virtual abilityEach week’s blog is followed by a discussion session that I host in the virtual world of Second Life. While we use Second Life (SL) as a convenient, small-group communication platform, instead of using Skype or another videoconferencing service, others have found it provides a valuable virtual access to the outside world for many people who cannot get out into the physical outside world.

An article by W. J. Au caught my eye the other day. He said, “SL enthusiasts have tried promoting it as a platform for any number of real-world applications, such as remote conferencing and architecture visualization, but only one [use] consistently shows substantial and unique value: [it is] a real-time, immersive social space for people with physical or mental disabilities that impair their first lives, [and] who often find comfort and security interacting through anonymous avatars… As the developed world experiences a spike in senior citizens, SL very well could find a new audience.”

And this last reference was what seemed to relate to us in the rural elderly category. As people age there are often health conditions that develop that in turn limit physical activity. Many older people, like their younger counterparts with disabilities, find themselves trapped at home with few social outlets.

From our weekly discussions on aging, I have come to know several people involved in a unique group in Second Life. This group is called Virtual Ability and one of their core concepts is to assist disabled people to come into virtual worlds like SL and to function normally there. They assert that there are tremendous benefits to disabled people in doing so. Here is a quote from one of the participants in the SL Virtual Ability group, “Virtual Ability, Inc. and SL have given me hope again. I had pretty much given up on hope, so this is important to me.” Please take a look at their web site for further information: and especially the Benefits page:

Older persons who find themselves in need of a social group could most certainly find something of value by visiting the Virtual Ability group in SL. And should you feel that older people cannot manage the technical and cognitive skills needed to function in a computer-based 3D simulation like SL, I am reminded of a 93 year old woman that Tony and I interviewed a few years ago. She lives in a small rural community in East Texas and taught classes in computer skills at the senior center (See an earlier blog for a movie of that interview:

Age like disability need not be an impediment to life.


Au, WJ. Second Life turns 10: what it did wrong, and why it may have its own second life. Gigacom, June 23, 2013. (

Join us for a real-time discussion about questions raised by this essay on Tuesday from 12:00 p.m. CST to 12:45 p.m. CST (10 a.m. PST/SLT). See Discussion and SL tabs above for details. Link to the virtual meeting room: