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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Sharing a (Cyber)Space: Fostering Relationship Maintenance in Residential Care through Virtual Reality

  • Author(s): Harrison, Kathryn Elise
  • Advisor(s): Afifi, Tamara D
  • et al.

The purpose of this study was to investigate whether a virtual reality intervention could serve as a relational maintenance tool for older adults living in a residential care community. The current study extends the literature on older adults and technology by suggesting that residents can provide one another relational maintenance and communal orientation, which can then potentially help promote such positive outcomes as vitality, social activity, and quality communication, and lessen such negative outcomes as depression, stress, and loneliness. The study took place in a residential care community in Santa Barbara, CA. Residents were randomly assigned to participate once a week for four weeks in either a virtual reality or television group. Analyses were conducted in R and consisted of multilevel mediation with bootstrapping. Results indicate that the virtual reality intervention was positively associated with higher levels of vitality and lower levels of loneliness. The study integrated novel ways of understanding older adults’ living in a residential care community, new methodological techniques, and new insights into important relational processes outlined in the theory of resilience and relational load (Afifi, Merrill, & Davis, 2016)

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