Empowering Older Adult Care Through Game-Based Learning: Interview with Filament Games at CES 2024


In the bustling atmosphere of this year’s Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas, innovation takes center stage, showcasing the latest breakthroughs in technology. Amidst the cutting-edge displays and high-tech demonstrations, one interview stands out for its profound impact on a critical aspect of society: the care of older adults. In the premiere episode of Season 7 of the Filament Games Podcast, Jennifer Javornik, Chief Partnerships Officer, sits down with Amanda Krisher, Senior Director of the Engage with® Skills Training Programs at the Mental Health Association of Maryland (MHAMD).

Krisher, who has over a decade of experience in direct practice and program management, brings a wealth of knowledge to the Engage with® program, a national non-profit initiative. The program focuses on training older adult care workers in empathy, respect, and effective communication. Her enthusiasm for CES is palpable, noting the event’s overwhelming yet inspiring atmosphere, particularly the innovations in gaming and older adult care.

Building Empathy Through Experience

Krisher’s experiences at CES underscore the importance of empathy in older adult care. She highlights an exercise she participated in, organized by AARP and the MIT Agelab, which simulated the physical challenges faced by older adults. This hands-on experience is crucial, she explains, in understanding the unique needs of the aging population. “It’s harder to maneuver, hear things, or see things,” Krisher notes, emphasizing the necessity of designing technology with these challenges in mind.

Leveraging Technology for Scalable Training

The Engage with® Skills Training Programs have embraced technology to enhance and scale their training initiatives. Originally conducted in person, the program transitioned to an online virtual platform in 2020. This shift allowed for greater scalability and accessibility. Built on a gaming platform, the training features avatars and interactive scenarios, providing a unique and engaging learning experience. Krisher explains, “Our training takes place in a virtual platform… everyone comes in as an avatar. They have a chance to customize that avatar and find somebody that really represents them.”

This approach diverges from traditional microlearning methods, focusing instead on creating immersive experiences where participants can practice skills in a safe environment. This method allows for mistakes to be made and learned from without real-world consequences.

Game-Based Learning in Action

A standout feature of the skills training program is the “Demonstrating Respect” game, which uses a choose-your-own-adventure format to teach respect and effective care. Participants interact with virtual older adults, making choices that influence the outcome of the scenario. This interactive method helps care workers understand the diverse needs and preferences of older adults. One memorable character, Joe, a stern army veteran, requires a different approach compared to Sally, a cheerful and friendly character. This diversity in interactions teaches care workers to tailor their approach to each individual.

Impact and Results

The results of this game-based learning approach are significant. Studies conducted by independent evaluators contracted by MHAMD show a reduction in staff turnover rates and improvements in customer service skills. Krisher shares that after implementing the training, staff members felt better equipped to handle challenging situations without immediately resorting to medication. This has led to a notable decrease in PRN (pro re nata) medication use, particularly in assisted living centers.

Moreover, staff retention rates have improved dramatically. In one study, 76% of staff members who received the training were still employed over a year later, a remarkable achievement in an industry known for high turnover rates. This retention is attributed to staff feeling valued and better prepared for their roles.

Advice for Implementing Game-Based Learning

For those considering a game-based learning approach, Krisher advises balancing information delivery with interactive experiences. “Game-based training is how we move the needle,” she asserts, highlighting the importance of providing opportunities for practice and small wins. This approach not only makes training more engaging but also ensures that participants can apply what they have learned effectively.

Conclusion

Amanda Krisher’s insights from the CES interview reveal the transformative potential of game-based learning in older adult care. By leveraging technology and focusing on empathy and respect, the Engage with® Skills Training Programs are setting a new standard in the industry. As Krisher aptly summarizes, empowering care workers through innovative training methods ultimately leads to better care for older adults, fostering a culture of respect and understanding that benefits everyone.

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