Wayfinding, Hippocampus, Strategies, Cues, Environment, Aging


Geriatric Nursing | Geriatrics | Nursing


Purpose of the study: Older adults often have problems finding their way in novel environments such as senior living residences and hospitals. The purpose of this study was to examine the types of self-reported search strategies and cues that older adults use to find their way in a virtual maze

Design and Methods: Healthy, independently living older adults (n = 129) aged 55–96 were tested in a virtual maze task over a period of 3 days in which they had to repeatedly find their way to a specified goal. They were interviewed about their strategies on days 1 and 3. Content analysis was used to identify the strategies and cues described by the participants in order to find their way. Strategies and cues used were compared among groups.

Results: The participants reported the use of multiple spatial and non-spatial strategies, and some of the strategies differed among age groups and over time. The oldest age group was less likely to use strategies such as triangulation and distance strategies. All participants used visual landmarks to find their way, but the use of geometric cues (corners) was used less by the older participants.

Implications: These findings add to the theoretical understanding of how older adults find their way in complex environments. The understanding of how wayfinding changes with age is essential in order to design more supportive environments.

Original Citation

Davis, R. L., & Weisbeck, C. (2015). Search Strategies Used by Older Adults in a Virtual Reality Place Learning Task. The Gerontologist, 55(Suppl_1), S118–S127.