In September of 2019, after a two-year application process, the National Institute on Aging (NIA), a division of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), awarded Rendever a Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) Phase I grant to test the potential for impact of their virtual reality (VR) platform with residents experiencing some form of cognitive decline and their adult children who live at a distance.

With our research partner, University of California Santa Barbara (UCSB), residents from two Senior Resource Group (SRG) memory care communities were selected to participate with their adult child or other family member. We completed half of the data collection (21 senior-family member dyads) and then COVID-19 hit and our research was interrupted. We were able to analyze the initial results and the results are extremely promising - thus far, we have found a decrease in negative emotions, an increase in positive emotions, decrease in isolation from family, increased engagement (especially if they had dementia), and an improvement in quality of life.

Until now, no VR technology has been tested with older adults as a way to enhance their family relationships. Rendever’s sophisticated networking abilities open up a world of possibilities, not only for those living in senior living communities, but for those living in any type of setting by allowing them to share experiences with loved ones across distances.

We are currently applying for the Phase II multi-site clinical trial to collect data on a larger scale. The study design will be quite similar, but we are inviting more communities and it will have more follow-up time points to assess long-term impact on the participants and relationships.