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VR games to enhance students’ understanding and empathy towards the needs of older people with cognitive problems

2 May 2021

The game gives vivid but creepy images to allow students to understand what it is like to have a delirium.

Users of the VR game unable to identify directions and get lost in a familiar surroundings.

The School’s Gerontological Nursing Laboratory offers a new way for students of health care disciplines to experience physical and cognitive challenges associated with ageing. Two virtual reality (VR) games were developed by Dr Justina Liu, Associate Professor (& Principal Investigator of the project) and her team** to deliver experiences of ‘losing spatial reference and wandering in streets and visual hallucinations, which are disorders experienced by older adults with cognitive problems.

Funded by the Larger-scale Collaborative Project, Learning and Teaching Committee, PolyU and the School (Matching Fund), this VR games allow students to visualise abstract concepts, such as Delirium, a common syndrome affecting many elderly patients in geriatric wards and the community. When students put on the wireless VR headset, they are taken on a journey to a hospital ward to experience cognition changes that lead to hallucinations, which involve distorted visual images and perception. The game gives vivid but creepy images that allow students to immerse in an experience of sensory misperception to understand what it is like to have a delirium.

Another game ‘Get lost’ sets in a local community in Hong Kong. Users are required to find the way to a supermarket. While ‘walking’ around the streets, users find themselves unable to identify directions and may get lost in a familiar surroundings. ‘These VR games play a unique role in addressing challenges associated with ageing and they are useful tools for experiential learning. Through the “hands-on” experiences, we expect that students will increase their understanding and develop empathy towards older people, which is essential for quality elderly care,’ said Dr Justina Liu. Students are also expected to apply their knowledge gained through the VR training to propose solutions or care plans targeted older people with cognitive impairment and disabilities.

**Dr Rick Kwan, Dr Patrick Kor, Dr Daphne Cheung, Dr Mimi Tse, Dr Xue Bai (Associate Professor, PolyU’s Department of Applied Social Sciences), Prof. Kenneth Fong (Professor, PolyU’s Department of Rehabilitation Sciences), and Dr Tulio Pereira dos Santos Maximo (Assistant Professor, PolyU’s School of Design).

Press Contacts

Miss Helen Hsu

Communications Manager, School of Nursing

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