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More hospitals using virtual reality to help cancer patients escape

Seniors able to explore the world without leaving their rooms
Posted at 8:52 AM, Dec 23, 2020
and last updated 2020-12-23 10:52:09-05

Cancer treatments can take a toll on the mind and body, leaving many patients feeling alone and isolated.

Now, senior citizens fighting cancer, like Mary Hill, are able to escape their hospital rooms through virtual reality.

By putting on a pair of goggles, Hill now spends her chemo appointments on stage at Red Rocks Amphitheater as an orchestra plays classical music all around her virtually, while in reality, she receives cancer treatments.

“Wherever it is that they want to be that’s not a hospital room, we give them the opportunity to go there,” said Kyle Rand with Rendever, a company designed to reduce social isolation through shared experiences in virtual reality.

Rendever is operating in more than 200 locations across the U.S. and Canada, serving seniors by offering them hundreds of virtual experiences to choose from.

“The magical part about this is that they get to move from the hospital room that they’re in to all of a sudden being at the Red Rocks, or being standing on the Eiffel tower, or being in Brazil,” Rand said.

Medical experts say this kind of distraction therapy is very helpful, especially during the COVID-19 crisis.

“In the middle of this pandemic, a place that we’re not able to go to right now and enjoy and everyone loves Red Rocks,” said Nikki Caputo with UCHealth.

She says adding VR for patients is somewhat challenging for an already busy staff, but that the benefits are well worth it.

“From a mind, body and soul perspective, being able to put on a headset and take your mind to a completely different place, it's quite something,” she said.

It's something patients like Hill say helps them escape during this pandemic and ultimately overcome depression and isolation.

“With COVID, I don’t go anywhere,” she said. “I’m safe and secure and there’s an outside world that I can think about instead of myself.”