Health professionals working with older persons are not sufficiently aware of the sensory and functional difficulties experienced by older patients. Innovative educational activities, such as the aging-simulation experience, can facilitate this awareness. This study describes the effects of an aging-simulation experience on health professionals’ representations towards age-related limitations.
306 health professionals, enrolled in university training in geriatrics/gerontology in the 2015-2016 and 2016-2017 academic years, experienced an aging-simulation session wearing a special suit according to a predefined scenario. Before and after the aging-simulation experience, participants completed free association tests, with the inductive words vision, hearing, movement, fine dexterity and balance. Semantic categories were created from participants’ free evocations using a correspondence table manually produced in Excel 2013 for Windows (Microsoft Corporation, Redmond, Washington). Moreover, participants’ opinions on difficulties experienced by older people in relation to age-related limitations were studied using Likert scale questions.
In total, 3060 free evocations were collected, and ten semantic categories were created. These categories were composed of participants’ geriatric knowledge, about age-related limitations, and participants’ feelings, about the experience of these limitations. These two aspects were impacted by the aging-simulation experience. Moreover, changes observed resulted in a better consideration of difficulties associated with age-related limitations.
The aging-simulation experience is an effective educational tool to raise awareness among health professionals of age-related difficulties. This sensory activity allows health professionals to put themselves in the shoes of older patients and to feel age-related difficulties.