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      Older Adults’ Experiences and Perceptions of Immersive Virtual Reality: Systematic Review and Thematic Synthesis


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          Immersive virtual reality (IVR) can be defined as a fully computer-generated environment shown on a head-mounted display. Existing research suggests that key features of IVR can assist older adults in their everyday lives, providing opportunities for health promotion and tackling social isolation and loneliness. There has been a surge in qualitative studies exploring older adults’ experiences and perceptions of IVR. However, there has been no systematic synthesis of these studies to inform the design of new, more accessible IVR technologies.


          This study aimed to systematically review and synthesize qualitative studies exploring older adults’ experiences and perceptions of IVR.


          A systematic review and thematic synthesis were conducted following the ENTREQ (Enhancing Transparency in Reporting the Synthesis of Qualitative Research) guidelines. In total, 2 reviewers completed title and abstract screening, full-text screening, data extraction, and quality appraisal. Thematic synthesis is derived from the qualitative method, thematic analysis. It involves 3 key steps: initial coding and grouping of these codes, the formation of descriptive themes from these codes, and going beyond these data to form analytical themes. Confidence in the evidence was assessed using the Grading of Recommendations Assessment, Development, and Evaluation-Confidence in the Evidence from Reviews of Qualitative Research approach.


          Overall, 13 studies were included in the final synthesis, including 224 participants across 9 countries and 5 continents. Confidence in the evidence ranged from high to moderate. Three descriptive themes were generated: practical aspects of IVR use, experiencing unique features of IVR, and perceptions of IVR. The findings from the descriptive themes suggested that there are several improvements that need to be made to existing IVR devices to facilitate older adults’ use of this technology. However, older adults’ responses to IVR were generally positive. Three analytical themes were generated: tolerating the bad to experience the good, buying in to IVR (don’t judge a book by its cover), and “it proves to me I can do it.” The analytical themes illustrated that older adults were willing to tolerate discomforts that accompany existing IVR technologies to experience features such as immersive social networking. There was a discrepancy between older adults’ perceptions of IVR before use—which were generally negative—and after use—which were generally positive—and IVR provided a platform for older adults to access certain activities and environments more easily than in the real world because of limitations caused by aging.


          This review offers insights into older adults’ experiences and perceptions of IVR and suggests how a few improvements to its existing hardware and software as well as how it is first presented could offer new opportunities for older adults to take part in meaningful activities tailored to their needs and preferences.

          Trial Registration

          PROSPERO CRD42020200774; https://tinyurl.com/8f48w2vt

          International Registered Report Identifier (IRRID)


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          Most cited references57

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          Using thematic analysis in psychology

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            Rayyan—a web and mobile app for systematic reviews

            Background Synthesis of multiple randomized controlled trials (RCTs) in a systematic review can summarize the effects of individual outcomes and provide numerical answers about the effectiveness of interventions. Filtering of searches is time consuming, and no single method fulfills the principal requirements of speed with accuracy. Automation of systematic reviews is driven by a necessity to expedite the availability of current best evidence for policy and clinical decision-making. We developed Rayyan (http://rayyan.qcri.org), a free web and mobile app, that helps expedite the initial screening of abstracts and titles using a process of semi-automation while incorporating a high level of usability. For the beta testing phase, we used two published Cochrane reviews in which included studies had been selected manually. Their searches, with 1030 records and 273 records, were uploaded to Rayyan. Different features of Rayyan were tested using these two reviews. We also conducted a survey of Rayyan’s users and collected feedback through a built-in feature. Results Pilot testing of Rayyan focused on usability, accuracy against manual methods, and the added value of the prediction feature. The “taster” review (273 records) allowed a quick overview of Rayyan for early comments on usability. The second review (1030 records) required several iterations to identify the previously identified 11 trials. The “suggestions” and “hints,” based on the “prediction model,” appeared as testing progressed beyond five included studies. Post rollout user experiences and a reflexive response by the developers enabled real-time modifications and improvements. The survey respondents reported 40% average time savings when using Rayyan compared to others tools, with 34% of the respondents reporting more than 50% time savings. In addition, around 75% of the respondents mentioned that screening and labeling studies as well as collaborating on reviews to be the two most important features of Rayyan. As of November 2016, Rayyan users exceed 2000 from over 60 countries conducting hundreds of reviews totaling more than 1.6M citations. Feedback from users, obtained mostly through the app web site and a recent survey, has highlighted the ease in exploration of searches, the time saved, and simplicity in sharing and comparing include-exclude decisions. The strongest features of the app, identified and reported in user feedback, were its ability to help in screening and collaboration as well as the time savings it affords to users. Conclusions Rayyan is responsive and intuitive in use with significant potential to lighten the load of reviewers.
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              Reflecting on reflexive thematic analysis


                Author and article information

                JMIR Serious Games
                JMIR Serious Games
                JMIR Serious Games
                JMIR Publications (Toronto, Canada )
                Oct-Dec 2022
                6 December 2022
                : 10
                : 4
                : e35802
                [1 ] School of Psychology University of Galway Galway Ireland
                [2 ] School of Nursing and Midwifery University of Galway Galway Ireland
                [3 ] School of Computer Science and Statistics Trinity College Dublin Dublin Ireland
                Author notes
                Corresponding Author: David Healy d.healy24@ 123456nuigalway.ie
                Author information
                ©David Healy, Aisling Flynn, Owen Conlan, Jenny McSharry, Jane Walsh. Originally published in JMIR Serious Games (https://games.jmir.org), 06.12.2022.

                This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License ( https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work, first published in JMIR Serious Games, is properly cited. The complete bibliographic information, a link to the original publication on https://games.jmir.org, as well as this copyright and license information must be included.

                : 20 December 2021
                : 16 March 2022
                : 30 May 2022
                : 12 June 2022

                older adults,virtual reality,immersive virtual reality,aging,systematic review,qualitative evidence synthesis,thematic synthesis


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