Virtual Reality Representations of Nature to Improve Well-Being amongst Older Adults: a Rapid Review

Josca Van Houwelingen-Snippe, Somaya Ben Allouch, Thomas J. L. Van Rompay

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Poor well-being amongst older adults poses a serious health concern. Simultaneously, research shows that contact with nature can improve various facets of well-being, including physical, social, and mental well-being. However, nature is not always accessible for older adults due to mobility restrictions and related care needs that come with age. A promising strategy aims at bringing nature inside through pervasive technologies. However, so far, there is little academic understanding of essential nature characteristics, psychological processes involved, and means for implementation in practice. The current study used a three-folded rapid review to assess current understanding and strategies used for improving well-being for older adults through virtual reality representations of nature. Searches were performed across three databases, followed-up by content-based evaluation of abstracts. In total, a set of 25 relevant articles was identified. Only three studies specifically focus on digital nature as an intervention strategy for improving well-being amongst older adults. Although these studies provide useful starting points for the design and (technological) development of such environments, they do not generate understanding of how specific characteristics of virtual nature representations impact social well-being measures in particular, and of the underlying psychological processes involved. We conclude that follow-up research is warranted to close the gap between insights and findings from nature research, gerontology, health research, and human-technology interaction.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)464-485
JournalJournal of Technology in Behavioral Science
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2021


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