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Rendever Receives NIH Grant to Study VR-based Virtual Family Engagement With Seniors Experiencing Cognitive Decline and Their Adult Children Across Distances

BOSTON, Sept. 18, 2019 /PRNewswire-PRWeb/ -- The National Institute on Aging (NIA), a division of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), has just 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.

Rendever's resident engagement platform was specifically built for seniors and senior living staff to reduce social isolation by enabling older adults to check off bucket list items, revisit meaningful places from their past, and stay connected to their families across distances - all through the power of VR and shared positive experiences. The Rendever family portal allows family members to participate in customizing the experience for their loved ones through sharing personal photos, videos, and 360° footage of family events. This study will bring family members one step closer by allowing them to wear headsets simultaneously and sharing the experience, all from the comfort of their own home.

This NIH grant will fund a study jointly conducted by Rendever and the University of California Santa Barbara (UCSB), to evaluate the acceptability, engagement, and usability challenges of virtual family engagement with this population, as well as the differences in impact across various levels of cognitive impairment (MCI, mild to moderate AD/ADRD).

"We're ecstatic to be working with the NIH and Rendever on this groundbreaking study," said Tamara Afifi, professor of Interpersonal Health Communication at UCSB and one of the PIs on the study. "We're hopeful that this application of technology will make a significant, quantifiable difference in the lives of seniors and their loved ones, and we can't wait to get started."

Beginning in early September, residents at two assisted living communities will experience a series of Rendever VR sessions with their adult children who live at a distance. The resident and the family member will both be wearing VR headsets and participating in the experiences together, able to communicate by voice and through avatar-based interactions. All participants will provide feedback continuously via interviews, self-reported measures, and post-session coding of affect and engagement. The residents will all come from two assisted living communities managed by Senior Resource Group (SRG).

"As a company, we believe that there's a science and an art to our residents' wellbeing, and this is especially true for residents with dementia and Alzheimer's Disease," said Debbi Cavallo, Director of Dementia Services at SRG. "We're always learning from the latest trends in healthcare and hospitality, but now we're humbled to be in the forefront of research of one of the most exciting trends in senior living alongside a strong academic team and fantastic product."

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.

Dr. Joseph Coughlin, Director of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology AgeLab, is serving as an advisor on this study and explained, "In addition to other causes of cognitive decline, Alzheimer's Disease affects more than 5 million Americans and by 2050, this number is expected to dramatically increase -- affecting the lives of the afflicted and their families. Until cures for the dementias are discovered, new technologies that can help reduce the emotional burden for older adults and their caregivers are an imperative. This is an important leap forward for Rendever, and I'm proud to be a part of their evolution."

Following this Phase I pilot study, Rendever will work with UCSB and the NIH to analyze results and apply for a Phase II multi-site clinical trial to collect data on a larger scale.

"This is the culmination of over 2 years worth of collaborative effort, and we're incredibly grateful for the tireless efforts of the team at UCSB, as well as the support of various members at the NIH throughout this process," said Kyle Rand, Cofounder and CEO of Rendever. "Over the years, we've seen incredible anecdotal evidence of the powerful effects of shared virtual reality experiences among the senior population. We're honored to be awarded this grant, and eager to quantify these effects in the coming year."

For more information, please visit rendever.com or email hello@rendever.com.

About Rendever:
Rendever, Inc. was founded in 2016 with the mission of improving the resident experience through immersive technology. It's flagship virtual reality platform was designed specifically for residents of senior living communities, and has won numerous awards for innovation and impact. This engagement platform allows residents of senior living communities to explore the world, check off bucket list items, and revisit meaningful locations from their past, all in a social way that focuses on building bonds between members of the community. Their technical suite involves over 23 individual applications and services that allow staff to use VR seamlessly across a variety of different avenues, and includes several products specifically designed to increase family engagement and personalize the VR experience for each resident.

Research reported in this publication was supported by the National Institute On Aging of the National Institutes of Health under Award Number R41AG063640. The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the National Institutes of Health.


SOURCE Rendever

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