As our global society continues to age, inventions that allow one to experience what it feels like to be old are becoming more commonplace.
Simulations can range from the simple—gravel-filled gloves to imitate arthritis and ear plugs that make it harder to hear and speak—to the complex. Perhaps the most all-encompassing experience is offered by the “aging simulation suit GERD,” brain child of German design firm, Produkt + Projekt.
“Suit” is a slight misnomer. The simulator employs several separate components, including different pairs of vision-impairing goggles to mimic various age-related eye conditions; headphones that block out high-frequency noise; a weight vest and a series of weighted wraps that go around a person’s neck, elbows, wrists, knees and ankles; gloves that bestow the effects of arthritis and tremor through electrical stimulation pulses; and over-the-shoe wraps with super-soft soles to make the wearer more unsteady on his or her feet. Additional accessories to the suit allow the wearer to experience the effects of partial paralysis due to a stroke.
Another aging simulation suit was developed by engineers from MIT’s AgeLab. The Age Gain Now Empathy System (nicknamed “AGNES”) is an actual suit that uses weights, resistance bands and braces to imitate the mobility issues of aging. A helmet and goggles provide visual impairment, while special shoes make walking around that much more difficult.
The combined effect of these components is pretty illuminating, as this BBC reporter quickly discovered:
Understanding an elder‘s challenges leads to innovation
Hospitals, schools, senior care homes and businesses are beginning to use aging simulations to help younger individuals understand the challenges faced by older adults as they go about their day-to-day lives.
Practically all those who participate say the experience is eye-opening. But it can be a pricey one—a single suit from Produkt + Projekt costs nearly $1,700. Other simulations are less expensive, but for certain businesses, the ability to completely step into the shaky shoes of a senior may pay off in the form of inspiration for new elder-friendly products and services.
After having their staffers don the age simulation suit GERD, British banking behemoth, Barclays, came up with several ways to make life easier for their elderly customers, such as audio-based ATMs and easier-to-read debit cards.
The ability to gain a better understanding of what it feels like to grow old presents a rare win-win-win situation for elders, the communities they live in and the businesses they frequent.
What do you think of this emerging trend? Given the greying of America, should aging simulations be a requirement for schools and certain businesses?
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By Anne-Marie Botek, AgingCare.com Editor