Restorative Effects of Virtual Nature on the Emotional Well-being of Community-dwelling Older Adults

Şansal K. E., Şimşek A. C., Aktan S., Özbey F., Paksoy A.

European Journal of Geriatrics and Gerontology, vol.6, no.1, pp.12-18, 2024 (Scopus) identifier


Objective: Given the loss of direct nature contact due to urbanisation and demonstrated psychological benefits of nature, the question arises as to whether direct nature contact can be virtually substituted or supplemented in the elderly living in isolation from nature. Although a number of studies have demonstrated the restorative effects of virtual nature in old age, their results are inconclusive and complicated by the novelty of virtual reality (VR) experience, participants’ nature connectedness and their previous nature contact. Therefore, a study was conducted for increasing our limited understanding of the subject. Materials and Methods: Community-dwelling older adults living in highly urbanised areas of Turkey volunteered for the study. After excluding the ineligible volunteers and collecting information on sample characteristics, 60 participants, who were assigned to two study groups, watched 6-minute 360° videos of nature and urban settings on two separate occasions. On these occasions, they reported on their affective states, the restorativeness of the environments in those videos and their nature visit frequency. Results: VR experience was new and tolerable for the majority of the participants. Unlike the urban video, the nature video significantly improved participants’ affective states and was reported to be more restorative and favourable. Neither participants’ nature connectedness nor their nature visit frequency, which was found to be generally low, did not have a moderating effect on the results. Conclusion: Virtual indirect contact with nature can be effectively used, especially for those living in heavily urbanised areas, to maintain or improve psychological well-being in old age.