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Older Adults’ Experiences and Perceptions of Immersive Virtual Reality: Systematic Review and Thematic Synthesis.

Healy, D., Flynn, A., Conlan, O., McSharry, J. and Walsh, J.C., 2022. Older Adults’ Experiences and Perceptions of Immersive Virtual Reality: Systematic Review and Thematic Synthesis. JMIR Serious Games, 10 (4), 1-17.

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games-2022-4-e35802.pdf - Published Version
Available under License Creative Commons Attribution Non-commercial.


DOI: 10.2196/35802


Background: Immersive virtual reality (IVR) can be defined as a fully computer-generated environment shown on a head-mounted display. Existing research suggests that key features of IVR can assist older adults in their everyday lives, providing opportunities for health promotion and tackling social isolation and loneliness. There has been a surge in qualitative studies exploring older adults’ experiences and perceptions of IVR. However, there has been no systematic synthesis of these studies to inform the design of new, more accessible IVR technologies. Objective: This study aimed to systematically review and synthesize qualitative studies exploring older adults’ experiences and perceptions of IVR. Methods: A systematic review and thematic synthesis were conducted following the ENTREQ (Enhancing Transparency in Reporting the Synthesis of Qualitative Research) guidelines. In total, 2 reviewers completed title and abstract screening, full-text screening, data extraction, and quality appraisal. Thematic synthesis is derived from the qualitative method, thematic analysis. It involves 3 key steps: initial coding and grouping of these codes, the formation of descriptive themes from these codes, and going beyond these data to form analytical themes. Confidence in the evidence was assessed using the Grading of Recommendations Assessment, Development, and Evaluation-Confidence in the Evidence from Reviews of Qualitative Research approach. Results: Overall, 13 studies were included in the final synthesis, including 224 participants across 9 countries and 5 continents. Confidence in the evidence ranged from high to moderate. Three descriptive themes were generated: practical aspects of IVR use, experiencing unique features of IVR, and perceptions of IVR. The findings from the descriptive themes suggested that there are several improvements that need to be made to existing IVR devices to facilitate older adults’ use of this technology. However, older adults’ responses to IVR were generally positive. Three analytical themes were generated: tolerating the bad to experience the good, buying in to IVR (don’t judge a book by its cover), and “it proves to me I can do it.” The analytical themes illustrated that older adults were willing to tolerate discomforts that accompany existing IVR technologies to experience features such as immersive social networking. There was a discrepancy between older adults’ perceptions of IVR before use—which were generally negative—and after use—which were generally positive—and IVR provided a platform for older adults to access certain activities and environments more easily than in the real world because of limitations caused by aging. Conclusions: This review offers insights into older adults’ experiences and perceptions of IVR and suggests how a few improvements to its existing hardware and software as well as how it is first presented could offer new opportunities for older adults to take part in meaningful activities tailored to their needs and preferences.

Item Type:Article
Uncontrolled Keywords:aging;immersive virtual reality;older adults;qualitative evidence synthesis;systematic review;thematic synthesis;virtual reality
Group:Faculty of Health & Social Sciences
ID Code:39988
Deposited By: Symplectic RT2
Deposited On:13 Jun 2024 15:12
Last Modified:13 Jun 2024 15:12


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