DOI: 10.1111/1440-1630.12916 ISSN: 0045-0766

Potential of virtual reality to meaningfully engage adults living with dementia in care settings: A scoping review

Vivianne To'mah, Sanetta Henrietta Johanna du Toit
  • Occupational Therapy



Older adults living with dementia in residential aged care homes receive physical care but may have limited access to meaningful engagement. Due to its multimodal and versatile nature, virtual reality (VR) is speculated to be an effective means of meaningfully engaging residents individually and/or in groups. However, there is little evidence regarding its efficacy as a means of meaningfully engaging older adults living with dementia. The objective of this scoping review is to identify and synthesise published research investigating the use of VR technology in promoting the meaningful engagement of older adults living with dementia in residential aged care facilities.


A scoping review following Arksey and O'Malley's (2005) established process was conducted and included identifying and selecting relevant studies from seven databases (i.e., AgeLine, CINAHL, Medline, Cochrane, Embase, PsycINFO and Scopus), data charting, and collating, summarising and reporting findings. Two independent reviewers used Covidence and Excel to support data extraction and analysis.


The 20 eligible studies revealed discrepancies in the classification of VR and strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats associated with its implementation. Findings indicate that the most influential factor in eliciting meaningful engagement is when VR use facilitates interpersonal interactions and opportunities for human connection.


Although VR seems to be a promising medium in engaging older adults living with dementia, the efficacy of implementing VR technology within care facilities should be considered alongside potential environmental enablers and barriers. The apparent strength of implementing VR as a means of encouraging restoration, pleasure and productivity in older adults living with dementia lies in the fact that it creates opportunities for meaningful engagement on social and occupational levels.

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