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Innerva and partners develop immersive technology to improve mental health in older adults

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Power-assisted exercise specialist Innerva has teamed up with academics and technology providers to launch Planet Wellbeing, a virtual reality solution designed to alleviate loneliness and mental health issues in older adults.

Innerva is part of a consortium comprising immersive technologies specialist Pixelmill Digital, Sheffield Hallam University’s Advanced Wellbeing Research Centre (AWRC) and Age UK Sheffield.

The project is being funded through Innovate UK’s 2023 Mindset Extended Reality for Digital Mental Health competition. The scheme aims to facilitate the development of new solutions that use immersive technologies to improve the delivery of mental health and wellbeing services.

Loneliness is a major issue in modern society. According to Age UK, 1.4 million older people in the UK are often lonely. Chronic loneliness has been linked to poor mental and physical health.

Designed to support older people suffering from loneliness and isolation, Planet WellBeing is a virtual world where older adults can connect with others and enjoy fun and engaging activities. These may include exploring the world, dancing, playing games and interacting with avatars. Users will be able to enjoy the immersive experience alone or with friends, family and therapists.

“Loneliness and social isolation have a significant impact on the mental health and wellbeing of older adults. With Planet WellBeing we aim to address this issue by providing a virtual world that is safe, engaging and inclusive,” said Jon Hymus, commercial director of Innerva.

Planet Wellbeing is being developed in close consultation with older adults to ensure it meets their needs and that everyone, regardless of their physical abilities, can access the solution.

The project will assess the effect of the virtual world on users’ mental wellbeing, including loneliness, depression and anxiety, as well as general quality of life.

Vin Sumner, CEO at PixelMill Digital said: “Having worked in the field of immersive technology for over 15 years, PixelMill is excited about the opportunity through Planet WellBeing to develop an application that will help improve the lives of those suffering from loneliness.”

Teresa Barker, chief executive of Age UK Sheffield, said: “We’re excited to be part of this consortium and to work with leading experts in the field to develop Planet WellBeing. We believe that this virtual world has the potential to revolutionise the way we approach mental health and wellbeing for older adults.”

Dr Ben Heller, associate professor at Sheffield Hallam University’s Advanced Wellbeing Research Centre, said: “This work builds on research we have been conducting for over a decade that has demonstrated how older people can be motivated to exercise more through fun, social activities in virtual worlds.

“It ties in very well with the Advanced Wellbeing Research Centre’s goal to improve health and wellbeing through movement.”

Launched in June 2023, The Planet WellBeing project is expected to last 18 months. With the support of Innovate UK, the consortium aims to pave the way for further innovation in the field of digital mental health for older adults.

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Company Details
Innerva
Our power assisted exercise technology provides a ‘helping hand’ in a low impact, full-body workout circuit for exercisers who demand to work smart and effectively.

Our solutions attracts older adults, those living with long term conditions and also people who are intimidated by a traditional gym environment to leisure and rehabilitation centres. Power assisted exercise is safe for all age groups and abilities, as users do not need to provide the motive force to overcome inertia. There are no weight stacks to control, just safe and effective power assisted technology, providing active assisted range of motion for end users.
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3 Queen's Square Business Park, Huddersfield Road, Huddersfield, West Yorkshire HD9 6QZ
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+44 (0)1484 667474
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