Faculty Scholarly Dissemination Grants


Strategies Identified During Wayfinding in a Virtual Reality Environment in Middle Aged and Older Adults




Kirkhof College of Nursing

Date Range



Place learning, the ability to learn and remember environments is a critical cognitive function for wayfinding in new or changed environments that becomes impaired in many people with age. Older adults are often slower, less accurate, and more likely to get lost than younger adults. Little is known about the types of strategies that older adults use in wayfinding, or how these strategies relate to wayfinding performance. In this study, 3 groups of older adults (aged 55-64, 65-74, and >75) were asked to find their way in 4 computerized virtual reality environments for 3 consecutive days. On days 1 and 3 subjects were asked several qualitative questions related to wayfinding strategies. Qualitative analysis revealed eight separate strategies, including: 1) Lining self up with cues/pictures/corners; 2) Psychomotor patterns 3) Random movement 4) Using distance/depth 5) Using memory 6) Moving towards one specific cue 7) Searching a specific quadrant and 8) Triangulating between more than 2 environmental features/cues. Individuals reported using more than one strategy, ranging from 0 5 strategies (mean 2.08 strategies on day 1, and 2.03 strategies used on day 3).. There were no significant differences between age groups except for two strategies. The oldest age group (age >75) was significantly less likely to report using a distance strategy (day 1, F(2)=17.147 (p< .0001) and triangulation on day 3 (F (2)=14.292, p=.001) when compared to the youngest age group. Less use of these allocentric strategies may explain some of the difference seen in place learning in older adults.

Conference Name

Gerontological Society of America 64th Annual Scientific Meeting

Conference Location

Boston, Massachusetts

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