Seniors and their family members face a great many challenges every day. Lack of human interaction and having difficulty moving around can make seniors feel isolated and put them at risk of developing depression. On the other hand, looking after the elderly could put caretakers under pressure and become overwhelming over time (We are only talking about family members and not professional nurses who act as caregivers).
Many seniors have turned to social media to deal with their problems. Statistics show that the number of seniors on Facebook has doubled over the recent years. Through this medium, seniors can keep in touch with their loved ones and take care of their shopping or medical needs without getting out of the house. Plus, family members can check up on them more often. However, the technology we have now leaves something to be desired. Metaverse is just what we need to fill that gap.
There are numerous social media platforms for seniors to join. Nevertheless, feelings of mistrust or a lack of relatability might drive some away. Seniors who choose to stay away from the online world usually describe being uncomfortable with technology’s lack of a human touch. Many feel disconnected from internet norms and prefer to socialize with their friends in person. Although social media already provides various benefits, its physical limitations can be detrimental to the services we receive.
On the contrary, the metaverse is a simulation of real life. So, there is a sense of proximity and actuality to what we experience online. Furthermore, users will be allowed to design their avatars and can control the amount of information accessible to other users. This feature reduces safety risks and ensures those concerned about their privacy. Generally speaking, the metaverse is a step ahead of our existing technologies. So, when it gets out, we will probably have a wider range of options and easier access to different services and activities online.
As mentioned before, most seniors experience similar challenges in their daily lives regarding satisfying different needs. The majority of seniors are retired adults who live away from their children or other family members. Some are divorced or have lost touch with their friends. Many suffer from different diseases that range from dementia or Alzheimer’s disease to hearing loss or impaired sight. Additionally, they usually have limited mobility and are prone to depression.
Let us take a closer look at seniors’ most pressing needs to discuss how the metaverse could potentially solve these issues.
Humans are social creatures, and isolation can harm their mental and physical health. Unfortunately, due to decreased mobility and losing touch with friends and family, there’s a great likelihood for senior citizens to experience solitude and loneliness within the society. Therefore, they need new ways to interact with other people, have refreshing conversations, and form meaningful bonds.
Having easy access to loved ones is another important aspect of communication. Often, seniors want to be involved in their children’s lives instead of chatting with strangers. Likewise, caregivers will feel guilty if they do not have enough time to check up on the elderly. However, most caregivers have busy schedules and hectic lives, so it can be difficult for them to drop by often.
As mentioned earlier, many people resort to online interaction on social media platforms to solve the abovementioned issues. However, our current online platforms lack a certain human touch. Feeling someone’s presence when you spend time with them is essential to human interaction. That is where the metaverse comes in. For instance, when a senior citizen lives in another country and lacks the means to travel to distant locations, they can visit their children in the metaverse. They can spend quality time with their grandchildren in a simulated world instead of communicating through a camera or the written word.
As we get old, our bodies slowly deteriorate, and we need more care and attention to remain functioning adults. Senior citizens have to make appointments with their doctors regularly. Some might even need nurses 24/7 to attend to their needs.
Older adults might face several issues when they need to visit a medical professional. For one thing, making the trip from their house to the doctor’s might be physically challenging and time-consuming. For another, in case of a serious illness, they might need to travel to another location to be able to visit a doctor, which creates financial and physical difficulties.
The metaverse will help solve these issues by providing a physically realistic space where people can make appointments with doctors anywhere in the world. While video chat or other forms of online communication might create complications for the examination process, doctors will be able to make accurate diagnoses in the metaverse. In case it becomes necessary to get a second opinion other medical professionals would also be readily available. Different doctors would be able to examine the patient individually and simultaneously communicate with their colleagues, which marginalizes human error and saves time.
Comfort and Entertainment
Most people look forward to their retirement as a time to relax and enjoy their free time without the worries of everyday responsibilities. However, most leisure activities are tailored to the preferences of the younger generation. So, it can be increasingly challenging for older adults to find appropriate sources of entertainment. Furthermore, many of them may have difficulty leaving the house due to physical ailments or financial complications.
In the metaverse, seniors will have the luxury of spending time with their peers without getting out of the house. They do not have to type or video chat anymore. They can walk around the city online and engage in different activities. Maybe they would like to play chess, but they dislike online chess games because they do not feel intuitive. The metaverse will feel like they are in the park playing chess while they are actually at home.
Before the internet, the sources of entertainment for older adults were mostly limited to tv, newspapers, and the radio. The internet gave us an array of options, but they were somewhat unappealing to the seniors at first. The metaverse could bridge the gap by eliminating the feeling of alienation. It can make the internet feel like everyday life to the older adults. A life where limitations rarely exist. Seniors can join online games with their friends or try learning a new skill. They can even go on trips worldwide without worrying about their expenses, medication, and physical limitations.
Although, just like any other human being, seniors need love and attention, they should be allowed to feel independent and capable. Doing the chores and feeling productive contributes immensely to their general mood and mental health. Therefore, seniors need an environment to engage in different activities that bring about a sense of fulfillment. Being dependent on other people could make them feel incapacitated and powerless. Naturally, that would lead to a state of mind that is unhealthy and depressing.
One of the things that could make life easier for seniors and strengthen their sense of independence is the ability to shop for themselves. Although the internet facilitates access to online shops anywhere in the world, many people still prefer shopping in person. Seniors mostly mistrust online shopping because they are afraid of internet fraud. Others might be skeptical of the product looking the same in real life. Metaverse solves these issues by offering users the chance to try the product out and then decide. Visiting shops and seeing the products in the metaverse will also encourage trust between buyers and sellers.
Seniors’ Support Groups
Seniors who are ill or going through tough times can benefit from support groups. They need to share their pain and seek comfort in meeting understanding people who might have similar experiences. Although caregivers are there to help seniors and care for them, sometimes we all need someone who has been where we are and can understand where we come from. However, mobility is still an issue for older adults, and they might find it too difficult to attend these events. They might also wish to attend anonymously, which is only partially possible when attending events in person.
Online support groups have their own flaws. They mostly lack the human touch that face-to-face communication between the members and the host provide. Lack of eye contact and facial cues might create an atmosphere with no real human connection between the members. All these factors reduce members’ sense of commitment to attend meetings and might lead to misunderstandings while communicating. It is clear how the metaverse can be the solution to these issues. Metaverse can provide anonymity without eliminating eye contact and face-to-face conversations. It will also help hosts better manage the situation and make the experience therapeutic for seniors.
Although the metaverse might sound too futuristic to appeal to the older adults at first, the statistics imply that senior citizens are showing more enthusiasm toward social media. The metaverse has the potential to make a difference in seniors’ lives. Therefore, it is imperative to discuss its benefits and encourage people to remain optimistic about the future of communication. Senior citizens can avoid isolation, keep in touch with their loved ones, and dedicate their time to their favorite pastime activities through the metaverse. The limitations of the internet will be less discouraging to older adults while eliminating their mobility and financial difficulties. Old age does not have to be lonely and bleak. We can make it fun with the help of technology.