Travel, Leisure & Fun for South Valley Adults

Thrive Pavilion Brings Seniors Together in the Metaverse

Thrive Pavilion, the first-of-its-kind metaverse-based community that encourages and supports socialization and human connection among older adults, was the subject of a January 17th online podcast presented by Pro-Aging Community and hosted by its founder, Steve Gurney.

The main speaker was Robert Signore, founder and president of Thrive Pavilion.

"The goal of Thrive Pavilion is to allow older adults who are isolated at home or who are caring for a spouse, who like to socialize with other adults but can't leave home, the opportunity to do in the virtual world what they can't do at home," said Signore.

The community has about 800 members, the majority being 60 to 70 years old, with a few in their 50s and some over 80.

Thrive Pavilion offers visitors games and events such as coffee hours, card games, mini-golf, bowling, Family Feud, Wheel of Fortune and a monthly birthday party. Future games will include mahjong, cribbage, puzzle games and escape rooms.

"We also have events that revolve around lifelong learning," added Signore. Presentations include a wide range of subjects, from artificial intelligence to diabetes to World War II codebreakers.

The Thrive Pavilion partners with other creators, especially for its immersive content (where the viewer engages with what they're seeing).

"We have creators that we partner with that do dice games or escape rooms or Family Feud," said Signore. "We also partner with several other creators and content providers. They provide a lot of intellectual content to us."

How Thrive Pavilion Started

"The genesis of it was the work that I was doing in technology for senior living and what had happened in the pandemic," said Signore. "We're all certainly familiar with how people became very isolated in essentially having to stay in their apartments.

"They tried the things like Zoom calls and YouTube videos and the forms of technology that existed at the time to try and help people stay connected," he continued, adding that those technologies did not help the impacts of social isolation and loneliness during and after the pandemic.

"There are really a lot of older adults that live at home, that are not in communities and are isolated for various reasons, whether social circles are smaller, whether they may have physical limitations, transportation limitations, or who are caretakers for a spouse that might be immunocompromised or has dementia.

"So even as the pandemic was lifted, people at home were still socially isolated," he continued. "And that really was the genesis for my family to form this nonprofit organization called the Thrive Pavilion, really to see if we could experiment with these types of social virtual reality experiences in the metaverse where older adults from their home could come in and join other older adults in computer-simulated environments and participate in activities that are intellectual or social – and have some fun.

"We have lots of different activities at different times of the day. Lots of people from the U.S., from Canada and some people from the U.K. participate in the community."

"I had a Facebook friend a couple of years ago that got virtual reality and she kept posting on Facebook about going places and seeing things and traveling the world and going to different clubs and talking to people," explained 83-year-old Pat Parker about why she became a member. "It just sounded so fascinating that I discussed it with my husband, but we never did.

"And then a little over a year ago, my husband died and I said that I was going to get (a headset) to give myself something to do because I live alone, just me and my cat.

"So I got it on New Year's Eve and I put it on and started it up and discovered how to work it, and that kept my mind off of things. At first, I just did some exercises and meditations, and did things alone. And then I decided to search on Facebook for (virtual reality for seniors) and Thrive Pavilion came up and I joined it. It was the best thing I ever did in my life. I think it saved my life actually. I was becoming really, really lonely.

"I made a million friends," Parker continued. "I made a couple of really close friends and we talk all the time off of the VR reality, we message. They're not close to me, so we can't visit in person, but it's just like you're with them.

"It's so hard to describe it to someone that's never done it, but it's real. It's not fake, it's not cartoony. These are real people talking to you where their real voices doing things with each other."

Members of Thrive Pavilion create an avatar, a character to represent them online. Members can also decide what to wear before they visit the site – even on a daily basis, something that Parker especially enjoys.

"My avatar has on a black hat and a necklace just like this," she said, "but there's a black hat on my avatar, and I don't own a black hat. I like to change my clothes. It's so much fun. I think mostly the women like that, but there's hundreds of outfits and shoes and pants and glasses and hats, and it's just fun to do."

Membership Expenses

"There are no costs to participate or to become a member," said Signore, explaining that the website is funded by sponsors, including corporate sponsors who buy naming rights to one of the features on the website, as well as individuals who "purchase park benches for loved ones."

However, he added that anyone who participates needs to invest in a headset, which have costs starting at about $250 at Best Buy or on Amazon.

"The best thing to do is go to our website, http://www.Thrive, or our Facebook group, which is also called Thrive Pavilion. It has our calendar up there so you can see what we're doing every day," said Signore. "If you're an older adult, you can join us through your Meta Quest headset, whether it's a Quest Two, a Quest Three or Quest Pro."


Signore responded to questions during his presentation, one from someone concerned about using a headset while wearing glasses.

"If you can use glasses, then you certainly can use the headset and make it as clear as possible," Signore responded, noting that his Quest Pro headset "actually fits over my glasses really well. So I can wear this with my glasses without a problem in this headset.

"But the other thing you can do is for a small extra cost – maybe $30 – is you can buy prescription lenses," he added. "So you can put these lenses over the eyepiece here, and then you don't have to wear glasses."

Another question was about accommodating people with physical limitations.

"Obviously the technology may not work in every situation where somebody may have a physical limitation, and certainly vision is an important aspect of it right now, but we do not have any members now that suffer from significant low vision – but the technology is improving all the time," said Signore.

"You certainly, at this point, still need some ability to ambulate, particularly for motion to move your body or to turn around," he said. "That can be a limitation. If you can't use your arms or your hands, we probably would not be a good solution for you."


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