Between 2014-2024 employment of physical therapists is expected to rise to 34%, while the average rate among other occupations is 7%. This large increase is mainly due to the quickly increasing aging population, aptly dubbed as the silver tsunami. There’s a golden opportunity for physical therapists right now as chronic conditions, strokes, accidents, and general aches and pains go hand in hand with aging. And to make matters worst, most seniors live a sedentary lifestyle or are just not active enough, but someone may have found a solution to this ongoing issue. Virtual therapy.
Why Virtual Therapy?
Jon Ram Bruun-Pedersen of Aalborg University led a study where a group of seniors was given an opportunity to ride bikes through various landscapes through the help of virtual reality technology. TVs and stationary bikes were set up in a room and linked together so that the rider’s speed matched with the projected motion on the screen. Some even pedal a bit harder to get over a hill on the screen but didn’t feel the difference of resistance on the bike.
The second part of the study involved equipping the elderly riders with virtual reality goggles. Although a virtual experience can be overwhelming for some, the participants took to it surprisingly well. In fact, after the study, the participants expressed an increased desire to use the exercise bikes.
Exercise is an essential part of any healthy lifestyle, not matter what the age. Besides getting their heart rate up, virtual therapy has the added benefit of getting seniors to go outside, travel, and visit familiar places. Hard to ignore all these benefits, this virtual reality program may very well make it into nursing homes around the globe. American seniors have had their taste of virtual therapy with positive results. It’s only a matter of time that facilities take it a step further and integrate virtual reality programs.