Senior social isolation can have devastating effects on the quality of life of the elderly. One of the most serious effects of loneliness in the elderly is the gradual onset of Alzheimer’s disease. Specially designed virtual communities offer exciting possibilities for fighting senior social isolation and, in this way, help in the prevention of Alzheimer’s disease in this group. But what are virtual communities? Here, we take a detailed look at virtual communities and their benefits in general.
What are virtual communities?
Virtual communities are social networks of people that communicate through a particular social media, possibly despite geographical and political barriers, in order to further shared interests or objectives. Some of the most prevalent virtual communities use social networking platforms.
Every virtual community promotes interaction, either centered on a particular interest or just for communication. Some online communities combine the two. Message boards, chat rooms, social networks, and virtual worlds are just a few of the platforms that allow community members to connect over a common interest.
A community is traditionally thought of as a geographically constrained entity (neighborhoods, villages, etc.). Virtual communities are not considered communities under the original concept because they are typically geographically scattered. However, a virtual community is undoubtedly a community if one views communities as simply having boundaries between members and non-members. Virtual communities are similar to real-world communities in that they both offer their members assistance, knowledge, friendship, and acceptance.
Specialized health-related virtual communities
Many social and professional groups use virtual communities; interactions between community members range from casual to very official. An email distribution list, for instance, might be used both formally to coordinate with employees and informally for personal communication with family and friends.
In recent years, we have witnessed the growth of health-related communities. These types of social networks enable free communication between people going through the same health-related experiences in themselves or members of their families. These communities have become so popular that many healthcare professionals are now creating online groups for their patients by offering forums where patients may ask doctors about their concerns.
Studies on health networks have primarily focused on populations that frequently experience the worst effects of severe diseases, such as cancer patients, HIV patients, or people with other life-threatening conditions. Online communities serve as a crucial source of support for those with uncommon or crippling diseases who may not be able to find them in their local area.
Online health communities can be helpful resources because they enable communication with people that have the same condition as you. They also provide useful support, such as assistance in coping with the illness. Thus, participation in social communities with like-minded health interests enables patients to develop a better comprehension of treatment and medical procedures.
Taking part in online communities also allows one to socialize and form connections with others. Because of distance or because leaving a safe area could endanger their health, people with severe or rare illnesses are unable to meet physically. They have therefore used the internet. Studies show that networks greatly improve children’s behavior and general moods while suffering from terminal illnesses. Following these interactions, people not only altered in behavior and mood but also showed greater willingness to seek therapy.
Users of virtual communities may gain significant advantages from these communities. In addition to providing targeted information, online communities with a health-related focus have been found to provide special emotional support to the participants. A growing body of published data demonstrates how health-related online communities impact their members’ health.
The health-related virtual community, designed by VR.Mighty for the elderly, specifically addresses the issue of senior social isolation. It offers engaging recreational activities for the elderly and provides a setting for group activities for seniors. VR.Mighty promotes seniors helping seniors in its virtual community. Such activities fight the effects of loneliness in the elderly, countering the gradual mental decline due to senior social isolation and helping in the prevention of Alzheimer’s disease in this population.
Effects of virtual communities
Virtual communities can have far-reaching effects on various aspects of the lives of their users. These effects include:
Effects on communication
Online communities have come to symbolize a new form of communal human existence, allowing additional possibilities for developing a shared experience of human interaction. Social interactions and communication inside a virtual group are very complex. They include the emergence of broader scope for limited purpose, loose interactions, and thickening of established relations with friends, family, and neighbors.
Sustained, intimate human relationships are critical to well-functioning human beings as a matter of psychological need, and people with “social capital” fare better in life than those without it. Using the internet may help sustain and expand relationships we need to thrive mentally.
People are moving away from being dependent on locally rooted, unmediated, and stable social interactions and toward becoming increasingly reliant on their network of cross-border strong and weak links and their web of fluid relationships. It’s sometimes referred to as the “networked society.”
Effects on users’ personalities
The internet allows us to reimagine our age, race, and gender in virtual settings rather than completely erase them. The internet is a place where discriminatory acts are less likely to happen. Online identity expression is more flexible, and as a result, we are more tolerant of inconsistent personae in ourselves and others. On the internet, people are less pressured to assess or compare themselves to others. For these reasons, users of virtual environments have the potential to develop a stronger capacity for accepting variety.
Effects on social engagement
The growth of social networking websites has given rise to new types of social participation. The traditional modes of civic participation, like voting and joining political groups, are being challenged by people in these settings, where they are developing new methods to interact, connect, and take action in their communities.
Networking sites serve as a forum for discussing and expressing issues within particular user communities. Thanks to online content-sharing platforms, people can now easily engage with vast networked communities and express themselves and their ideas through digital media.
Online user exchange and social engagement are essential to online communities. There is an unwritten social contract between virtual community members, emphasizing reciprocity in this type of encounter.
Online volunteering has also been shown to benefit human growth and satisfaction positively. Many online volunteers feel that their time spent volunteering has advanced their knowledge and personal development.
Types of virtual communities
Since the middle of the 1990s, the internet has been rapidly gaining popularity, fostering the growth of social networking sites and online communities. For example, an internet message board is where users may express themselves or engage in discussion about various topics. Users can pick the discussion board or thread they want to read or participate in.
A user will initiate a conversation by posting. Additional users can follow the debate at any moment by contributing their own posts to that thread. Unlike spoken conversations, message boards typically don’t have immediate responses; instead, users have to actively monitor the website to see whether there have been any.
To join an online message board, anyone can sign up. Even if they choose not to share their opinions and thoughts, people can still opt to take part in the online community. Unlike chat rooms, message boards may support an almost unlimited number of users, at least in theory.
In contrast to real-life interactions, where people are frequently reluctant to step in to help strangers, internet users are inclined to chat to and reach out to strangers online. Users on Internet message boards are seated alone at their computers, which may encourage them to interact. Another factor is that people can leave a situation far more easily online than in person.
When people are trying to leave a situation in real life, they would need to find a physical exit and deal with the consequences, but in online message boards, they may just click out or log off. People may be encouraged by the lack of status in an online identity because there is no gender, age, ethnicity, or lifestyle labels if one chooses to keep these particulars private.
The most interactive type of virtual community is a virtual world. In this kind of online community, members interact by coexisting as avatars in a virtual setting. Users build their own avatar characters, govern their lives, interact with other characters in the 3-D virtual environment, and even customize their avatars’ homes and attire.
Although there is no player goal, a virtual world is comparable to a computer game. Users are simply given the chance to create and manage a fictional life in a virtual world. The interactions between characters in the world are almost identical to those between real people. Characters, for instance, can engage in deep relationships and social interactions online. People can engage in real-time talks with others and other forms of interaction in this kind of online community.
Users design avatars that resemble humans. Users can create avatars that are entirely distinct from or completely like them. Characters can connect and learn more about one another through text-based communication and virtual interactions (such as having avatars go on a date in the virtual world). Real-time talks may be possible in a virtual community chat room.
Characters can engage in activities together in a virtual environment just like friends in the real one. Because the characters are physically present in the same location, even if the people controlling the characters are not, communities in virtual worlds are most like communities in real life. One of the most well-known online virtual worlds is Second Life. For younger audiences concerned about safety and privacy, Whyville provides a good option. In Whyville, you can experiment with different phenomena and learn about them by using the simulation feature of the virtual environment.
Virtual worlds have also been used for commercial communications, such as conferences. Virtual world technological advantages like positional sound and photorealistic avatars provide a setting that gives participants a less exhausting sensation of presence. The conference host can govern the environment by using controls that let them decide who can talk and move around.
Numerous companies have developed virtual worlds centered on commerce. These business-based virtual worlds offer a highly interactive and controlled environment to a particular organization or group and have stricter controls, allowing functions like muting individual players, desktop sharing, or access lists. Virtual worlds with a business focus may also offer a range of enterprise capabilities, such as content encryption.
The VR.Mighty virtual world is specially designed to address the needs of the people in danger of senior social isolation. The engaging environment of this virtual world provides plenty of opportunities for recreational activities for the elderly. The environment of this virtual world is built upon the premise of encouraging group activities for seniors. Such activities counter the effects of loneliness in the elderly and can help in the fight against insidious dementia resulting from senior social isolation, thereby helping in the prevention of Alzheimer’s disease.
Benefits of virtual communities
People can now buy, pay their bills, and conduct a great variety of other activities from the comfort of their homes through the internet. Instant information exchange, in much wider scopes than in the real world, is another distinct benefit of online communities.
Users of online communities can join thousands of niche discussion groups where they can connect with people with similar interests and gain access to knowledge in areas like politics, technical support, social activities, health, and leisure activities.
Virtual communities best facilitate these kinds of relationships because information can be easily put there, and responses can come in a flash. These communities’ ability to make users feel like they belong is another advantage. Using them is easy and affordable, and users can provide support to each other.
These features make virtual communities particularly beneficial to people in danger of senior social isolation. VR.Mighty has designed a special virtual community for the elderly fostering group activities for seniors. Visit our website to learn more about our innovative virtual community and how it can help in the prevention of Alzheimer’s disease in the elderly.