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How Brave are You?

Updated: Aug 26, 2021

Ready to see how you may feel at 80? look at 80?

Here's the latest from MIT and their AgeLab, in recognition of Senior Citizens Day tomorrow, August 21.

MIT’s (MA Institute of Technology) AgeLab designed an aging suit to simulate what being 80 years old may feel like. They want us to not only learn patience and empathy for our elders but also realize what small and large changes in everything from packaging to transportation would benefit seniors and their loss of mobility and dexterity.

Susan reassured her mother, “Mom, I have a trailer in my backyard. You can live there, and I will take care of you.”

Offered with the best of intentions, have they considered whether there is sufficient space for the mom and a caregiver? Will her mom be able to navigate the trailer’s steps? Is there room around a bed for personal care? It is one option—if it works.

Susan agreed to participate in the AgeLab to find out. She donned AGNES, an aging suit created by engineers to simulate what being 80 years old may feel like.

The suit’s stretchy rubber bands connect from waist to feet to limit hip movement. There are knee pads and Velcro wrist braces; yellow goggles to limit depth perception and more. Everything is carefully designed to mimic the loss of function that happens as we age.

Fully garbed, it was time for Susan to visit her trailer.

Susan’s visit was documented in the PBS film, Fast Forward. As you might guess, managing the steps into the trailer was her first obstacle. Then it was turning around in the tight space. It was falling into bed and not being able to get out. She did not need to be told that a caregiver would be challenged to help—how to manage when only one side of the person and one side of the bed was accessible?—as well as having space to move around freely and sit and rest.

Susan did not need to be told: the trailer would not work for her mom.

(And then there was the shock of looking into a mirror and seeing herself aged into her 80s.)

Do we plan 10, 20, 30 years ahead? Heck, do we even think that far ahead? If you have not, a survey of your current living arrangements may be a place to begin. When you cannot drive, do stairs, or walk easily, how friendly, and accessible a place is it? We cannot predict what the future holds. But we can consider some possible problems and map out some possible solutions. Get on it. You're aging every minute. (I know, don't remind you.)

MIT’s AgeLab:

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