DPT Student Reflections on an Experiential Aging Lab: Gains in Understanding and Perspective

Purpose : Young physical therapy students often have difficulty appreciating the functional capabilities of their older adult patients. Because of this, they can have difficulty gauging communication and intervention, ultimately limiting their effectiveness. To help bridge the gap between young and old, an introductory lab titled Experiential Aging was created. Goals for the lab were to 1) foster understanding of the impact of the discussed aging changes on function and 2) help students gain perspective on working with older adults.Description : The Experiential Aging lab is the first in a semester-long, 4 credit hour course. Content on age-related and common pathological changes in aging are were reviewed with reading and in-class discussion prior to the lab. The lab pairs students to work through a set of activities designed to simulate normal age-related changes and common pathological changes. For example, students are directed to listen to a demonstration of varying levels of hearing loss and test themselves for accuracy of understanding speech. In another section, students are asked to complete gross motor (e.g. gait with an assistive device) and fine motor (e.g. counting out ÔpillsÕ) tasks with simulated visual and somatosensory impairments. Upon completion of the lab, students are directed to write a reflection of their feelings and attitudes regarding older adults and to analyze the impact/significance of the lab itself.Summary of Use : Reflections from 2 cohorts (2013, 2014) were analyzed for themes and for specific word frequency. A common theme was that everyday tasks, typically taken for granted, were more difficult and frustrating. The majority of students reflected that they needed to think more about the older adult as an individual and have more patience and understanding. The lab itself was said to be enjoyable and fun. Students remarked that the simulation activities helped to give them a better perspective on the impact of aging changes on the abilities of older adults. A word frequency table and word ÔcloudÕ were created from the student reflections. The most common words used by students were understanding, experience, and patience. Frequent words used to describe the lab were eye-opening, valuable and helpful. The instructor observed that students were active and engaged throughout the labs. Students demonstrated surprise and frustration at how they had to alter their typical way of doing things in response to the impairments. Also, students were often observed to go Ôoff bookÕ from the lab handout and create their own mobility or cognitive challenges, showing they appreciate that not every older adult will have the same experience.Importance to Members: The Experiential Aging lab helped DPT students, who are invariably younger than 65, to gain insight into the impact of age-related and potential pathological changes on the abilities of older adults. Students remarked the lab was a fun and creative way to help them transition to being more comfortable with subsequent direct patient experiences.

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  • Control #: 2019732
  • Type: Platform
  • Event/Year: CSM2015
  • Authors: Lisa Dehner
  • Keywords: educational strategies|geriatrics|simulation

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