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Virtual Puppets Help Older Adults Feel More Comfortable Telling Their Stories

“The VoicingElder project uses an artistic framework to combine technology and storytelling in an innovative way that actively engages older adult users in a virtual platform that provides the opportunity to share their life stories and experiences,” said Tracey Gendron, Ph.D., an associate professor in the VCU Department of Gerontology.

In March 2016, Semi Ryu, an associate professor of kinetic imaging in the Virginia Commonwealth University School of the Arts, worked with 10 residents of the Gayton Terrace Senior Living Center for three months, visiting every week or two. At the beginning, the seniors brought scripts with prepared stories, because they were self-conscious about speaking in front of each other. But around the fifth week, they began improvising and volunteering stories.

“It’s wonderful because mainly your face is not there,” said Connie Cole, 86. “It’s a caricature there, so that takes the personal part away from it. … I think the fact that you’re using the caricature and our voices and our stories blend beautifully for someone who’s having dementia or some other elderly problem. … The fact the avatar’s disconnected from me, it was easier for me to talk.”

Read the full VCU News article.