Categorized | Technology

VR helps seniors cope with depression, anxiety, Minneapolis center finds

During a lifetime of travel, Gae Jensen has visited all 48 continental states.

On her most recent journeys, the 83-year-old resident of the Ebenezer Care Center in Minneapolis revisited the pleasing sensations of travel without leaving south Minneapolis — she used a virtual reality (VR) headset provided by Ebenezer to visit places from Stonehenge to Minnehaha Falls.

“We used to do a lot of traveling when I was a child, and thankfully, I was married twice and both husbands loved to travel. So this is wonderful,” Jensen said. “It’s a good chance to not only see places, but just — it makes you feel good.”

The Minnesota native and 18-year resident of Ebenezer took part in a VR pilot program earlier this year at the senior living complex, along with two dozen other residents of Fairview Health Services’ south Minneapolis Ebenezer campus. Like the other participants, Jensen reported a sense of contentment that lingered after the VR sessions ended.

The upbeat feedback confirmed the hopes of staff members at Ebenezer about benefits of using VR to address the effects of anxiety, depression and other states common to residents of senior-living complexes. The program is slated to be expanded to three buildings at the Ebenezer campus in south Minneapolis starting in January.

“We took a little bit of a chance to see if the residents would try it and perk up, and they did,” said Joel Prevost, administrator of the 600-resident, multibuilding campus near E. 26th Street and Portland Avenue.

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