VR Helps Medical Students Empathize with the Elderly
By Matt Jones
According to the creators, We Are Alfred is “A virtual, immersive case study designed to teach medical students about the aging experience from the first-person patient perspective.”
In-order to bring this first-person perspective into aging, Embodied Labs used a virtual reality headset and developed an application called “We Are Alfred”. This application is made up of 6 scenes that are 7 minutes each. Alfred’s experiences vary from going to the doctor’s office to celebrating a birthday. The application heightens immersion through the senses of seeing, hearing and moving.
But it doesn’t stop there…
We Are Alfred pulls on your heart strings and really makes you think about the day-to-day struggles our elderly go through. It can make you appreciate the little things they strive to do, like listening to your voice with their aging ears and looking at you with their weakened eyes.
What is that dark patch?
If you were thinking that dark patch was a programming error, you are mistaken.
The dark patch we see in the center of the screen is resemblance of macular degeneration, a major cause of vision loss. many Americans are told they will have macular degeneration for the rest of their life.
Embodied lab’s director said “What would the implications be when the doctor says, ‘You’re going to have this for the rest of your life’?”
Again pulling on our heart strings and giving medical students a whole new appreciation of what our elderly go through on a day-to-day basis. I’m sure many of us can only imagine what it would be like to have this visual disease and go into the big world.
The Reason for We Are Alfred
According to Carrie Shaw, the creator of the We are Alfred project, “we’ve got this huge group of people over the age of 65 that’s just going to continue to grow really quickly. There’s a huge need for students to be going into careers that are working with elderly people.”
This project is giving everyone a greater understanding and empathy towards the elderly, resulting in the patience to address their needs.
When your grandparent tells you they have a serious problem like a disease, this project can put you in the shoes of your grandparent and be able to see their lives in a simulated environment.
Understanding the need for patience and empathy with the elderly is a key outcome of the experience. The first-person approach mimics what it’s like to be aging. One person who took part in the We Are Alfred project remarked, “I don’t remember what I’m supposed to do, I couldn’t really hear him and I couldn’t see the test.”
The We Are Alfred project gives medical students a greater degree of compassion toward our growing elderly population.
About Our Guest Contributor
Matt Jones is a writer for many categories such as video games, anime, health and beauty.