Spacesuits to imagine your aging-in-place needs

Struggling to figure out your aging needs?

Physical assistance with walking

Physical assistance with walking

Do you still see your younger self when you look in the mirror? If you’re like most Baby Boomers, you’re working to stay healthy. You take your vitamins, find time for yoga, and have gotten into the daily routine of smoothies with kale or other veggies. You’re feeling energetic and enthusiastic. You’ve colored your hair, whitened your teeth, updated your wardrobe and find it hard to see yourself as “aging.”

When a blog like this one suggests thinking about and planning to age in place, we all have real difficulty imagining how the world will look and feel as we get older. Let’s face it. We don’t like to think of ourselves as old. Or that our skills and abilities will lessen with age. We see our parents refusing to admit that certain tasks and activities are much harder to do, and we worry about them. Yet we keep thinking we are different and that these difficulties won’t happen to us.

What if we could physically experience some or all of the aging process?

Creative minds have developed two items similar to spacesuits to do just that.

First, meet AGNES, the Age Gain Now Empathy System developed at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s AgeLab about 4 years ago. This suit is used to help “provide insight into the physical effects of aging.” Designers working with this insight are better able to design products that work well for older adults. AGNES has been used in retail, public transportation and automobile environments, among others.

And, a similar suit was introduced on the West Coast at the Social Innovation Summit in November 2014. The Genworth R70 was developed by the Hollywood special effects studio Spectral Motion with consultation by Dr. Edward Schneider of the Leonard Davis School of Gerontology at the University of Southern California for Genworth Financial, Inc., which sells long term care insurance among its other products.

Both of these suits simulate problems with fatigue, joint movement, flexibility, posture, vision and balance to copy the potential aging of someone in their 70s.

Experiencing the physical limitations created by wearing such a suit is really valuable. It can it help us to be more empathetic with our parents and other older adults. And it can help us to recognize the need for changes in our homes and gardens so that we can age in place effectively.

What about you? Would you try one of these suits to better understand physical aging if the opportunity becomes available? I sure would!