New Virtual Reality Immersive Learning Lab Trains Caregivers on Improving Care of LGBT Older Adults

Press Release

LOS ANGELES, July 16, 2020Embodied Labs announces the launch of The Eden Lab, a new research-based virtual reality (VR) immersive training program that recreates the real-life experiences of older LGBT+ adults.

Older adults can face significant barriers accessing health care and social services, a problem that’s often exacerbated for those who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender. Biases based on ageism, homophobia and transphobia can lead to health disparities that impact physical and mental health.

“At Embodied Labs, we are committed to developing immersive training for professional and family caregivers that’s based on the authentic experiences of individuals who have been marginalized,” said CEO and Founder Carrie Shaw. “By telling their stories and enabling staff and caregivers to see through their eyes, lab participants can gain a deeper understanding of how to provide empathetic and high-quality care.”

Lab participants wear a VR headset that enables them to embody “Eden,” who was born “Edward” in the late 1940s. Learners experience key moments in Eden’s life, ending with her transition to living as a woman full-time as an older adult. Other simulations allow the learner to embody the experiences of other LGBT+ adults in Eden’s community.

The training also covers brain science and the biology of sexual development to explain how people develop a gender identity.

The Eden Lab fills a significant gap in traditional classroom and clinical training, said Marilyn Gugliucci, Ph.D., Professor and Director of Geriatrics Research at the University of New England College of Osteopathic Medicine.

“To embody Eden, that’s something a lecture can’t do,” Gugliucci said. “We can’t reach students, interns and practitioners at the visceral level the way The Eden Lab does.”

Such training is especially needed today, at a time when the COVID-19 pandemic has increased the ranks of people who lack experience in the field but are seeking employment in settings working with older adults. (See how the training works here.)

“Although most retirement communities have policies to promote inclusion and diversity, I think, in general, they still have a lot of work to do to meet the unique needs of historically discriminated groups,” said Tonia Nguyen, Project Coordinator and Trainer at Front Porch Communities, a not-for-profit serving more than 4,500 individuals and families in southern California through full-service retirement, active adult and affordable housing communities. “Eden Lab can promote more inclusive and welcoming practices.”

Aging is feared in our society, Gugliucci said. “Add to that, the lack of education and understanding about being LGBT, and it’s easy to see why older adults choose to hide their identity in their later years, which does not foster good health,” she said. “Informed and sustained education is key.”

Jaime Hannans, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Nursing, California State University-Channel Islands, said: “Through Eden, you start to think deeply about how negative experiences can have an impact on older LGBT adults’ willingness to share information about themselves in health care. We have become much more careful about terminology and creating a safe space in the health care setting so they can get the care that they need.”

Independent research on Embodied Lab’s VR immersive training platform demonstrates how this technology can be effective in changing the way the health care and aging care workforce interact and provide services to individuals in marginalized groups.

About Embodied Labs
Embodied Labs, headquartered in Los Angeles, is the leading immersive VR training platform for home care, older adult living environments, hospice, medical and health professions schools, hospitals and employers interested in training employees to better support the needs of the aging population. Working collaboratively with healthcare providers, medical experts, and Hollywood filmmakers, led Embodied Labs to win the AARP Innovation Labs Global Challenge, OpenIDEO Challenge, and the XR Education Prize Challenge funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Learn more: embodiedlabs.com.

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