Virtual reality increases motivation in elderly users. Definitive results

The context: finishing with the VR cognitive training testing phase 

The VirtuAAL team has recently finished with the final stage of the project. This phase consisted of some sessions that took place in the European cities of Aarhus (Denmark) and Bucharest (Romania) and involved a representative sample of 55 end-users during 3 months.  

Now we want to present the results we extracted in both countries. Moreover, we are going to use all the gathered information to learn more about how to improve cognitive therapies by using VR technologies. 

In the end, the goal of this project is to develop accessible and highly-motivating serious games to help nursing homes and daily centers with their therapies against cognitive impairment. 

What did the testing phase exactly consist of?

The serious games’ sceneries: a kitchen, a cozy living room and a bank office.   

virtual reality results

We used for this testing phase games using Augmented Reality and some games for Oculus. But the most successful and used were the three different serious games developed by Ideable for HTC Vive. These games reproduced familiar spaces for elderly users. Therefore, the users were able to virtually work in high-fidelity designed scenarios such as a kitchen, a living room and a bank office.  

On this Youtube video it is shown a real demonstration of the VR cognitive training recorded during the testing phase. As you can see, we prepared our games even for elderly users using wheelchairs. 

The sample of end-users

Referring to the sample of end-users that participated in the testing phase: we worked in two different samples, the first one in Aarhus (Denmark) and the second one in Bucharest (Romania). In the end, the total amount of participants involved in these final trials was 55 people.

  • In both cities, the majority of the sample was formed by women, and the average age was around 73-74 years old
  • Moreover, the end-users were primarily people living either alone or attending daycare centers. Only a few of them were living with their relatives.  
  • Around a 50% of the total participants had superior studies
  • The bigger differences between the two samples were essentially related to mobility. In Denmark, most of the participants were wheelchair users and had low mobility. On the other hand, participants in Romania had no major mobility problems. 
  • Another difference, related to the mobility issue was the lifestyle carried out in each group. On the first hand, the danish participants were in rehabilitation programs and participated in cognitive or physical rehabilitation several times a week. On the second hand, most of the Romanian users were leading an active lifestyle, with the involvement in many leisure activities in the Senior’s Clubs. 

Cognitive and mood measuring tools 

The cognitive level of the primary end-users was scored using the MoCA (Montreal Cognitive Assesment) test, which is normally used as a screening tool for many illnesses related to cognitive decline. 

The average MoCA score for the end-users who participated in Denmark was 20,7. 

In Romania, the lowest MoCa score was 20 points out of 30, and the highest one was 30 points out of 30. 

Accordingly, to the MoCa scores, the end-users had either normal cognition or a mild cognitive impairment.

The mood level of 30 end-users was screened in the beginning using the Geriatric Depression Scale (GDS). This is a screening tool used to identify depression in older adults.

Although some users had scores indicating mil depression, no severe depression was signaled among the participants according to the GDS.  

Final results

After the final tests and analysis, we might sentence these final conclusions:

Analyzing the results of the cognitive status, we must remark that:

– In Denmark, there’s a slight cognitive improvement that may be also related to the adoption of the technology but, anyway, it’s remarkable that the cognitive level didn’t get worse in any case.

– In Romania, it can be said that after getting used to the game it becomes more usable and the scores improve, so there’s also a slight improvement.

So, in both cases, we got the expected results so that these technologies could be considered as accurate for keeping the mental general status, although more time and control group should be driven in order to see the impact in different mental capacities.

Referring to the devices, it is seen that users changed their preferences from Oculus to HTC Vive. And, in general, in terms of usability and feedback from the end-users, all items have been well scored and games are considered easy and pleasant.