Objectives: The objective of this study was to evaluate the effectiveness of a modified aging game to enhance medical students' attitudes toward caring for elderly patients, enhance empathy for elderly patients, and improve general attitudes toward the elderly.
Design: Preintervention and postintervention study
Participants and setting: All 84 students from 2 first-year medical school classes
Intervention: The aging game takes place over a period of 3 hours with a group of 10 to 12 students and 5 to 6 facilitators, and includes experiential learning about polypharmacy, medication cost, loss of functional status, semi-independent living, and living in a long-term care facility.
Measurements: Scores obtained through a modified Maxwell and Sullivan questionnaire, and the Aging Semantic Differential (ASD).
Results: There was a statistically significant improvement in 6 of the 8 attitudes toward caring for elderly and a statistically significant increase in empathy towards elderly patients following the aging game. There was a statistically significant change on 23 out of 32 ASD questions. There was no evidence of differences in the scores from pre-course to post-course by gender age group, interest in Family/Internal Medicine, or prior geriatric experience. Following the game, 77 (93%) of the students said they would take the course if not mandatory (P = .0001). A majority stated the aging game added significantly (61.5%) or moderately (37.3%) to their knowledge and skills in patient care for the elderly.
Conclusion: A simulation experience like the aging game is an effective method of increasing the empathy and attitudes toward caring for the elderly early in the medical school curriculum. Longitudinal assessment of the effect of the aging game in maintaining the positive effect on empathy and attitudes toward caring for the elderly and especially in clinical practice needs to be done.