A Comparison of Older Adults’ Subjective Experiences With Virtual and Real Environments During Dynamic Balance Activities

in Journal of Aging and Physical Activity
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The purpose of this study was to explore the subjective experience of older adults interacting with both virtual and real environments. Thirty healthy older adults engaged with real and virtual tasks of similar motor demands: reaching to a target in standing and stepping stance. Immersive tendencies and absorption scales were administered before the session. Game engagement and experience questionnaires were completed after each task, followed by a semistructured interview at the end of the testing session. Data were analyzed respectively using paired t tests and grounded theory methodology. Participants preferred the virtual task over the real task. They also reported an increase in presence and absorption with the virtual task, describing an external focus of attention. Findings will be used to inform future development of appropriate game-based balance training applications that could be embedded in the home or community settings as part of evidence-based fall prevention programs.

Proffitt is with the Division of Occupational Science and Occupational Therapy, Ostrow School of Dentistry and the Institute for Creative Technologies, University of Southern California, Los Angeles, CA. Lange is with the Institute for Creative Technologies, University of Southern California, Los Angeles, CA. Chen is with the Neuroscience Graduate Program, USC Dana and David Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences, University of Southern California, Los Angeles, CA. Winstein is with the Division of Biokinesiology and Physical Therapy, Ostrow School of Dentistry and the Department of Neurology, Keck School of Medicine, University of Southern California, Los Angeles, CA. Address author correspondence to Rachel Proffitt at rproffit@usc.edu.