Sensory-Loss Dinner is an Eye-Opening Experience for Students

Students from the Flexible Doctor of Physical Therapy program in San Marcos donned sunglasses, gloves, ear plugs, and more during dinner at a local restaurant to learn what it’s like to experience the loss of your senses.

In July, University of St. Augustine for Health Sciences faculty member Christine “Chris” Childers, PT, MS, GCS, organized an event for Flexible Doctor of Physical Therapy students on the San Marcos campus at a local restaurant to learn about sensory loss commonly experienced by an older adult population.

Students wore glasses with plastic wrap around them for low vision, dark glasses for cataract simulation, ear buds for


one or both ears for deafness, or gloves to stimulate arthritis. Students wore them throughout the evening while they ordered and ate.

“The event increases their respect for the older adult with sensory deficits,” Childers explains.

Here, students share what they learned during the event:

“I was personally given eye glasses which were fogged out to mimic the absence of vision, and I was given a cotton ball to put in my ear to mimic unilateral hearing loss. It was so difficult to order food, get to a bathroom, or order my meal. I was forced to ask the waitress for assistance every time I needed help. It was an eye-opening experience in which I could feel the displacement from society, and it was especially depressing feeling so alone even though I was surrounded by so many people. I also tended to feel as though I was a burden to those around me, which made me not want to say the things I wanted because I did not want to annoy or bother anyone. This experience will stay with me for the rest of my life as I will be far more empathetic toward sensory loss deficiencies in our geriatric population.” —Alexander Allos

“I was given gloves to simulate eating with arthritis as well as being deaf in one ear. When I overheard people’s conversations, people either responded the wrong way or didn’t respond at all. When the waitress took my order, it would take a while for me to register and respond. I can only imagine what a deaf person goes through. When I ate dinner, it was hard to get a grip on my fork. Also, I didn’t have any sensation in my hand so it was hard to judge what I was doing. Every time I grabbed my cup, it was hard to pick up and take a sip. I appreciate my senses a lot more!” —Kevin Liu

“I put on glasses where both lenses were plastic wrapped and then I rolled up the one cotton ball and stuck it in my right ear canal. I had to help out my friend that sat to my left on sending a text message to his mom because he was given gloves on both hands as if he had arthritis. I could not read my menu without being less than an inch from it. Even at that distance, I would still have to try to make up what it says through the layers of plastic wrapped around my lenses. It was more difficult than I thought it would be, especially when my head started to hurt as a result of wearing those glasses. I felt myself become more anti-social at one point because I could not see clearly. I could not make up if anyone was making faces at me or trying to lock eyes to talk to me. When dessert came, we were asked to surrender our props and become ourselves again. It was a sense of relief and gave me a slight burst of energy to be able to get a full grasp of all my senses again. It was a much needed lesson. Now, I look forward with some gratitude, respect, a better perspective, and an understanding about the impairments that come with aging.” —Joann Torres

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