Saturday, January 7, 2012


There are many uses for a jumpsuit that simulates what being old feels like physically. I remember seeing one on TV some 20 years ago being used by the designers of airline cabins (probably to see how closely they could space the seats). Engineers at MIT have now produced the most recent - and no doubt most advanced - incarnation. Let's compare it to 2 other "old age suits":

AGNES (1st and 2nd images, video here), acronym for "Age Gain Now Empathy System" (earlier version called "Daisy")
Designed by: MIT's AgeLab
Target age: 75 years old
Condition: Symptoms of arthritis and diabetes, including imbalance, limited joint mobility, decreased strength and mobility in hands and wrists, hearing loss, inflexible spine and hamstrings, shortened gait.
Users: Orthopedic device designers, clothing makers, car companies, and retailers interested in understanding the limitations of older consumers.
Comment: "The business of old age demands new tools. While focus groups and observations and surveys can help you understand what the older consumer needs and wants, young marketers never get that 'Ah ha!' moment of having difficulty opening a jar, or getting in and out of a car. That's what AGNES provides. The three words we associate with wearing AGNES are fatigue, friction and frustration. AGNES is not the destiny of everybody. She is a badly behaved lady who didn't eat and exercise very well. A secondary benefit we've found with AGNES is that it has become a powerful tool to get younger people to invest in their long-term health," says AgeLab's director Joseph Coughlin.

THIRD AGE SUIT (3rd and 4th images, video here), named after the European concept that life goes through 3 stages
Designed by: Ford Motor Co.
Target age: 65 years old
Condition: Stiff joints; diminished dexterity; added weight around the waist; reduced sense of touch; cataracts, declining vision, and increased sensitivity to glare; and some loss of mobility such as what would be experienced during recovery from surgery or an accident.
Users: Car designers, hospital architects, and building contractors.
Comment: “We developed this suit to show our engineers and designers what it feels like to be an older person. When you are young, you think you’re designing for everybody, but you can’t understand the range of people and their limitations. And you should always be aware that ageing is not a disease but a natural process of life,”says Dr. Achim Lindner, physician at the European Ford Research Centre.

SENIOSIMULATION (5th and 6th images, video here)
Designed by: Seniosphère
Target age: 55 years and older
Condition: Physical sensations of aging in joints and muscles, hearing, and sight.
Users: Designers of products and services for the elderly, architects of retail and public spaces, and nurses and health care trainees.
Comment: "Seniosphere's approach always gives you 360° of the whole person....This enables you to step back and understand their experience and consumer environment beyond a business or product or service. To help you better understand...what it means to grow old, we [put you] in the shoes of a senior."

As the article about AGNES indicates, suits have also been designed to simulate pregnancy and obesity.

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