(EDITOR’S NOTE: The eight teams that comprise the fourth cohort in Launch Tennessee’s “The TENN” master accelerator program bring the curtain down on the experience at a pitch finale set for March 29 at Well Placed Smile, 907 Gleaves Street in Nashville. To register, click here. Ahead of that event, we are running short profiles on each of the teams.)
By Tom Ballard, Chief Alliance Officer, PYA
For those of us in the baby boomer generation, the aging process is something that we realize is coming faster than we might want. As the years tick by, one of the biggest challenges for many older Americans is dementia, frequently accelerated by isolation due to physical limitations.
Effectively addressing those challenges for the individual, that person’s family, and facilities where older citizens might reside is the challenge a start-up named Rendever has embraced. Its secret sauce is virtual reality (VR), a rapidly emerging technology that is being explored in a variety of sectors.
During a stop in Knoxville on “The TENN Road Show” last month, the company’s two Co-Founders illustrated their idea by showing a video of a woman suffering from dementia who put on a virtual reality headset to view her former home. The result was startling in terms of recognition and positive vibes.
Rendever, a participant in last year’s “GIGTANK” coordinated by Chattanooga’s CO.LAB, was co-founded by Dennis Lally and Reed Hayes, graduate students at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Their goal is to open-up a world of opportunities for seniors that becomes challenging due to everything from constrained mobility to dementia.
After more than 3,000 adults have donned the headsets and watched the videos, Lally and Hayes believe they have a winner.
“Our users love it,” Lally told attendees who gathered at Radio Systems in Knoxville during the early February stop. “There’s a multitude of academic literature that supports this use of VR.”
“I feel for the people living inside these communities, that they don’t have enough stimulation,” Hayes said in a recent CBS News segment. “They need to have a sense of wonder about the world again, they need to be curious, they need to be exploring. And when you’re physically not able to do that by yourself, then virtual reality is a wonderful aid to provide that.”
Rendever’s technology can allow seniors to experience family events that they cannot attend in person or relive memories of events from their past, all through the VR technology. They can also take “virtual” trips to locations that physical limitations might preclude them from visiting today.
There are even plans to use the technology to better train caregivers for seniors. Want some validation for that idea? Rendever just executed an agreement to partner with the American Association of Retired Persons to develop those training modules.
You can see some YouTube videos on Rendever here.