Using Virtual Reality for Social Isolation
Social isolation was a problem for many people long before the COVID-19 pandemic struck. It’s something that especially affects elderly people, people with mobility issues, those in rural communities, and people with mental illnesses. Social isolation is a serious problem that’s been clinically proven to be linked with health problems and shorter lifespans. While isolation can be a necessary public health measure, it can also cause depression, anxiety, and low energy. But after being put in this position, many people discovered that virtual reality could help ease the burden of social isolation.
VR for Senior Citizens
Some software companies have designed VR tools specifically meant to help seniors improve their physical and mental health. For instance, Rendever, a VR platform for senior living communities, added a “Connection Corner” feature during the pandemic to give a facility’s residents a virtual living room where they can meet up and talk to each other. They also offer virtual events and guides to help facility staff engage individual residents. Technology like this can have a huge impact on people who are limited in their ability to get out and interact with others, both now and in the future.
Virtual Reality Social Scenes
Virtual reality social spaces have helped younger people as well, including teens and tweens. As more students have been forced to adapt to remote learning, many have felt isolated and cut off from their peers. Platforms like VRChat and Rec Room have experienced a huge boom in users since the start of the pandemic. They’re especially popular with kids and teens who meet up to play games together, watch movies and YouTube in shared-screen rooms, chat with each other, and build their own worlds. People have stayed connected with old friends and made new friendships all in virtual reality. For people experiencing social isolation, VR can prove to be a vital tie to the social world, allowing friendships and human connection to occur when it’s difficult or impossible in other contexts.