PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — With baby boomers getting older, the number of Americans over 65 years old is increasing each year. Chances are, many will need some kind of specialized therapy.
Thanks to an aging simulation lab, one group of physical therapy students is learning how it feels to be decades older.
Wraps, bandages and braces are used to mimic stiff joints, limit motion and create balance problems.
Goggles and colored lenses show students what it’s like to have trouble seeing.
These physical therapists-in-training are experiencing how age-related changes affect movement.
“Most of them really like it because it’s active learning,” Assistant Professor of Physical Therapy at Chatham University Dr. Michelle Criss said. “They say they will remember it much better.”
“A classmate and I were trying to play catch with a ball and just the depth perception was completely off,” physical therapy student Olivia Zeiler said.
The lab simulates everyday tasks the elderly can find challenging, like reading cooking instructions.
The idea is that showing students how the elderly navigate the world fosters more understanding caregivers.
“The goal is really more empathy, having a little bit more understanding,” Criss said.
Physical therapy student Jared Krater says having limited mobility and vision up and down the stairs has made him see things in a new way.
“It gave me a perspective on what my patients are going to be going through and how I can change my treatment to help give them a better opportunity to live a better life and a better active life,” Krater said.
Directors of the program at Chatham University say the simulated lessons will help the students make a difference when it comes to caring for actual patients.