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Age suit simulation replicates in healthy young adults the functional challenges to balance experienced by older adults: an observational study
  1. Carole Anne Watkins,
  2. Ellie Higham,
  3. Michael Gilfoyle,
  4. Charley Townley,
  5. Sue Hunter
  1. School Of Allied Health Professions, Keele University, Keele, UK
  1. Correspondence to Carole Anne Watkins, Allied Health Professions, Keele University, Keele ST5 5BG, UK; c.a.watkins{at}keele.ac.uk

Abstract

Background Age simulation can have a positive effect on empathic understanding and perception of ageing. However, there is limited evidence for its ability to replicate objectively the physical and functional challenges of ageing.

Objective To observe whether age suit simulation can replicate in healthy young adults the physical and physiological balance disturbance and falls risk experienced by older adults.

Methodology Healthy young adults aged 20–40 years (16 male) were recruited to the study using convenience sampling from a student population. Participants performed three validated balance tests—Functional Reach Test (FRT), Timed Up and Go (TUG) and Berg Balance Scale (BBS)—first without the age suit and then with the age suit, using a standardised protocol, following the same sequence.

Results 30 participants completed all tests. Statistically significant differences between without-age-suit and with-age-suit performance were recorded for FRT distance (p<0.000005), time taken to complete the TUG (p<0.0005) and BBS score (p<0.001). A comparison of participant scores with normative FRT and TUG scores identified that the suit had ‘aged’ the majority of participants to the normative values for older adults (60+), with some reaching the values for individuals aged 70–89. However, no scores achieved the values indicative of increased falls risk.

Conclusions The age suit is a valid educational tool that extends the value of age simulation beyond a more general empathising role, enabling those working with an older population to experience and understand the functional challenges to balance experienced by older adults as part of their training.

  • simulation
  • health professions education

Data availability statement

Data are available upon reasonable request. All data are deidentified participant data and are available from Carole Watkins at c.a.watkins@keele.ac.uk. All participants gave consent for deidentified data to be used for publication.

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Data availability statement

Data are available upon reasonable request. All data are deidentified participant data and are available from Carole Watkins at c.a.watkins@keele.ac.uk. All participants gave consent for deidentified data to be used for publication.

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Footnotes

  • Presented at A summary abstract of this work has previously been presented as a poster at Physiotherapy UK conference 2018 and British Society of Gerontology conference 2018.

  • Contributors All authors (CAW, EH, MG, CT and SH) have made substantial contributions to the design, data collection, analysis and writing/revising the manuscript. Final approval of the version submitted for publication has been approved by each author, and each is in agreement with the accuracy of the data presented. CAW is the author responsible for the overall content as guarantor.

  • Funding The authors have not declared a specific grant for this research from any funding agency in the public, commercial or not-for-profit sectors.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

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