Losing meaningful friends, monotonous environments, and a constant feeling of loneliness, it’s what millions of elderly people in today’s world face. In The Netherlands alone, over 1.000.000 seniors are classified as lonely. In an ever-aging population in virtually the whole western civilization, this problem is only becoming more larger in the upcoming decades.

Resulting from the 5-day-long ‘Hacking Elderly Care’ hackathon, team Hack The Planet created two brand-new concepts to improve the lives of the elderly using virtual reality technology: EldersVR and Elders@Home.

EldersVR uses virtual realitytechnology to enable elderly people to have a shared experience in a different place and a different time. As we saw during our prototyping stage, seniors are fascinated by the sense of going somewhere with someone else, whether it involves the beach of Scheveningen, a 70’s style scene of Paris or a live-connection to the wedding of grandchildren. These 360° scenes evoke memories, spark conversations, and forge friendships in effect. Currently, EldersVR is being tested at three care homes in The Hague. Not only user satisfaction is tested, but also the effect of EldersVR on their perceived loneliness. Check out the video we made during the initial hackathon:

With Hack The Planet’s second VR-concept, Elders@Home, we develop an innovative platform for elderly care homes and meeting centers (tested at a centre in The Hague) to show socially isolated seniors the atmosphere of the care home before they cross the barrier to go there. In practice, employees of elderly care homes and meeting centers visit such seniors at home to convince them of how valuable visiting a meeting center can be for them. However, simply showing images and telling stories does not sufficiently lower the threshold for the elderly to move out of their homes to the center. Elders@Home provides elderly institutions with the most realistic possible way of showing seniors what the center is like – as if they step into the center while sitting at home. The technology involves a VR set with aself-developed application that shows the way from home to a meeting center, its activities, its people, and its atmosphere.

EldersVR has been developed and is being tested in3 meeting centres in The Hague, while Elders@Home‘s is being implemented in The Hague from November 2017 onwards. In the years that follow, both Elders concepts will help improve the lives of the elderly.