SEATTLE — When Katherine Mahon visits the residents at Quail Park Memory Care in West Seattle, she doesn’t just talk with them. She helps them escape to a virtual world.

“A lot of people have thought, oh it’s a new technology, I don’t know if seniors are going to be very excepting of it, but they have been.”

The technology Mahon brings is virtual reality through her nonprofit, HomeAgain VR.

“Our mission is to bring virtual reality to seniors and that includes healthy people over 65, as well as people with limited mobility such as people in memory care and assisted living,” said Mahon.

As seniors get older their brain activity slows down. VR advocates say exposing them to pleasant places and things can boost their brain activity and their mood.

“We found that people, especially in memory care, can get agitated sometimes people are stressed out and putting someone in a calming environment such as a beach or peaceful forest can actually have a soothing effect on somebody.”

Just by putting on a pair of headset, seniors can travel the world without leaving their homes.

“People are so used to watching a flat-screen, a television. And so when they turn their head and they see that it’s 360 degrees you get a lot of wow’s and oh my goodness and holy mollies, that kind of reaction.”

So far, HomeAgain VR has worked with over 300 seniors in the Puget Sound region. For care facilities like Quail Park Memory Care, the benefits it brings to their residents go way beyond playing bingo.

“80 percent of a memory care population is struggling with dementia and anxiety. When we see them put on a headset and that reduces their anxiety, what a great no-medicine involved, it’s just done through technology to see them go to a better state on mind,” said Cynthia Weber, Director of Community Relations for Quail Park Memory Care.

“It’s not scary. By the time you get those glasses on, everything gets better.” Said Jean, one of Quail Park’s residents and regular VR users.

So while the world these seniors see may be virtual, Katherine Mahon hopes VR will become a reality for many more.

“I hope we’re able to reach as many people as we possibly can and help as many people as we can. All we can do is keep spreading the word about what we’re doing and the difference we see it makes in people’s lives.”

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