“Caretaking and caregiving are deceptively soft and friendly terms for what in reality is a very stressful, expensive and time-consuming process that remains fragmented and confusing as a system in our country.”—Psychology Today “America’s Caregiving Crisis: A Growing Disaster.”

A student with blonde hair wears a virtual reality mask as she learns about caregiving through the new Emodied Labs toolMay 22, 2024 - Thanks to advances in medical science and healthier lifestyles, the U.S. population has never been older - and it’s growing. The number of Americans ages 65 or older is projected to increase from 58 million in 2022 to 82 million by 2050 - a 47% increase.

And with these super-seniors emerge millions of family members who find themselves caring for an aging relative, most with no idea how to go about it.

To help ease what has become a national caregiving crisis, professional and family caregivers can now take advantage of free, self-paced online training from Embodied Labs, a Virtual Reality (VR) immersive training company that has formed a partnership with CSU Channel Islands (CSUCI) Extended University.

Embodied Labs is seeking to educate caregiving Californians under a Cal Grows grant. CalGrows is a California Department of Aging (CDA) program designed to support caregivers of older adults and people with disabilities by improving their skills through in-person classes and online training courses.

“This is a touchpoint to help people navigate really difficult situations,” said Associate Dean of Extended University Jaime Hannans. “Whether or not they are health care providers, it gives people some basic education on how to help people in their lives managing aspects of aging. Because of the Cal Grows grant, Embodied Labs is able to open this content and share it freely with the public.”

The lessons use virtual reality - on the web or with virtual reality headgear - to cover subjects like Alzheimers, caregiver support, in-home help, transportation, family dynamics and much more. In one lesson, students can experience what it’s like for someone with dementia to navigate their world. Another lab allows students to become a recently-widowed older man who is struggling with diabetes and social isolation.

CSUCI is helping Embodied Labs achieve their goal of reaching at least 5,000 professional and family caregivers in the region with the online training, but Hannans is also working to integrate the training into classes on the main campus and with Osher Lifelong Learning Institute (OLLI).

A male student wears a virtual reality headset Hannans, who is a nurse, is teaming up with Nursing Faculty Emeritus Colleen Nevins to offer a two-hour in-person experience with the Embodied Labs material on June 13 through OLLI Taste of Summer programming. The OLLI course is limited to 20 people and registration is available online.

Hannans has also enlisted the help of a friend and colleague at CSU Humboldt, Kimberly Perris, who is an Assistant Professor in the School of Applied Health and Director of Nursing. Perris will also be disseminating the information with their students and the Humboldt County community.

“Embodied labs offers a unique and realistic platform for families and caregivers, really everyone to embody the experiences, emotions, and perspectives of people we love and care for,” Perris said. “This powerful empathy building tool is crucial for understanding the experience of individuals with complex needs as they navigate family dynamics, the healthcare system, and the public through the eyes of the individual.”

No person should be expected to know what to do if they walk into a caregiving situation, Hannans added, and this training will help caregivers ask the right questions and get the appropriate support.

“Every single human being should take this course,” said Hannans. “This opportunity helps you realize you are not in the struggle alone.”

To learn about the course, freely available to the public through September 2024, visit the Embodied Labs website.

Back to Top ↑