Seeking to transform physical rehabilitation for seniors, La Loma Care Center in Litchfield Park, Arizona, recently started using the first-ever “virtual” rehabilitation system for aging adults called the OmniVR™. This technology, the first one in the West Valley, is making the rehabilitation process more fun and exciting for residents.

The OmniVR™ uses a sophisticated 3D camera and specialized computer software to capture a resident’s image and convert it to an “avatar” that is introduced into a game-like environment. The image is then displayed on a large monitor where a resident can view their activity. With the assistance and supervision of a therapist, residents take part in a variety of interactive exercises and activities selected for the individual’s specific condition or physical challenge. The programs focus on strength, balance, mobility, walking, endurance and memory.

Unlike off-the-shelf video game systems, the OmniVR™ was developed specifically for people with physical limitations. It’s much easier for elderly patients to use, featuring simpler graphics and eliminating the need for hand-held controllers. The software is designed around positive reinforcement, rather than a win-lose scenario. Equally important, the system is focused on professional therapy applications rather than the recreational focus of traditional systems.

Minutes after her OmniVR training, Judy, an occupational therapist, introduced Ruth, a short-stay resident with dementia, to the volleyball game. Motivating Ruth to participate in therapy has often been difficult. After Ruth finished a game, Judy encouraged another resident to do a cognition puzzle using the OmniVR. While Ruth was resting, she leaned over to a staff member with a twinkle in her eye and said “how about you and me play some more ball?”

“Watching Ruth become an active participant and then initiate further therapy using the OmniVR was extremely rewarding,” said Cheryl Knupp, La Loma Care Center Administrator. “We are very excited to be the first skilled nursing facility on the west side to offer this innovative ‘virtual’ therapy equipment.”