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Professionals improve their empathy towards older people after experiencing limitations associated with ageing

The old age simulation suit as a means for promoting an empathic attitude among social and healthcare professionals

Rosa M. Martínez Piédrola, Marta Pérez de Heredia Torres, Sergio Serrada Tejeda, Rebeca Montes Montes & Stefan Walter, Universidad Rey Juan Carlos, Madrid; Fernando Martínez Cuervo, Department of Social Rights and Welfare, Principality of Asturias
Project selected in the Call for experimental research projects in the social sciences 2019

An empathic relationship between the care professional and the person in their care is a determining factor in the quality of that care for implementing person-centred practice and, therefore, achieving more humanised treatment. The results suggest that an intervention using an old age simulation suit has potential for improving the cognitive and emotional aspects of empathy among health and care professionals who work with older people at residential care homes.
Key points
  • 1
       Empathy is a skill that requires, among others, understanding, respect, and active listening, which must be correctly transmitted through verbal and non-verbal communication. It has cognitive and emotional dimensions.
  • 2
       Participants who experienced the old age simulation suit improved their global empathic skills by 14.5%.
  • 3
       After use of the simulation suit, empathic cognitive abilities that take the older person’s perspective into account increased by 5%.
  • 4
       The emotional aspects linked with empathy, related with the identification of the emotions of older people, increased by 15% in professionals who used the old age simulation suit.
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Participants in the experimental group undertook different everyday life activities and experienced, though the use of the suit’s different devices, limitations in their functional mobility, as well as in their visual, tactile and auditory perception. This enabled them to experience the deterioration and ageing process suffered by older people. The results following the intervention showed that professionals who made use of the old age simulation suit improved their empathy skills.

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