Virtual reality helps Japan's elderly travel the world

Virtual reality helps Japan's elderly travel the world

(CNN) — Traveling from the canals of Venice to San Francisco's Golden Gate Bridge, a group of older adults in Japan sees the world -- without even leaving their seats.

It's all thanks to virtual reality, as well as the University of Tokyo' Team led by Kenta Toshima.

As a therapist, Toshima traveled the globe capturing 360-degree videos to show his senior patients. He aimed to help them find joy and motivation in life, using VR technology to allow those who are unable to travel satisfy their wanderlust and see the world again.


"They wanted to see even more of the places from their memories. Therefore I felt that I could show them more by using virtual reality and showing them [these places] in 360," He tells CNN Travel. "With VR, they can look around; however, they'd like to and experience the footage actively."

Toshima then teamed up with the University of Tokyo lecturer and assistant professor Atsushi Hiyama, whose field of study focuses on Geron-informatics.

Together they are applying technology, such as VR, to support Japan's hyper-aged society while also teaching active senior citizens to film and edit 360-degree videos from their travels to give to their less mobile peers.

"90% of people who are over 65 years old are very active," says Hiyama. "They don't need support to live alone. For the active elderly, it means that they are participating in society."

'It takes them to a different place right before their eyes'

We attended one of their sessions at the university. Our classmates ranged from 53 to 90 years old and had been learning about VR technology for about a year.

There, we met 82-year-old Takeshi Maki, who told us he had traveled to Hawaii with his 360 camera. 

"I have [friends who cannot travel] because I am over 80 years old," he explains. "When I showed [the footage] to my friends, they were so surprised. You know most of the senior people cannot move or travel. This camera can help them."

According to Hiyama and Toshima, the VR travel project works in conjunction with physical rehabilitation in nursing care facilities.

Read more

Click here to chat with us