Metaverse Solutions for Loneliness and IsolationVirtual reality and augmented reality are the solutions to problems ranging from training personnel for dangerous jobs to zero-travel trade shows—a tool for the mastery of complex skills and the free exchange of ideas. These answers are real. Yet, the most valuable application for XR is a social one, especially for older and neurodivergent adults.
Older Adults in the Metaverse
An aging population, COVID, and growing reliance on technology have led to social isolation, especially among the elderly. Ironically, the solution to loneliness may lie in one of the contributing factors to the problem—social media. Instead of passively scrolling through curated images or snippets of self-promotion, participatory activities and interactions can occur in the metaverse. To create near-to real-life gatherings, Horizon Worlds combines the qualities of immersive 3D environments, instant messaging, and video chat. This experience is far closer to Zoom calls or face-to-face meetings than an Instagram feed.
According to Pew Research, over 50% of adults 65 and older use Facebook and YouTube regularly to exclude all other platforms. LinkedIn, Instagram, and Twitter only have a 10% penetration into this age cohort. Older adults prefer to connect with close friends, family, and colleagues instead of passively viewing feeds of images or memes. Horizon Worlds shares the social and educational qualities of the social platforms that make VR use attractive to seniors. So much so that many over 65 adults will push through inhibitions and technology anxiety to have VR experiences with other people their age.
I’ve seen this antidotally among the over one-hundred members of the Thrive Senior Community in VR. The bar to entry is low—no complex motor skills are required to manipulate the Quest controllers, and ambulation isn’t needed. Eye contact, expressions, emoting, singing, and humor create conditions for bonding and friendship. Virtual activities like card games, bingo, chess, museums, theater performances, art classes, wellness talks, and guided meditation are focal points for socialization.
Unlike VRChat, which is popular with younger people, Horizon Worlds is a courteous, relaxed environment. Moderation is not ideal for free expression or transgressive art. However, for therapeutic applications, Meta’s structure is foundational. Overt sexuality and trolling don’t belong in the boardroom or community center, just as shaming and censorship don’t belong in the self-expression or art world. Platforms for all kinds of interaction should exist, but probably separately.
Thrive Senior VR Community
I got involved in the Thrive Senior Community in Horizon Worlds as a journalist and caregiver for my 80-year-old mother. Although I’m fifty-two, I joined the welcoming group for the fun activities and stimulating conversations. Now I’m a regular member. The three-month-old world offers weekly VR activities. In the words of the founder, Robert Signore, “Thrive is a community of people that explores how older adults can use the metaverse to improve wellness and overcome social isolation. Thrive offers weekly activities that focus on physical, social, spiritual, intellectual, and emotional wellness. Join this group and be part of our active community of older adults and people who care about them.”
I met with Robert to ask him what inspired the creation of Thrive. He explained that seniors have a more challenging time participating in activities due to physical or other limitations, like being unable to drive. VR removes physical distance.
His goal for the Thrive Meta Quest Senior Community is to return independence to seniors in a fully immersive environment designed for them. Numerous medical studies show loneliness leads to health conditions, including dementia, depression, and premature death. To combat this, Thrive offers a schedule of events and socials to the diverse group who returns to their virtual community center week after week. To join the Thrive Community, join the Facebook group https://www.facebook.com/groups/thrivemqsc or visit the Thrive website https://thriveseniorcommunity.com/
Other Uses for Communities
The positive experience at Thrive led me to explore how VR technology might help other marginalized communities. Group therapy in the metaverse seems like a logical next step for mental health services companies like TalkSpace and BetterHelp. Obstacles like distance, physical limitations, and anxiety also exist in those seeking support for addiction, neurodivergence, or caregiver needs.
If you are a wellness provider and want to create a virtual community in the metaverse, contact Sliice. We will build a world that supports safe and relaxing interaction. Let us show you how to schedule VR events and sessions, interface with your pay gate, and get members to join your virtual community. Sliice Marketing is the first global agency dedicated to metaverse marketing and design. We will build crystal clear messaging that resonates with your audience in and outside the metaverse. Don’t go it alone—claim your Sliice of the metaverse today.