Computer classes and games in virtual reality environment to reduce loneliness among students of an elderly reference center: Study protocol for a randomised cross-over design

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Physical and mental changes associated with aging commonly lead to a decrease in communication capacity, reducing social interactions and increasing loneliness. Computer classes for older adults make significant contributions to social and cognitive aspects of aging. Games in a virtual reality (VR) environment stimulate the practice of communicative and cognitive skills and might also bring benefits to older adults. Furthermore, it might help to initiate their contact to the modern technology. The purpose of this study protocol is to evaluate the effects of practicing VR games during computer classes on the level of loneliness of students of an elderly reference center.

Methods and Analysis:

This study will be a prospective longitudinal study with a randomised cross-over design, with subjects aged 50 years and older, of both genders, spontaneously enrolled in computer classes for beginners. Data collection will be done in 3 moments: moment 0 (T0) – at baseline; moment 1 (T1) – after 8 typical computer classes; and moment 2 (T2) – after 8 computer classes which include 15 minutes for practicing games in VR environment. A characterization questionnaire, the short version of the Short Social and Emotional Loneliness Scale for Adults (SELSA-S) and 3 games with VR (Random, MoviLetrando, and Reaction Time) will be used. For the intervention phase 4 other games will be used: Coincident Timing, Motor Skill Analyser, Labyrinth, and Fitts. The statistical analysis will compare the evolution in loneliness perception, performance, and reaction time during the practice of the games between the 3 moments of data collection. Performance and reaction time during the practice of the games will also be correlated to the loneliness perception.

Ethics and Dissemination:

The protocol is approved by the host institution's ethics committee under the number 52305215.3.0000.0082. Results will be disseminated via peer-reviewed journal articles and conferences. This clinical trial is registered at identifier: NCT02798081.

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