College students use AI tools to help older adults experience virtual reality, cutting edge tech

Tom George Image
Thursday, March 28, 2024
AI tools help older adults experience benefits of technology
UNC students from CareYaya, show older adults how to use technology tools from VR, to AI art, and how to use ChatGPT prompts for everything from recipes to exercise routines.

NORTH CAROLINA (WTVD) -- North Carolina is facing a rapidly aging population. At the same time, Research Triangle Park has been home to cutting-edge technological advantages.

But those two worlds haven't always come together.

It's something one company is hoping to change, by meeting with senior citizens to teach them about cutting-edge technology that could have health benefits. For years, Red Lyles' happy place has been in the open field riding horses.

"Whenever there are horses, there I am," Lyles says.

These days she can't hit the trails like she used to, but today she was transported from Ruth Sheets Adult Care Center in Raleigh to another world, by using a virtual reality headset taking her back with her beloved horses.

"I felt I like I was right out there in the desert area with them," she says.

Red is one of a group of seniors getting a visit from UNC students from CareYaya, showing them everything from VR, to AI art, and how to use ChatGPT prompts for everything from recipes to exercise routines.

"The more immersive the experience, it's actually changing your mindset and tricking your mind into thinking you are somewhere else, and that is having a massive positive impact on the dopamine," says CEO Neal Shah.

Shah says his team at CareYaya got an NIH grant to promote the technology. He says, that, unlike younger generations who might need to take a break from too much screen time, for older users, a little virtual activity can keep your brain sharp even if your mobility might be limited.

"You can go to the Eiffel Tower, you can go to the moon landing. You can kind of go do whatever activity you want. We found there's so much therapeutic benefit joy, peace of mind, calmness," he says.

It's a tool that can help as North Carolina is quickly aging. State data found that by this year 1 in 5 North Carolinians are 65 or older. And by next year, there will be over 200,000 people in the state living with Alzheimer's disease, according to the NC Department of Health and Human Services (NCDHHS).

"I think that ageism is something that's plaguing the world right now. I think that especially like the younger generation that can tend to think you know, they're old," says Nirvana Tari from CareYaya.

"I really think that I think that older people are just as capable as learning new things as we are. As long as you put your mind to it," she says.

The group says they are hoping to continue their work, after securing grants from the National Institutes of Health and Johns Hopkins.