BACKGROUND: 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.
METHODS: 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.
RESULTS: 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.
CONCLUSIONS: 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.