A Pilot Study of Virtual Reality (VR) Tai Chi Program on Mental Health among Older Adults during the COVID-19 Pandemic

Author: Junhyoung Kim1, Yongseop Kim1, Pei-Shiun Chang2, Seok Min Oh1, Sua Han3
Affiliation: <sup>1</sup> Department of Health &amp; Wellness Design, Indiana University, Bloomington, IN, United States. <sup>2</sup> Department of Community Health Systems, Indiana University, Bloomington, IN, United States. <sup>3</sup> Department of Health &amp; Wellness Design, Indiana University Bloomington, IN, United States.
Conference/Journal: Am J Health Behav
Date published: 2022 Oct 17
Other: Volume ID: 46 , Issue ID: 5 , Pages: 576-585 , Special Notes: doi: 10.5993/AJHB.46.5.8. , Word Count: 190

Tai Chi, an ancient Chinese martial art, has been credited for improving the physical and mental health of community-dwelling older adults. Virtual reality (VR) has developed as a therapeutic technique for improving health and well-being in older adults. Previous research on exercise-based VR interventions in older adults has focused primarily on the physical and cognitive health effects. The extent to which a program integrating the ancient practice of Tai Chi with virtual reality might benefit older individuals' physical and mental health is an unknown entity. In this pilot study, we examined potential advantages of the virtual Tai Chi program in terms of health outcomes, as well as to gather qualitative data on the barriers to VR program participation.

We conducted semi-structured, in-depth interviews with 5 participants who had participated at least 5 years in traditional Tai Chi.

Three key salient themes emerged as beneficial results of VR experiences: (1) mindfulness/ meditation, (2) enjoyment, and (3) physical exercise. Participants also reported 3 main challenges: (1) some difficulties with controllers and functions, (2) cybersickness/pain, and (3) absence of group synergy.

These challenges suggest further avenues of investigation for researchers in refining this approach.

PMID: 36333829 DOI: 10.5993/AJHB.46.5.8