Retirees at St. Bernards Villa have started participating in a pilot physical therapy program using a special virtual reality (VR) system built, in part, for senior care facilities.
St. Bernards physical therapists are among the first virtual-reality certified physical therapists in Arkansas, using a platform called Neuro Rehab VR that helps patients who experienced strokes, partial paralysis, muscle weakness, Parkinson’s Disease and sports injuries. The therapists implemented the VR service at St. Bernards Villa to help older populations, primarily confined to indoor settings, fully immerse in a simulated, real world environment while eliciting natural physical movement with proper control and cadence.
St. Bernards Physical Therapist and Geriatric Certified Specialist Jason Edwards described the program as well received by Villa residents and safe when used under the guidance of trained therapists.
“VR technology has advanced rapidly within the last five to ten years, and research indicates its use improves therapy outcomes for seniors,” Edwards said. “We’ve also seen an improvement in patient compliance because they get a better therapy experience.”
St. Bernards Director of Senior Services Brian Rega said the program gives residents an opportunity to experience rehabilitation services without traveling to a provider.
“We’re always looking to improve what we offer in our assisted living facilities,” Rega said. “It’s not enough that we provide residents with a place to stay. We want to keep them living healthy and active lives.”
Edwards said he and his colleagues plan to expand VR physical therapy services to more populations in the weeks ahead.
“This new service holds great promise for rehabilitating injured athletes or any person recovering from joint injuries or surgeries, too,” he said. “No matter a person’s age or background, physical therapy will always challenge patients. We hope to empower them to meet those challenges.”
As background, the FDA-registered Neuro Rehab VR helps patients with their physical and occupational therapies, using a turn-key, immersive VR therapy solution and data analytics to track progress. Customers include large hospitals such as Cedars Sinai, Children's Health and the VA. The XR Therapy System is the company’s flagship product, consisting of a VR headset with controllers and a tablet for clinician control and patient management.