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Ageing simulation equipment can help students empathize with older adults

Eost-Telling C, Kingston P, Taylor L, Emmerson L.  Ageing simulation in health and social care education: A mixed methods systematic review  Journal of Advanced Nursing. 2021 January;77(1):23-46. 

Review question

  • What is the impact of ageing simulation equipment on health and social care students regarding their attitudes, empathy and anxiety levels towards older adults? 


  • As our population grows older, there is a need for knowledgeable and committed health and social care workers in the field of geriatrics. However, due to ageist attitudes towards older patients, the number of professionals willing to work in specialties such as geriatrics is currently low. 
  • Ageing simulation equipment uses a variety of methods and props to allow health and social care students to experience the physical and cognitive aspects of ageing. This equipment can be in the form of ageing games or “age suits” which use a variety of materials to simulate the restriction of movement in the knees, elbows, back and neck and use goggles to simulate impaired vision.  
  • Since many hospitals and universities have started investing in ageing simulation equipment, this review aims to better understand the impact on students using such equipment.

How the review was done

  • A detailed search of twelve electronic databases was conducted to identify studies published from 2000 to 2020. Original research that discussed the use of ageing stimulation equipment in a health or social care setting was included in this review. 
  • A total of 124 studies were identified in the initial electronic database searches, and 23 studies were included in the review after assessment for eligibility. 
  • This review was funded by the University of Chester in England through a research grant.

What the researchers found

  • The studies included in this review evaluated the use of both single piece of equipment such as vision impairment goggles and multiple item equipment in ageing games. These studies demonstrated that simulations of ageing increased empathy towards older adults. However, they also increased feelings of anxiety towards ageing. 
  • These interventions were offered to students for various lengths of time, ranging from 10 minutes to over 6 hours, over a period of an afternoon to several weeks. Two studies found that the positive effects of the simulation dropped over time which suggests that repeated exposure can be beneficial in reinforcing changes in attitude.
  • The range of equipment and interventions used made it difficult to identify the exact pieces or combinations of equipment that had the most impact on changing attitudes towards ageing.
  • Most studies recognized the usefulness of experimental teaching and ageing simulation equipment in challenging students’ understanding of ageing.


  • Although ageing simulations can be time consuming and at times resource intensive, they can be a valuable tool in education for health and social care students.
  • These simulations showed a deeper understanding of the experiences that some older adults encounter and fostered positive attitudes and empathy among students who will be caring for this population in the future.
  • More high-quality research focusing on standardized “age suits” must be conducted to understand which specific equipment is most beneficial in improving students’ attitudes.

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DISCLAIMER These summaries are provided for informational purposes only. They are not a substitute for advice from your own health care professional. The summaries may be reproduced for not-for-profit educational purposes only. Any other uses must be approved by the McMaster Optimal Aging Portal (

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