Virtual Reality Therapy in Aid of Senior Citizens' Psychological Disorders


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The treatment for senior citizens suffering from psychological disorders seems to be different from therapeutic procedures used for other populations. This pilot study is the first known in-depth case study of the effectiveness of virtual reality therapy (VRT) as a treatment for senior citizens. The fear of flying treatment was chosen for this study. The subject of the study was a 62-year-old married female, whose anxiety and avoidance behavior was interfering with her normal activities. For treatment, she was placed in the cabin of a virtual commercial aircraft environment accompanied by a virtual therapist. After a few sessions in which she spent time in a virtual airport scene, she spent four sessions in which she was flown over a simulated city. While under the virtual reality treatment, the subject experienced a number of physical and emotional anxiety-related symptoms. These symptoms included sweaty palms, loss of balance, weakness in the knees, etc. In this study, the virtual reality treatment caused a significant reduction in the anxiety symptoms in the subject and enhanced her ability to face phobic situations in the real world. Since termination of the treatment, she has taken several flights to professional conferences and reported feeling more comfortable and has fewer symptoms than those experienced prior to the VRT treatment.

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