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An older couple using VR headsets to play a video game

Seeing the world through a new lens

How VR and AR could change everything 
By Trish Barbato
Revera is committed to helping improve the aging experience by investing in innovations targeting older adults. Trish Barbato, Senior VP of Innovation and Strategic Partnerships, is driving Revera’s focus on innovation.

Revera’s first Report on Ageism dealt with older adults and their adoption of technology. That was back in 2012, but still there is a huge stereotype society holds of seniors being averse to new technology. Frankly, this belief is surprising, if not insulting. Seniors are adopting technology, proving that they’re not too different from their younger family members.

Research from the Pew Research Center in 2017, showed 80 per cent of people 65 and older in the US owned a cell phone and 42 per cent owned a smart phone. Though these numbers perhaps aren’t as high as millennials or other cohorts, it certainly demonstrates that seniors are more digitally connected than ever before, and the numbers are only growing.

“A seemingly simple headset can make a world of difference to older adults.” 
Our research showed the top two reasons older adults use technology is to keep socially active and remain informed about news and world issues. At Revera, we see exciting opportunities for seniors to connect with friends, family and the world around them as technology improves, particularly in the world of virtual and augmented reality (VR and AR).

Revera is working with Rendever, a company that specializes in virtual reality platforms designed for older adults to combat social isolation. Through shared experiences, they work with seniors to create experiences that they can share with their fellow residents, friends and families. Through this technology, older adults are able to take journeys through time and visit places they’ve always dreamed about. For example, not everyone has the means to go on a safari in Tanzania, but with VR it can be made accessible for anyone. We recently took our Chief Elder Officer, Hazel McCallion, back to the small fishing village she grew up in Port-Daniel, Gaspe Quebec via VR. She was amazed, exclaiming “I think that is my nephew’s fishing boat!”

A seemingly simple headset can make a world of difference to older adults. Augmented reality (AR) has even more promise to assist older adults. Unlike virtual reality, augmented reality is an interactive experience of your real-world environment so what you are seeing is enhanced by a computer program. Think of it this way, if you’re trying to build a piece of furniture it can be confusing to keep having to go back and read the instructions and find all the pieces. With AR, instructions would be displayed right on your glasses in a way that would highlight what piece fits where so you don’t need to keep referring to a set of instructions – think of all the Ikea frustrations that could be avoided! Of course, there are many other applications to this technology and some that have yet to be explored.

It is an exciting time to find new uses for technology that will support older adults to maintain their independence and assist them in their daily lives. I’m encouraged by the people working in this fascinating field and I’m excited for what’s to come.
Trish Barbato
By Trish Barbato
Trish Barbato is Senior VP, Innovation & Strategic Partnerships for Revera Inc. Ms. Barbato is responsible for driving a culture of innovation across Revera and for establishing Revera’s global presence as a preeminent, industry-leading senior’s innovation partner and investor.