HUNTINGTON - One thing that Dr. Lynne Goebel, Marshall University Joan C. Edwards School of Medicine professor and geriatrics specialist, said she hears a lot from her patients is old age is not the Golden Age.
"Every day there's something," Goebel said. "They get a new ache or pain, and it's not that easy, physically."
Old age is not something people, especially young people, can understand until they experience it, but Goebel brought the experience to her second-year medical students Monday morning in a lesson of empathy.
Students wore glasses to simulate vision problems such as those caused by cataracts and stroke, wore ear plugs to mimic hearing loss and put corn in their shoes to simulate arthritis pain. They also were challenged to go to a grocery store and ask for "embarrassing" items like adult diapers or hemorrhoid cream.
"I hope they can develop some emotion about their older patients," Goebel said. "I want them to look past the illness and see a human story and how hard it is for someone to do their activities of daily living."
Leah Stalnaker, of St. Albans, said after 10 minutes she was ready to take off her glasses and get the corn out of her shoes.
"It helps you get a grasp of how difficult it must be to not be able to take those glasses off or the earplugs out," she said. "It definitely gives you empathy.
"We look at pictures of what it means to have a stroke and we know how it affects certain arteries and we know that vision is blocked, but it's one thing to look at a diagram of what they can't see versus actually wearing the glasses. It gives you more understanding and compassion for sure."
Students also learned about different canes, walkers and wheelchairs and how to choose the best device for the patient.
Aubrey Fleming, of Huntington, said walkers were a lot harder to use than he thought they would be.
"I work out pretty often and just using those every day, using your arms to balance, it would be a workout if you had to do that every day to get around," he said.
Fleming said overall it was harder than he thought it would be.
"When I put on the glasses, I really only have my central area of vision and I thought it wasn't too bad because I could see straight ahead," Fleming said. "When I started to walk around, I couldn't even see the whole doorway so I didn't know if I was going to walk into the door or not. And people were going around, and you can't see them coming from the sides or stuff."
Both students said the exercise will help them with any type of patient they have in the future. Stalnaker said she could even use this technique to show family members and caretakers of older patients what they are going through.
Follow reporter Taylor Stuck on Twitter @TaylorStuckHD.