VR Social Interaction: Social VR Experiences to increase Interaction among Older Adults
VR Social Interaction: Social VR Experiences to increase Interaction among Older AdultsOverview: Research examining older adults’ interactions with Virtual Reality (VR) and the impact of social VR experiences on outcomes such as social engagement has been limited, especially among older adults. This multi-site pilot study evaluated the feasibility and acceptability of a novel social virtual-reality (VR) program that paired older adults from different geographic locations (New York City, Tallahassee, and Ithaca, N.Y) who engaged in virtual travel and productive engagement activities together. The sample included 36 individuals aged 60 and older; 25% of whom had a cognitive impairment (CI). Older adults with and without CI reported high levels of engagement in the VR environment and perceived the social VR program to be enjoyable and usable. Perceived Spatial Presence was a central driver of the positive outcomes. Most also indicated a willingness to reconnect with their VR partner in the future. The data also identified important areas for improvement in the program, such as the use of more realistic and responsive avatars, controllers with larger controls, and more time for training. Overall, these findings suggest that VR social applications may foster social engagement among older adults.