Simulation Helps Students Understand Dementia
by Aaron Boerner, Reporter
February 18, 2014
Valley City State University is offering a way to better learn about dementia.
It's a unique program that helps students understand what their elders might be going through.
Assistant Psychology professor Katie Woehl prepared one of her students for an eye-opening simulation.
"Set the table for three, fill the pitcher with water, and put in the fridge," said Woehl.
Students are made to wear items that restrict their senses and imitate common symptoms of old age.
Colored goggles make it hard to see, gloves inhibit their sense of touch, shoe inserts are used to imitate foot pain, and headphones blast sirens, white noise, and random chatter into their ears to confuse them.
They are then given simple tasks like setting the table and making the bed but more often than not they forget the instructions or are very slow in completing them.
"It's really hard to put into words but I guess the best way to describe it would be confusing and very frustrating," said VCSU Senior Jordan Aus.
It's the second time Woehl has used the program she bought with a grant from the university to use in her abnormal psychology class.
She says it's a way to teach students about dementia, a term used to describe a decline in mental ability severe enough to interfere with daily life, in a way a textbook cannot.
"It's one thing to hear about how somebody might have pain in their feet as they age or how their vision might change or how they are confused and can't remember things as well but when you put somebody who's usually in their 20s in that position where they can't remember five simple things it really goes gives them that unique perspective," said Woehl.
"You can kind of gain a little bit...a smaller scale perspective of what they have to experience and it kind of makes you appreciate what you have," said VCSU Junior Scott Westby.
An educational moment that promises to go beyond the lecture into real life.
"If I ever have to work with someone with dementia I will...I can't say I'll fully understand their situation but I'll definitely have a grasp of what they're going through," said Aus.
The class is taught every fall at VCSU.