Developed by a research team at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, AGNES - an acronym for "Age Gain Now Empathy System" – is a high-tech suit designed to let people experience first hand what it feels like to be elderly.
Simulating the functionality of a 75 year-old's body, the AGNES suit features braces and bands that mimic joint stiffness and muscular fatigue, leg straps that force slower leg movements, along with arm and waist bands that reduce joint mobility in the shoulders, making it difficult to reach above shoulder height.
In addition, helmet attachments give the wearer spine curvature common to elderly people, gloves simulate reduced tactile sensation, yellow eyeglasses make it hard to read small print, earplugs are worn to mimic age-related hearing loss, and custom shoes simulate the musco-skeletal and inner ear changes that occur with age and cause imbalance.
The purpose of the AGNES suit is to give young people a better idea of how to cater to an aged members of our society, not just to the youthful.
Researchers donned the AGNES suit and ventured into to a grocery store on a mission to buy some low sodium, low sugar, low fat foods that older folk commonly seek out. They found that reading the small print and finding the products in general was very difficult.
It is hoped that the first-hand experience of being old AGNES offers will help product developers, designers, engineers, planners, architects, packaging engineers and others better understand the physical challenges of aging, and that AGNES will promote change and ultimately help improve convenient for the elderly.
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