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High-Tech Suit Lets You Know What It's Like to Be Old
Date:10/29/2011

By Dennis Thompson
HealthDay Reporter

FRIDAY, Oct. 28 (HealthDay News) -- Plastic bands that restrict movement. Glasses that make vision dull and yellowed. Shoes that throw the wearer off balance. Harnesses that make the body hunch over. Gloves that make fingers clumsy and awkward.

These are all components of AGNES, a suit developed at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology to help product designers prepare the world for the aging of the baby boom generation.

An acronym for the Age Gain Now Empathy System, AGNES places the wearer in the shoes of a person in their 70s suffering from advanced diabetes and osteoarthritis, said Joseph Coughlin, one of the suit's creators and the founder and director of MIT's AgeLab, a multi-disciplinary research program created to study the behavior and quality of life of people 45 and older.

"It's meant to create an 'aha!' moment for the wearer, where they understand what it's like to be old, and to help them understand what needs to be done for a product or service to make it more user-friendly for an aging population," Coughlin said.

AGNES is part of an overall design trend focused on making the world easier for everyone to navigate through, but particularly people whose mobility or senses have been dulled by age, said Daniel Reingold, president and chief executive of the Hebrew Home at Riverdale, a New York City geriatric center.

"You're seeing it in almost every kind of consumer product -- things ranging from automobiles to utensils to even interior design," Reingold said. "You're seeing more thought given to baby boomers as they age, and adapting design to meet our needs."

The first AGNES suit, version 1.0, was created in 2005, Coughlin said. Today's model, AGNES 2.0, has been further refined by a team of engineers, doctors, ergonomics experts and psychologists to precisely replicate the effects of aging and chronic disease. And, team members are working
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