A team at the University of Tokyo led by Kenta Toshima is using virtual reality to help the elderly to see the world. This way, those who can no longer travel can still enjoy the experience of a holiday without leaving their home.
This project is in support of Japan’s advanced aged society. Toshima and his team work in conjunction with physical rehabilitation in nursing care facilities.
For this project, Toshima partnered up with Atsushi Hiyama, a lecturer and assistant professor of the university. Hiyama’s field of study is on geron-informatics. Together, they use VR to create 360-degree videos. They also teach a group of active senior citizens about the technology and how to “film and edit 360-degree videos from their travels to give to their less mobile peers”. The age range in the group is from 53 to 90 years old.
As a therapist, Toshima started taking 360-degree videos for his senior patients. “They wanted to see even more of the places from their memories, therefore I felt that I could show them more by using virtual reality and showing them [these places] in 360,” he told CNN Travel. “With VR, they can look around however they’d like to and experience the footage actively.”
According to Hiyama, 90% of Japan’s elderly above 65 years old are still “very active” and don’t “need support to live alone”. What they need is to actively participate in society.
82-year-old Takeshi Maki took his 360 camera on his trip to Hawaii. When he came back home, he showed the footage to his friends who cannot travel and they were “so surprised”.
“You know most of the senior people cannot move or travel, right? This camera can help them,” Maki said.
Toshima added, “Those who have lived to 80-90 years, there aren’t so many things they haven’t personally experienced. When they see the VR, [it] takes them to a different place right before their eyes. I saw people stand up who don’t normally stand up, who then start walking. It was so shocking.”