It’s no exaggeration to say that the Oculus Rift (and its latest versions like the Oculus Quest 2) VR technology has changed the face of gaming.
The technology, now owned by Facebook (Meta), allows players to immerse themselves in games in a way that only a decade ago might have seemed to be firmly in the realm of science fiction.
For those who aren’t in the know, the high-tech headset and hand controllers allow the player to look at anything in a fully immersive 360-degree view gaming environment. The controllers allow for navigation and interaction with objects in the gaming environment.
In other words – Oculus transports you to a virtual world.
The semi-bad news is that you are going to need a high-end PC to enjoy the top-of-the-range Oculus experience. It chews up system resources, especially on the graphics side. But that news is, as mentioned, only “semi-bad.”
The price of these gaming apps and machines is coming down all the time. And the global chip shortage seems to be easing, so we can look forward to prices dropping still further.
However, some lower-cost options exist, such as Oculus Go and even Google Cardboard, which will allow seniors to test the waters of the virtual reality experience without breaking the bank by buying a high-end gaming machine.
But What Sort of Impact Does Oculus Have on the Lives of Seniors?
As we age, our cognitive abilities can suffer – in short, we are just not as sharp as we once were.
Seniors also suffer from a lack of opportunities to meaningfully socialize with others in their peer group. This can lead to bouts of depression and a lack of motivation – both of which have a negative effect on the quality of life.
However, there is now a large body of research that indicates that playing video games, especially multiplayer games, can have a positive effect on the mood and outlook of seniors. Complex strategy games can also improve memory and enhance cognitive skills.
Ezriel Kornel, M.D., of Brain and Spine Surgeons of New York (Westchester County), says that games can help to build new synaptic networks – formed when we learn new skills.
The key to seniors getting the most out of the Oculus experience seems to be to play games that feature the unfamiliar.
However, it’s not only the brain that can benefit from the Oculus experience. The immersive VR worlds of Oculus (and other VR systems) require activity – it’s not couch potato stuff.
You have to be moving to navigate and interact with these worlds. That means better mobility, better blood flow, better joint flexibility, and building up bone strength. All of which can help to mitigate the effects of aging.
So What Are the Best Oculus Games for Seniors?
1. Zen Zone
Zen Zone is one of those great apps that is available for the lower-end Oculus Go. It could be classed as a game, seeing that there are tasks to complete and rewards to be had – but it should perhaps be more properly called a lifestyle enhancement app.
It guides the user through three relaxation experiences based on a variety of meditation techniques. One of the experiences puts you in your own Zen garden and allows you to rake sand, rearrange rocks in pleasing patterns and just sit back and enjoy the soothing surroundings.
You won’t be saving the galaxy – but you’ll certainly be enhancing your sense of calm.
2. Everest VR
Climbing Everest is no picnic. But why ensure the real cold when you can virtually face the challenges of the highest mountain in the world as you attempt to reach the summit.
The player prepares at basecamp and then must face the hair-raising Khumbu Icefalls before scaling the dizzying Lhotse Face to overnight at Camp 4, then conquer the perilous Hillary Step and onwards to the summit.
Everest VR is not only fun – it’s also educational. And there’s a healthy dose of problem-solving and some great motivational pieces from some of the brave men and women who have stood at the top of the world.
Some seniors might feel hemmed in by their everyday life and long to get out and simply have some fun. RUSH delivers fun in great big dollops.
Don a wingsuit and experience the ultimate thrill ride. Approach terminal velocity as you plunge through the air down a mountainside. Navigate canyons, dodge obstacles, and take the plunge over cliffs as you race towards the finish line.
Great for encouraging manual dexterity – and for sharpening the mind. You’ll be asked to make split-second decisions. Not only is this game fun, but it also keeps seniors sharp.
4. Rec Room
This is the perfect way to spend some time in the virtual world with the younger members of the family – or even with friends. The grandkids will love it (it’s certified “kid’s safe”), as will everyone else. It’s highly social in nature.
It’s a virtual venue featuring a whole lot of games. From role-playing to paintball – and lots, lots more. Rec Room offers exceptional variety – and cute characters.
Oculus Quest 2 Games for Seniors
1. Walkabout Mini Golf
Let’s be honest, who doesn’t like mini-golf? Seniors will love the challenge of this true-to-life virtual version. The physics engine is top-notch, so it is truly immersive. It’s a game that has received rave reviews – and it’s also completely and utterly adorable.
Some fabulous fantasy courses and just plain fun for multiplayer groups. It’s also great for seniors who might have back issues or limited mobility. Players can take part from a seated position. Needless to say, Walkabout Mini Golf is fabulous at improving hand/eye coordination.
2. Oculus Real VR Fishing Year 2
This is the update of the original, with some great new features and options. This is perfect for seniors who may lack mobility but want to take in some beautiful locations and enjoy a little time trying to land the Big One.
Real VR Fishing is also perfect for playing solo or with friends. The sound and music are exceptional, and the realism is simply breathtaking. It’s great for seniors.
It requires decision-making and strategy – and provides an experience of the outdoors that is both relaxing and exhilarating, depending on whether you are simply floating along and casting (almost zen-line) to trying to land that record-breaking Trout or Bass.
3. Richie’s Plank Experience
The concept is simple and terrifying in equal measure – and the result can be some sweaty palms – and a whole lot of laughs. Richie is 80 stories up, and he’s got himself into a bit of a pickle. Does he use his trusty plank to bridge the gap – or will he/you freeze?
Some players have described the experience as terrifying – so seniors with heart conditions may want to give this one a skip. However, Richie’s Plank Experience is brilliant at building hand-eye coordination.
And it’s perfect to plan with a group of friends (great for socialization). It’s one of those games where the spectators get just as much from the experience as the players.
Best VR Games for Seniors and Elderly
Of course, Oculus does not have a monopoly on VR technology. There are many other manufacturers who have developed great VR hardware and titles.
For seniors in search of a gentle introduction to roleplay-type games, Moss ticks all the right boxes. It is perfect for playing seated, so those seniors who have mobility or back issues will be provided with a game that takes this into account.
This game is exciting and charming in equal measure. The senior plays as a brave mouse who sets out on a journey that is required to protect her village. Puzzles need to be solved, and challenges (including some enemies) need to be overcome.
The scenery is gorgeous, and the gameplay, while gentle, is absorbing.
2. Nature Treks VR
Nature Treks VR is the perfect title for those who want to experience the natural world and is great for seniors with limited mobility. It is a VR experience that allows you to visit a variety of amazing worlds and explore beautiful locations and flora/fauna.
How about the gentle experience of visiting Green Meadows? A bright, soothing, and relaxing spring meadow and play with some deer, birds, and bunnies. Of course, there is much more to enjoy in these virtual worlds.
Why Should Seniors Play VR Games?
We’ve taken a look at this question before we had a look at some of the best games for seniors. But there are some facts that bear repeating.
Oculus allows seniors to interact with others. Socialization is incredibly important to ensure that the insidious effects of isolation do not lead to depression.
Virtual reality not only excites the imagination and promotes the formation of new synaptic connections via problem-solving, but systems like Oculus provide an opportunity for seniors to get some exercise and leave the confines of four walls behind – even if that is only for a short while.
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Studies are increasingly showing that seniors benefit hugely from commercially available VR games.
A study cited in the Journal of the American Medical Directors Association revealed that “commercial virtual reality games had more significant (and larger) effects on (depression) than ‘exergames’ with virtual reality devices.”
That means that the benefits of commercially available titles, such as those for the Oculus, can outperform even scientifically developed exergames – and that is worth thinking about.
The availability of multiplayer games where the user logs in and plays cooperatively with others allows for socialization. There are many online friendships that have flourished due to the opportunities to meet new people in the virtual world.
VR technology is advancing at a rapid pace. It holds enormous potential for the treatment of dementia and conditions such as Alzheimer’s. However, it is also extremely valuable in helping even healthy seniors to cope with a fast-changing world.
Oculus is at the forefront of VR technology – and is setting the pace when it comes to games for seniors.