their physician, psychologist or other health professional, creating a vicious circle."

On top of that, reduced social inclusion has known effects on cognition and well-being due to the related lack of mental and physical stimulation.

Most at risk are elderly people or patients with a neurological disorder.  This includes, amongst others, older persons with a history of falling, patients with Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s and those suffering from phobias.

VERVE examined the needs of these people and developed a number of intervention solutions based on cutting edge research in computer graphics, virtual reality (VR), and human and crowd simulation.

Reducing apathy and increasing motivation

O'Sullivan: "We created personalised and populated realistic virtual environments and tested them across a range of participants varying in their clinical profiles. We investigated for example if using a serious game called the "Kitchen Scenario" and an immersive Virtual Reality application called "MeMoVE" (Memory Motivation Virtual Experience) could improve motivation in a group of patients suffering from early Alzheimer’s Disease, MCI and related disorders. We found that these patients were able to engage with the tasks involved - results to date support the idea that apathy can be reduced by these scenarios."

A serious game called "City Quest" was designed to reduce fear of falling in older adults with a history of falls. Results suggest improved performance in particular tasks involving balance control as well as spatial cognition.

Read the full article online: https://ec.europa.eu/digital-agenda/en/news/virtual-reality-and-serious-....