Seniors escape isolation of pandemic with the help of virtual reality

ORLANDO, Fla, — For many people, virtual reality is only for video games, but at the Orlando VA, one therapist is using the technology to help seniors escape the isolation of the pandemic.

Recreational therapist Roger Tabbatt began adding virtual reality as a way to not only entertain patients but also lift their spirits.

“I understand, I feel how tough it is for them to not be able to go out on outings or not be able to see family members, so I figured this is the next best thing,” Tabbatt said.

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William King Jr., a retired Sergeant Major in the US Army, traveled the world during his time in the service.

Now twice retired and in his 90s, Bill, as he likes to be called, enjoys a quieter life at the Orlando VA community living center.

“I have my little world here and I like it,” King said.

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Like so many older Floridians, however, COVID-19 restrictions have made his life too quiet.

No trips, no visitors, just loneliness.

Now thanks to technology, Bill can travel the world — virtually that is.

This isn’t the first time virtual reality has been used to help treat veterans.

Programs like UCF Restores have used the technology to treat veterans and first responders for PTSD.

King says despite being in his 90s, he likes the idea of trying something new.

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“Well, I like to look at new things. New things always interest me, and this is new. At 90 years old, I still enjoy new stuff,” he said.

Therapists plan to keep looking for more “new things” to help residents stay engaged.

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Matt Reeser

Matt Reeser, WFTV.com

Matt Reeser joined WFTV in 1998 as a news photographer and has worked for television stations in Kentucky and West Virginia.