While there’s plenty of uncertainty in life, one thing is sure: Despite our best efforts, we’re all going to get older. And when we do, we’re likely going to have to make adjustments to the way we live and even the way we receive health care. Thankfully, respiratory care students in the University of Minnesota - Rochester’s Health Professions Program will be ready. (They’ll have our aging backs, if you will.) As part of their studies, they’re working to improve their understanding of the needs of elderly patients through an exercise called “The Aging Game.”
Officially an “educational collaboration” between the university and Mayo School of Health Sciences, the game is “a simulation designed to allow students to personally experience the losses that occur with aging,” Mayo’s Vanessa King tells UMR News Online. King is the Mayo School of Health Sciences Respiratory Care Program director.
The Aging Game, designed by Mayo’s Darryl Chutka, M.D., helps students empathize by giving them a taste of how the older side lives. As part of the game, writes reporter Karna Fronden, students have their “mobility, fine dexterity skills, vision and hearing” altered by using “ear plugs, modified goggles, gloves, and leg braces” to help them better understand the limitations of some elderly patients. The students “are also given a card explaining their disabilities and life events, a small amount of money, and white chips representing their self-esteem.” They’re then given 90 minutes to complete a few simple, everyday tasks like “grocery shopping, stopping at the bank and post office, and eating lunch at a restaurant,” while working in pairs.
Megan Lentz, a junior in the Respiratory Therapy program at Mayo School of Health Sciences, and a recent participant, tells us the experience opened her eyes to the plight faced by many elderly patients. She simulated the experience of an 80-year-old woman who’d lost her husband, and who also had “terrible” eyesight and hearing. “There were many times (during the game) when I had no idea where to go, because I didn’t know where the bus stop was or where the grocery store was,” she tells us. “At one point, someone stole my money because he said it was the toll for the bus, but the bus never came. In the restaurant, the waitress didn’t have any accessible tables, so we couldn’t even eat there.”
McKenzie Bangasser, another junior at Mayo School of Health Sciences, went through the simulation and tells us she also came away with a newfound appreciation for the struggles of everyone around her. “Oftentimes, I get wrapped up in my own issues and life,” she says. "This exercise taught me to be more conscious of others’ struggles and to help others whenever I can.”
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