Virtual reality may boost functional mobility in older people
A meta-analysis suggests that virtual reality therapy helps older adults improve their functional mobility as compared with conventional interventions, although the quality of evidence is low.
The meta-analysis included 18 studies that examined the effects of video game consoles with exergames (VRT-NS) and virtual reality equipment designed specifically for rehabilitation programmes (VRT-S) against conventional or no therapy on functional mobility in community-dwelling people aged >60 years.
The total population comprised 568 individuals (71 percent female) with a mean age of 60–96 years. These participants had walking independence, normal cognitive performance, sufficient visual capacity to participate in rehabilitation sessions, and no disability caused by neurological disorders, osteoarticular diseases, severe heart disease, or brain injury.
Four studies used VRT-S, while the rest utilized VRT-NS with low-cost devices such as Nintendo Wii and Sony Play Station. Comparators included traditional rehabilitation, activities of daily living, health education programmes, cycling exercises, and no intervention.
Pooled data revealed VRT-NS to be more effective in increasing functional mobility than no intervention (standardized mean difference [SMD], –1.02, 95 percent confidence interval [CI], −1.91 to −0.14). On the other hand, VRT-NS proved better than CT at improving resistance in ambulation (SMD, −1.20, 95 percent CI, –1.93 to 0.46).
Of note, the beneficial effects of VRT were more pronounced in programmes with >18 sessions (SMD, −0.89, 95 percent CI, –1.71 to –0.08; p<0.001) than in those with less sessions (≤18; SMD, 0.04, 95 percent CI, –0.51 to 0.59) relative to no intervention.
However, the results are inconclusive due to the high risk of bias and the low quality of the GRADE evidence.