Font size

Kevin St-Martin


Master’s degree in Social Work at the University of Sherbrooke

Baccalaureate of psychology at the University of Sherbrooke


Virtual reality as a tool in the fight against the victimisation of older adults


Master’s scholarship Mitacs Accélaration – $ 15 000 (in collaboration with the Jasmin Roy Sophie Desmarais Foundation)

Scholarship from the Jasmin Roy Sophie Desmarais Foundation – $5,000

Communication support scholarship from the University of Sherbrooke – $500


December 2022


The proportion of the world population identified as ‘seniors’ (aged 65 and over) continues to rise1. It has become essential to implement initiatives that respond to the needs and difficulties encountered by older adults, notably mistreatment, intimidation, and ageism; three forms of victimisation that may have significant consequences for the physical, mental, and social health of older adults2. In this respect, the Jasmin Roy Sophie Desjardins Foundation initiated a project entitled ‘Les Ateliers 360’ (36o Workshops) that uses virtual reality to raise older adult’s awareness of these problems. However, to our knowledge, no study exists that directly examines the use of virtual reality in countering the different forms of victimisation that older adults may experience. Moreover, this technology is rarely used with this population to address issues of a social nature.


The aim of this project is to determine how older adults react to an activity that raises their awareness of victimisation through the use of virtual reality.


From the evaluation of certain aspects of Les Ateliers 360 (360 Workshops) activity conducted by the Jasmin Roy Sophie Desmarais Foundation, this research project has three objectives :

  • Identify the elements of the activity that were chosen as positive or negative by the older adults;
  • Provide recommendations and ways to improve future awareness-raising activities utilizing virtual reality;
  • Contribute a reflection on the role of virtual reality in the practice of social work.


This research project is done in parallel to the launch of the Ateliers 360 activity of the Jasmin Roy Sophie Desmarais Foundation. Les Ateliers 360 activity aims to raise the population’s awareness of three types of victimisation with older adults as potential targets: mistreatment, intimidation and ageism. The research project primarily consists of a multiple-case study in which nine (9) special sessions of the activity will be examined and compared to each other. This project has three (3) stages: 1) the current state of knowledge of virtual reality and older persons; 2) a case study which includes a documentary analysis, an evaluation of artifacts, the administration of a sociodemographic questionnaire, direct observation of the activities and focus groups discussions; 3) the diffusion and transfer of knowledge.

Within the conceptual framework of the Moville model of the seven factors affecting client satisfaction and the theoretical framework of socio-emotional learning, the data will be analyzed employing the qualitative data processing software NVivo. The results of this research project will ultimately lead to the production of a master’s thesis.  It is aimed at bringing better knowledge of older persons’ reactions when using virtual reality technology within the context of an awareness-raising activity on mistreatment, intimidation, and ageism.


The results suggest that older people react to the activity in a similar way to younger (expert) people. All groups of participants reported having an overall positive experience, regardless of  age, socioeconomic status, level of education, propensity for motion sickness, and even comfort with devices. technologies. The participants found that the activity was enriching in terms of its content, that it allowed them to feel equiped to deal with events of victimisation and to better understand the issues and themselves. They found the activity to be an opportunity to evacuate frustrations, but also to live a new experience through virtual reality. Despite initial concerns among some participants, no one experienced any major discomfort or cybersickness and ultimately everyone said they enjoyed their experience.

Besides that, the interviews, the observations and the analysis of the physical material and the virtual environment made it possible to formulate certain recommendations which could help reinforce the notions of usability and accessibility according to the model of Morville (2004) for future virtual reality awareness projects.

1) Include a test that has similar properties to the other scenes shown
2) Prioritize wireless devices
3) Disable the control buttons if they are not useful for the activity;
4) Seat the participants in chairs with armrests;
5) Use equipment compatible with wearing glasses
6) Prioritize devices that allow users to adjust loudness themselves
7) Have earphones compatible with wearing a hearing aid
8) Enable built-in captioning
9) Seek a balance between an active and a passive user experience




St-Martin, K., & Beaulieu, M. (4 au 6 février 2020). La réalité virtuelle comme outil de sensibilisation à l’intimidation envers les personnes aînées. 6e Colloque international du Réseau d’Études International sur l’Âge, la CitoyenneTé et l’Intégration Socio-économique (REIACTIS) « Société inclusive et avancée en âge ». Metz (France).

St-Martin, K. (2019). St-Martin, K., & Beaulieu, M. (October 25th, 2019). Virtual reality as a tool to raise awareness and prevent older adults’ bullying. 48th Annual Scientific and Educational Meeting of the Canadian Association of Gerontology « Navigating the Tides of Aging Together ». Moncton, New Brunswick (Canada).


St-Martin, K. (2020). La réalité virtuelle, un outil de sensibilisation prometteur auprès des aînés. Encrâge, 21, 10.

Research Chair on Mistreatment of Older Adults (2018). Virtual reality to counter intimidation of older adults: the state of knowledge. Unpublished document.