Iota Mu Chapter members bring play-filled experiences to local nursing homes

Published 10:44 am Monday, November 21, 2022

POPLARVILLE, Miss. — When you hear the word play, the image of senior citizens may not come to mind. Yet, that is the target audience Pearl River Community College’s Iota Mu Chapter of Phi Theta Kappa elected to pursue for their Honors in Action (HIA) project under the theme of “Art and Science of Play.”

Members of the chapter conducted research on why play is important as people enter their twilight years and how limited mobility restricts access to various forms of play. Their research looked at access to experiences like travel, bowling, fishing, and other forms of play for the elderly, especially for those living in nursing homes. The group elected to take virtual reality and other gaming systems into local nursing homes to let residents experience travel and play.

The Honors in Action team included Emily Ezell of Franklinton, LA, Ahmaya Howard of Hattiesburg, Lauren Anne Lagasse (Chair) of Waveland, Caleb Thornton of Sumrall, and Kellie Watts of Picayune.

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They selected the elderly as they feel that generation tends to be overlooked. 

“The VR headsets allowed us to provide the elders with a way to travel and play without having to leave the comfort of their home,” said Lagasse. “We put in a lot of thought and did a good amount of research to decide what would be best. 

“We looked into places that have used the headsets, which games the elders seemed to like the best, the psychological impacts of gaming, the benefits of travel, resident experience in nursing homes, lack of ability, and psychological effects of gaming.”

Along with the research component, the chapter applied for and received a $1,000 grant to make the HIA project a reality. The money was used to purchase two VR headsets and games.

Students visited two local nursing homes where they helped residents experience new places, ride virtual roller coasters, go on a virtual nature walk, and even compete in a game of Mario Kart.

“We are so proud of the efforts of our HIA team this year,” said PTK Advisor Kira Arthurs. “They worked so hard to bring these experiences to elderly residents within our community.”

Phi Theta Kappa is known as the foremost honor society for two-year colleges with over 1,300 chapters worldwide. The Iota Mu Chapter covers students attending either the Hancock or Poplarville Campus.

Every year, PTK chapters wanting to earn Five Star Status must do an HIA research project with a few themes given for direction. The projects are community focused and offer the students the opportunity to both research the issue and come up with potential solutions. In the Mississippi/Louisiana Region, just over half of the 50 chapters complete an HIA project.

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