Semi Ryu is partnering with VCU gerontology faculty, Dr. Tracey Gendron, in order to collect qualitative data that tracks the older adult user’s transformation and the impact of VoicingElder on Quality of Life for seniors.


Ten older adult participants will be recruited through the activities department at Gayton Terrace Senior Living. The research team will attend a family night event in order to demonstrate and promote the project. Older adult residents and family members will have the opportunity to sign up to voluntarily participate in the VoicingElder program; the first ten to consent to participation will be included in the study. We will begin recruitment of participants as soon as IRB approval is obtained. During the consent process, participants will be assured the highest level of privacy and confidentiality. Additionally, it will be stressed that participation in all aspects of the study is completely voluntary and participants will be informed that they may limit (e.g., skip or not answer a question) or discontinue participation at any time without any negative consequences. Participants will be asked to sign a consent form and confidentiality will be accomplished through the assignment of identification numbers.



Examination of the specific aims described above will be accomplished using surveys as well as an ethnographic methodology that includes semi-structured interviews and non-participant observation. The interviews will be guided and will take place directly after the VoicingElder life review session.

Interviews with older adult users: Semi-structured interviews with older adult puppeteers will be conducted to obtain a more in-depth examination of their experiences using VoicingElder. The purpose of the semi-structured interview is to obtain data with rich explanations of what the user experienced while using the virtual avatar and sharing their story. An interview schedule will be designed with key questions including: 1) What words would you use to describe the feelings and emotions associated with using VoicingElder? 2) Describe the process of using the avatar, how did it change as you spent more time telling your story? 3) How do you think your family members will feel about watching your story being told through VoicingElder?

Interviews with family members: Semi-structured, in-depth interviews with family members of older adult puppeteers will be conducted to obtain a more in-depth examination of their experiences watching their loved one share life stories using VoicingElder. An interview schedule will be designed with key questions including: 1) How do you feel about watching your loved one’s story being told through VoicingElder? 2) Did you learn something new about your loved one in this experience? 3) Is this video something that you will share with other family members?

Non-Participant Observation. The purpose of the non-participant observation is to develop a holistic understanding of the process of dynamic transformative consciousness as objectively and accurately as possible by documenting the emotions and behaviors of the user while they are participating in a VoiceElder life review. The observation will be conducted by a trained observer (i.e., researcher) and will use both structured (checklists) and unstructured (open observation) observations of verbal and nonverbal expression of feelings, frequency of behaviors and engagement in specific activities. In this context, non-participant observation will allow us to triangulate, or check definitions of terms that participants use in interviews.

Survey: Brief surveys will be given to all participants upon completion of their VoicingElder life review session in order to collect demographic information, assess impact on quality of life, satisfaction with VoicingElder experience and recommendations for improvement to the experience. Quality of life will be assessed using the physical and mental health component scores of the 12-Item Short-Form Survey (SF-12) (Ware, Kosinski, & Keller, 1996).

Brief surveys will also be given to all family member observers upon completion of the VoicingElder life review session in order to collect demographic information and assess satisfaction with the VoicingElder experience.


Data Analysis

Following the tenets of grounded theory methods, a “multivariate nonstatistical set of procedures,” including inductive data gathering and constant comparative analysis, researchers will analyze the qualitative data and identify analytical categories that reflect emergent theoretical concepts related to dynamic transformative processes from the perspective of the older adult user and family member.

The qualitative data will be de-identified, transcribed verbatim, and checked for accuracy by an independent transcriber. Next, researchers will repeatedly review the transcripts to get acquainted with the participants’ responses. The process of data analysis will involve theory construction and verification following the grounded theory method of constant comparison (Strauss & Corbin, 1998). This method requires continuously sorting through and juxtaposing the participants’ responses in order to identify the relationships between responses. Using this approach helps us identify, narrow down, and define the emerging categories.

The initial step of open coding will be conducted to break down and categorize data. This is followed by axial coding, which is used to identify patterns of meaning and relationships among the categories. Finally, the selective coding process will involve reviewing, re-evaluating, and connecting of categories to determine theories based on the identified constructs. This emergent design has been deemed essential for capturing the detailed experiences and beliefs of the respondents (Creswell, 2007; O’Connor, 2001). In addition to the steps described above to ensure that the main codes reach consensus, the transcripts and reliability coefficients (i.e., Cohen’s kappas) will be calculated for each theme. Interviews will be used as a way to triangulate the data from the non-participant observation and survey data. In qualitative methodology triangulation helps provide a more holistic perspective of the emergent themes and increases reliability and validity of the data (Patton, 2002).