Thrive Pavilion co-founder Nancy Signore participates in a Charades activity in the Thrive Pavilion.

Former senior living tech consultant Robert Signore hasn’t met any of the members of Thrive Pavilion in person. But he does believe that Thrive, the virtual community he co-created during the pandemic, has made both him and the other older adults who meet there less lonely. 

The Thrive Pavilion, which runs on the Metaverse’ Horizon Worlds platform via a Meta Quest headset, involves group activities that include a golf league, book clubs and discussion groups. 

“There are various reasons why older adults are socially isolated,” Signore told the McKnight’s Tech Daily Thursday. “They’re widowers, or their social network has diminished. Some are bedridden. But people do the activities, they start to look forward to activities where they know people are going to be there, they build friendships, connections.”

Now, as the Thrive community approaches 500 members, Signore is hoping to grow the concept with more partnerships, and programming, and even has commissioned a study, which is currently underway, on the platform’s viability. 

The idea for Thrive came from seeing how continuing care retirement community operators with whom Signore worked with “moved heaven and Earth,” to create digital solutions to keep their residents engaged and entertained during the pandemic.

Although most of the members of the Thrive Pavilion community are at-home retirees, aged 55 to 80, such virtual spaces could be attractive for senior living and care operators as a way to demonstrate the value of socializing to older adults who are skeptical of relocating, Signore said.

Currently, it is free to participate in Thrive as long as users have the hardware. Signore said that he’s hoping to add more improv games and puzzles to the weekly programming and focus more on balancing activity schedules between different time zones.

Thrive also has partnered with designers to help tell users’ “virtual story,” allowing the community to experience a memory, such as one member’s’ recollection of the New York World’s Fair, Signore said.

Although some reviews of Horizon have mocked the limited graphics, Signore says that the older adults on Thrive don’t seem to mind, and the platform gradually has improved the variety of expressions the avatars can demonstrate. 

Beyond the Metaverse, virtual reality developers are catering to older adults, including those in senior living, not just to provide entertainment or socialization, but also to help treat chronic conditions and to help outpatients re-familiarize themselves with their own homes.