Wearing AGNES (via MIT & AgeLab)
Does the ravages of old age feel like big rubber bands on our limbs? So thinks the engineers at MIT’s “AgeLab,” a multi-discipline group part of the Engineering Systems Division.
AgeLab’s “Age Gain Now Empathy System” (AGNES) was designed to give the wearer the physical feel of being around 75 years old with arthritis and diabetes after a lifetime of little exercise and poor diet.
Director of AgeLab, Joseph Coughlin described the purpose of the system, "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."
A list of debilitating apparatuses in AGNES:
• Large rubber bands are attached to the user’s limbs.
• A helmet forces the user into an uncomfortable position while curving the spine.
• Braces limit arm and leg movement, giving a stiff feeling and a shortened stride.
• Special shoes give an unstable gate.
• Gloves force a loss of strength and tactility in the hands and wrists.
• Earplugs lessen the user’s hearing.
• Glasses give the typical sight degradation of old age.
AgeLab seeks to give younger people the early experience of being old to perhaps sway them towards a healthier lifestyle, since that same group will be over 65 by 2030. (20% of the populace.) This feels like a very elaborate and expensive High-School psychology class experiment. Although I never took part in an old person simulator, I did have to pretend I have a broken hand for a week. It did give me some perspective of disabilities. (See the Technology for the Disabled group.)
Despite the inevitable decrease in physical ability over time, I feel medical science will turn the tide in my favor. Stem cells will grow “new everything” for my body. Neural implants will stave off brain debilitation. Or perhaps I will just be inside a robotic shell. However it goes, science has my backs.