Skip to main content Start main content

VR training system for older adults with cognitive frailty

8 Sep 2021

Put on the headset, rode on the ergometer exercise bike, and take on a virtual reality journey for improving cognitive frailty.

Ms Wu, the player (2nd from left) and Ms Olive Sin (1st from left), Pok Oi Hospital Acting Social Services Deputy Director ( Elderly Services) at a PolyU press conference in September 2021 that announced the result of the study on the VR Motor-Cognitive Game-based Training System.

Cognitive frailty is characterised by the presence of both physical frailty and cognitive impairment, which is a common clinical syndrome among community-dwelling older people. To help those older adults maintain their cognitive functions and simultaneously improve their motor abilities for carrying out activities of daily living, Dr Rick Kwan (principal Investigator) and his team* collaborated with Pok Oi Hospital to develop the Virtual Reality (VR) Motor-Cognitive Game-based Training System and a study was carried out to evaluate its effectiveness.

The VR system was funded by the Innovation and Technology Fund for Better Living, the Innovation and Technology Bureau with HK$ 2.9 million. The system provides virtual space mimicking real environments, such as simulated road conditions in Hong Kong. When users put on the wireless VR headset, they are taken on a journey to complete tasks of activities of daily living. Following the on-screen instructions and by riding on the ergometer exercise bike, players ‘walk’ around streets to reach a shop or a supermarket to buy daily commodity by themselves, or ‘walk’ to a bus stop and travel to different destinations.

The VR training system provides 16 levels of tasks with increasing difficulties to enhance the cognitive functions of players. The resistance level of the ergometer exercise bike can also be adjusted corresponding to the training need. Players have to attend two (30-minute each) VR sessions per week for a total of eight-week for achieving health benefits.

Seventeen older adults with cognitive frailty from one elderly centre under Pok Oi Hospital were recruited to participate in the pilot study. Those in the intervention group receiving the VR training showed a significant improvement in cognitive function, including calculation, memory, reaction and attention, than their controlled counterparts, who received motor and cognitive training separately (each session included a 15-minute cycling and 15-minute cognitive tablet games or newspaper reading). ‘The players can apply the skills they have learnt in the VR game to their daily lives,’ said Dr Kwan.

The research team aims at applying the VR system to a total of 648 elderly by the end of next year (2022). They also hope to develop a multiplayer mode that includes more tasks such as babysitting their grandchildren.

Click here to see the demonstration of our VR motor-cognitive training system.

*Co-investigators include Prof. Kenneth Fong, Professor, PolyU’s Department of Rehabilitation Sciences; Dr Justina Liu, Dr Harry Qin, Associate Professors, and Dr Claudia Lai, Honorary Professor; Ms Lydia Suen and Ms Man-kei Tse, Research Associates, School of Nursing, PolyU. 

Press Contacts

Miss Helen Hsu

Communications Manager, School of Nursing

Your browser is not the latest version. If you continue to browse our website, Some pages may not function properly.

You are recommended to upgrade to a newer version or switch to a different browser. A list of the web browsers that we support can be found here