Feature: Virtual reality taps into Israeli elderly market

by Keren Setton

JERUSALEM, Nov. 10 (Xinhua) — David Kochav, 77 years old, was walking down the street where he grew up.

But he was not really there.

Thanks to the virtual reality (VR) goggles and VR software applications, he was able to take a trip to the places of his childhood while he was actually at the Mediterranean Towers Ganei Tikva retirement home where he currently lives.

The elderly in Israel are now lining up to wear the VR goggles to not only have fun, but also maintain healthy.

Eran Orr, the founder of VRHealth and a former F16 navigator in the Israeli army, came up with the idea when he was diagnosed with cervical disc herniation and decided to go for VR for therapy.

The ability of the VR platform to provide real-time data analytics may help transform healthcare services.

“We believe that the 50+ market will be the first one to adopt the technology. Because VR is very intuitive, it is not like any smartphone when you need to basically engage with a 2D screen,” Orr told Xinhua.

“In VR, you are acting like in the real world and because of that, people above 50 years old can adopt that new technology easily,” he added.

The elderly at Mediterranean Towers Ganei Tikva have enjoyed being immersed into a different scene when they were fitted with the goggles.

Renee Shifoni is one of the residents. In her 80s, she is tech savvy and lively. She is an avid user of technology and was happy to try the app in which she played a game of action and reaction. The precision of her movements, amongst other parameters, were measured.

“It is helpful because I get my head very much in the game, in what is going on and I can focus very much,” she said.

Renee was then shown the results of her participation in the game, visualized on a graph that compared her performance with the average in her age group.

Orr hopes to take his technology one step further and help in early detection of neurodegenerative processes such as dementia.

“We are assuming that in the near future, after collecting all the data, we will be able to flag if we see something abnormal and maybe physicians can intervene sooner with cases like dementia which is very hard to diagnose in the early days,” he said.

This application can also be used to jog someone’s memory and to reduce stress and apprehension.

One of the unwanted feelings plaguing the elderly population is loneliness. Yael Benvenisti, co-CEO at the Mediterranean Towers Ventures, believed that technology can help solve the problem for the growing aging population.

“One must understand that the technology is not a replacement for intra-personal relations but it steps in exactly at those moments when the personal connection has ended,” Benvenisti told Xinhua.

“If I come to visit my parents or grandparents, at some point I leave. The technology is here to fill in those moments when I am alone,” said she.

“The world is aging and the aging population is more willing to adopt technologies and pay in order to improve their quality of life,” she added.

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