The ongoing Royal Commission into Age Care is making us all more aware that society often holds ageist attitudes toward older individuals. These ageist attitudes imply that older individuals are deteriorating and incompetent; these negative attitudes in turn have detrimental effects on the physical and psychological health of older adults.
There is however a silver lining: As ABC’s documentary “Old people’s home for 4 years olds” eloquently showed, research indicates that these ageist attitudes and their downstream consequences on senior people can be reverted through increased, positive face-to-face contact between young people and older members of society.
Photo from ABC documentary “Old people’s home for 4 years olds”: A unique social experiment that brings together elderly people in a retirement community with a group of 4-year-olds. Could this encounter transform the lives of the elderly?
UON researchers will investigate whether these benefits can be reproduced with ‘virtual (reality) contact’ between young adults and older avatars. The research will test whether this technology assisted ‘intergenerational’ contact is effective in reducing ageist attitudes. To do this, the research will use virtual reality to create an immersive and lifelike experience with an avatar that is reflective of an older person. Participants will wear a headset and will have the opportunity to interact with the virtual reality avatar and the surrounding environment. Skeleton tracking will capture their movement in the space and assess attitudinal responses that are often beyond individuals’ deliberate control.
To find out more or sponsor this research, volunteer your time to assist this research or material’s development, contact Rebekah Bolton