BACKGROUND: In Taiwan, which has one of the most rapidly aging populations in the world, it is becoming increasingly critical to promote successful aging strategies that are effective, easily usable, and acceptable to institutionalized older adults. Although many practitioners and professionals have explored aromatherapy and identified its psychological benefits, the effectiveness of combining 3-dimensional (3D) virtual reality and hands-on aromatherapy remains unknown. OBJECTIVE: A quasi-experimental trial was designed to evaluate the effectiveness of this combination in lowering perceived stress and promoting happiness, sleep quality, meditation experience, and life satisfaction among institutionalized older adults in Taiwan. METHODS: A total of 60 institutionalized elderly participants either received the combined intervention or were in a control group. Weekly 2-hour sessions were implemented over 9 weeks. The outcome variables were happiness, perceived stress, sleep quality, meditation experience, and life satisfaction, which were assessed at baseline and after the intervention. RESULTS: Generalized estimating equation (GEE) analyses indicated that the experimental group showed significant post-intervention improvements in terms of scores for happiness, perceived stress, sleep quality, meditation experience, and life satisfaction (n=48; all P<.001). Another GEE analysis showed that the significant improvements in the 5 outcome variables persisted in participants aged 80 years and older (n=35; all P<.001). CONCLUSIONS: This is the first trial to explore the effectiveness of a combination of 3D virtual reality and hands-on aromatherapy in improving older adults' psychological health. The results are promising for the promotion of psychological health in institutionalized older adults. TRIAL REGISTRATION: ClinicalTrials.gov NCT04324216; https://clinicaltrials.gov/ct2/show/NCT04324216.
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