A resident of assisted living experiences virtual reality.
A virtual reality (VR) start-up company founded by MBA candidates in the MIT Sloan School of Management has won a $25,000 prize for the MIT Healthcare Innovations Prize. Their company, Rendever, is pioneering the use of VR to bring novel experiences to the aging population. Rendever helps to transport residents far beyond the walls of their buildings, offering the opportunity to travel to those who are limited in mobility. This "armchair travel system" allows assisted-living residents "to take a stroll down memory lane by revisiting their home, favorite park, or wedding venue," or to "hike up Macchu Picchu as a group, go on a walking tour of Paris, or work together to recreate Picasso’s masterpieces."
Dennis Lally and Reed Hayes are the co-founders of Rendever. Reed’s mother-in-law lived in an assisted-living community. Despite the care she received, she struggled with social isolation and depression. She could no longer enjoy her hobbies or even attend her daughter’s wedding. The thought of reconnecting older adults with the world became the foundation of the company.
Charles Lin from MIT's IDM is concurrently working with Rendever to develop his Master's thesis on VR's potential to improve social and emotional well-being and alleviate conditions leading to depression in residents of assisted living. Presently he is in the field, working with 64 participants at Benchmark Senior Living to examine the technology's efficacy in improving residents' well-being. Lin’s work is under the supervision of MIT AgeLab Director Dr. Joseph F. Coughlin and Research Scientist Dr. Chaiwoo Lee. Rendever's goals synergize with the MIT AgeLab's mission of leveraging technology to improve the lives of older adults, and bringing fun and play to aging.