Virtual reality has unveiled new layers to rediscover industries. From gaming to training, it’s this limitless mentality that London, Ontario’s EXAR Studios is leveraging to enable healing for an aging population.
“Virtual reality technology has so many use-cases beyond entertainment. No matter if you’re an architect, musician, creative, or just want to shoot some zombies, you can empower yourself with activities that are immersive,” says Ben Switzer, VP Partnerships.
“That unique quality has a significant effect on the brain and body.”
EXAR Studios was born out of a collective passion for technology and science coming together to “create the spectacular.” Partnering with some of the region’s most recognized innovators, the studio has embarked on a new mission to apply their expertise in virtual reality to enable an aging strategy that heals and expands horizons.
The Immersive Aging Project initially started as a fundraising project during Alzheimer’s Awareness Month, to shift our societal view of aging from a perspective of disease to one that prioritizes play in the healing process.
Their entry-point into this space began with supplying their technical expertise to Mount Hope Centre of Long Term Care, who currently operates a VR therapeutic recreation program.
“It’s introducing people who have a stake in Alzheimers and dementia, who are in a state of cognitive decline, experiencing mobility challenges, or impaired quality of life, to new technology and what it can become for them,” says Switzer.
Now, touring around long-term care environments, the team is able to assess the unique needs of specific homes and bridge the gap between the diverse populations represented, and the new-age technology that gives residents opportunities to experience new visual delights that can trigger memories, help them create new ones, or bring them a bit of peace through frustrating times.
With a deep interest in neurorehabilitation and cognitive enhancement after his own experience suffering from a brain injury, Switzer is empathetic to those who struggle with loss of function, whether physically or cognitively. “Going from aptitude to disability very quickly, jarringly — when I empowered myself with knowledge, it became apparent that play could be healing when properly constructed. Tech became an avenue to explore that.”
When it comes to aging, the team at EXAR Studios thinks there’s room for a change in perspective.
Everyone gets older. Bodies become less resilient. Limitations begin to manifest. Technology can become a utility to caregivers in a complex care environment. Embracing the immersive element of sophisticated virtual reality tech can provide an escape.
“I could write you a poem about a roller coaster, and you might still not understand what it is. Until you sit in a car, and you experience the sensation of climbing to the top, then you truly feel the anticipation and excitement.”