By Diane Ross, M.Ed., Realityworks Senior Field Account Manager for NC, SC, VA, WV
Ashe County High School Nursing Instructor Phyllis Ashley knows how important it is for her students to understand geriatric health concerns and be empathetic toward the elderly. The National Institute on Aging reports an unprecedented growth rate of the world’s older population: today, a mere 8.5 percent of people worldwide (617 million) are aged 65 and over. This percentage is projected to jump to nearly 17 percent of the world’s population by 2050 (1.6 billion). In North Carolina, where Ashley teaches, one in five citizens will be 65 or older by 2035.
As the elderly population grows, so will demand for workers skilled in geriatric health care. That’s why Ashley organizes a workshop for twice a year in which parents, family members and other students gather to see firsthand what her Advanced Health Science students are learning. At a recent workshop, her students had a unique experience to offer their visitors: the chance to “walk in the shoes” of an elderly adult.
The RealCare Geriatric Simulator by Realityworks is a wearable age simulation suit that uses custom eye glasses, weights, limb restraints and other pieces to simulate age-related physical challenges like visual impairment and stiff joints. Ashley’s students have been using the tool to learn what it’s like to be an elderly patient, develop geriatric sensitivity and learn how to provide better care for their future patients.
At the workshop, Ashley set up tables that featured the visual impairment glasses and gloves that come with the simulator. There, visitors could complete everyday tasks with the glasses and gloves on. She created another area where visitors could put the entire suit on and use the walker that accompanies the simulator. These experiences allowed visitors to get a taste of the concepts Ashley’s students are learning, while her students got hands-on experience demonstrating their skills.
“We had 32 people come through in two hours,” said Ashley. “I hope to do the workshop at least two times next school year, and we’re hoping to expand it.”
Diane Ross holds a Master’s Degree in Secondary Education from Marshall University in Huntington, WV. She has been with Realityworks since 2013, and has been instrumental in assisting educators with implementing educational solutions that make a difference in students’ lives.