Background: Spending time in natural environments is beneficial for human health, but many older adults have limited or no access to natural environments. Virtual reality technology may be a means to facilitate nature experiences, and so, there is a need for knowledge on how to design virtual restorative natural environments for older adults. Objective: The aim of this study was to identify, implement, and test older adults’ preferences and ideas regarding virtual natural environments. Methods: A total of 14 older adults (mean age 75, SD 5.9 years) participated in an iterative process to design such an environment. We used think-aloud protocols and qualitative content analysis and established questionnaires that targeted usability, affective aspects, and side effects. These data guided the design decisions for incremental implementations of a prototype. Results: The participants’ preferences included trueness to reality in terms of rendition and behavior; traces of human activity and natural processes that trigger the imagination and provide believability; the ability to roam, explore, and interact with the environment; and a familiar, relatable environment that evokes memories. The iterative design process resulted in a prototype featuring many of the participants’ ideas and preferences, including a seated locomotion technique, animals, a boat ride, the discovery of a boat wreck, and apple picking. The questionnaire results indicated high perceived usability, interest, and enjoyment; low pressure and tension; moderate value and usefulness; and negligible side effects. Conclusions: We suggested 3 principles for virtual natural environments for older adults: realness, interactivity, and relatedness. Virtual natural environments should also provide a diversity of content and activities to accommodate the heterogeneity in older adults’ preferences. These results can contribute to a framework for designing virtual natural environments for older adults. However, these findings need to be tested and potentially revised in future studies.

TidskriftJMIR Human Factors
StatusPublished - 2023

Ämnesklassifikation (UKÄ)

  • Människa-datorinteraktion (interaktionsdesign)


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