Nearly 25 percent of people aged 65 and over experience varying degrees of anxiety.
Although cognitive behavioural therapy is a preferred treatment approach, it has limitations as people age (decreased mobility and visualization skills). Could virtual reality be an effective therapy for anxiety in older people? This novel therapeutic avenue for this clientele seems promising, according to a literature review conducted by the team of Sébastien Grenier, PhD, a researcher at the Institut universitaire de gériatrie de Montréal (IUGM) and a research professor at Université de Montréal.
One technique of cognitive behavioral therapy consists of getting people to confront their anxiety by exposing them to mental images, objects or situations that trigger their fear, and continuing the process until this reaction decreases. People may physically travel to a location or just imagine the stressful situation (such as flying or getting sick).
Currently, Dr. Grenier is conducting a pilot study to test the feasibility of this approach. However, a number of trials must be conducted before it can be applied in a clinical setting. Will older people be comfortable with this technology? Will they believe in the simulation? Will they be more susceptible to cybersickness?
Dr. Grenier has received support from the Quebec Network for Research on Aging (RQRV) to launch the pilot study. The literature review was published in International Psychogeriatrics in September 2014.