A UK care group has launched a fundraising campaign to acquire five pioneering age simulation suits to enable caregivers to experience the impairments of older people with dementia – giving them a greater understanding of those they care for.
Meaningful Care Matters has set up a fundraising page for £5,000 to enable the group to purchase five state-of-the-art GERonTologic (GERT) suits from Germany, that can be used to train its partners across the UK, Ireland, and Canada.
The innovative, full-body age simulation suits offer the latest technology in experiencing age-related impairments, such as opacity of the eye lens, narrowing of the visual field, high-frequency hearing loss, head mobility restrictions, joint stiffness, loss of strength, reduced grip ability, and reduced coordination skills.
Operated by either the handler via a computer or the suit wearer using a handheld device, the suits will give people a better understanding of older people’s behaviour by allowing them to experience the common sensomotoric skills in old age. Accessories can also be added to simulate tremors, tinnitus, kyphosis, hemiparesis, and knee and back pain.
Meaningful Care Matters, who specialise in helping care homes to access a variety of services facilitating the effective and sustainable implementation of person-centred care models, hope to use the suits as part of its training courses. They will give those who work directly with older people in health, social/aged, and disability care settings the chance to put themselves in their shoes.
Peter Bewert, Managing Director of Meaningful Care Matters, said: “We’re raising funds to purchase newly developed sensory tools and equipment to not only facilitate the sensations of living with a dementia, but turn these feelings and emotions into tangible approaches through our training to improve people’s overall lived experience. Ultimately, we want to help change the future of care education and delivery by creating modern, experiential resources for both professionals and family carers alike.”
A study at the Julius-Maximilian University of Würzburg tested the suits on medical students and found 83% of participants empathised more with life in old age, while 90% found it beneficial to put themselves in the situation of an older person. In addition, 95% of the participants evidenced greater comprehensibility of the physical condition of elderly people.
Peter continued: “Covid-19 has been devastating for us all, particularly in health and social care where we‘ve experienced isolation and a lack of social connection. The lack of physical connections, touch, sensory stimulation, and emotional contact with loved ones is challenging at best, soul-destroying at worst. When combined with dementia or cognitive impairments, a significant adverse impact on the health and emotional wellness of people in care has been clearly seen, felt, and heard.
“There have been highs and lows and people have had to endure some of the most challenging circumstances imaginable. One thing we all agree on is the need for change. The time for change through education is now and we can be the change we wish to see.”