The Geriatric Medication Game©: Understanding the Community We Serve

Older adults face particular challenges as they navigate America’s health care system. The natural effects of aging—often including problems hearing, seeing, or getting around—can make it difficult to follow a health care regimen even as chronic health conditions become commonplace. No wonder a 2003 national assessment of health literacy found that adults 65 and older have the lowest health literacy of any adult age group.

At the College’s Office for Research on Aging (ORA), we believe understanding is a vital step toward improving health care for older adults—understanding on the part of health care providers, that is. That’s what the ORA’s Geriatric Medication Game© is all about—increasing the understanding and empathy that pharmacists, nurses, and physicians have for older patients.

The Geriatric Medication Game© is a structured role-playing game in which as many as 30 players assume the identity of seniors seeking health care. Designed with health professions students in mind, the game recreates medication and medication-related situations frequently encountered by the elderly and requires players to handle them. The object is to accumulate points for passing challenges at the game’s six activity stations or through other role-playing activities. Game time is flexible: You can make the game as short or lengthy as you’d like.

The revised game has become part of the College’s professional communications course and is produced for distribution to other health care educators.

We’re planning to update the Geriatric Medication Game© to incorporate changes prompted by the Affordable Care Act and medical advances. Please contact Patrick Fontane with inquiries. We apply any profits from the Geriatric Medication Game© to ORA-sponsored programs.

Order the Geriatric Medication Game

Ordering Information

The Geriatric Medication Game© package includes:

  • An instruction manual with:
    • A list of game materials you’ll need to acquire
    • Role playing hints for game organizers
    • Patient profile sheets
    • Player labels
    • Possible game variations and general suggestions
  • “Medication Cards” that specify the medication-related situations your players will encounter
  • “Station Cards” tailored to each station of the game
  • “Challenge Cards” for each station
  • A storage carton for the game

The game costs $60, plus $5 for shipping. All orders must be pre-paid, with checks made payable to St. Louis College of Pharmacy.

Please send orders to:

Office for Research on Aging
St. Louis College of Pharmacy
4588 Parkview Place
St. Louis, MO 63110

Orders should include a contact person, a complete shipping address, and an e-mail address if you would like us to notify you when we ship your game. Please contact Patrick Fontane at with any questions.

Playing and Assessing the Geriatric Medication Game©

Filling a pill box with a week’s worth of medications. Standing in line to see a health care professional. Both sound like tasks that are no worse than tedious. But try properly filling the pill box wearing goggles coated with petroleum jelly, or waiting in line while maneuvering a wheelchair. Modified to simulate vision or mobility loss, the tasks take on a whole new dimension.

That’s the point of the Geriatric Medication Game©—and an example of how it’s played. You’ll need to prepare in order to stage a game in which your players gain a better understanding of age-related health care challenges and how older adults feel as they confront them, but we think you’ll find it’s worth it.

Measuring Outcomes

We assess the Geriatric Medication Game’s© effects on our players’ perceptions by administering pre- and post-tests, using a Likert scale of one to five that asks the test-taker to determine how strongly they agree or disagree with a statement. We also ask for our players’ emotional responses and overall sentiments about older adults, again measured by a five-point Likert scale. Here are some recent results:

Selected Means of Perceptions of the Elderly Affected by the Geriatric Medication Game©**





An adequate amount of attention is focused on geriatric health issues in the United States.



It is important for health care providers to understand their geriatric patients’ family circumstances and social environments.



Visual impairment makes it difficult for older patients to take their medications properly.



Geriatric patients can successfully utilize the health care system in this country.



Geriatric patients can successfully utilize the pharmacy system in this country.



**Means based on a Likert scale:  5= Strongly Agree 1= Strongly Disagree

Participants most frequently reported feeling frustrated, with nearly 63 percent of those ranking their frustration as “strong” or “very strong.” The game prompted several other emotions as well, listed in order of frequency:

  • Sense of helplessness
  • Anger
  • Anxiety
  • Withdrawal
  • Sadness

All participants said the game had increased their awareness, empathy, and understanding for elderly patients. We asked how much their empathy for geriatric patients had increased, and received these responses:

 ORA pie chart

5= Very Strong…1=Not at all
* No respondents

Whatever the measure, the Geriatric Medication Game© consistently instills empathy and understanding for older adults and their medication-related challenges.