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Empathy suit helps you understand how hard it can be to move around in old age

Written by Diane Archer

Every day, 10,000 people turn 65. The population is aging quickly. In an effort to improve the lives of older adults, the MIT AgeLab has created an “empathy” suit, which simulates the aging process. Put on the suit and you can understand not only what’s not possible to do for many older adults, but how hard it can be, how much energy it takes, to do things that a younger person thinks simple to do.

The empathy suit limits movement in different parts of your body, including your joints and neck. The empathy suit also adds weight to your frame, conveying the feeling of your body being weighed down. A helmet holds down the back of your neck and head to create a hump in your back. Older people often have humps in their backs because of weakening bones and muscles.

The suit slows down your gait and includes shoes to help you understand what it’s like to walk in the shoes of an older adult. Older adults often have feet that hurt because they lose fat on the bottoms of their feet as they age.

Goggles help you to understand the blurry images that result from low vision. Gloves simulate arthritic hands.

The research team at the MIT AgeLab believes that through better understanding of the physical constraints of older age, they will make the world more accessible to older people. They will be able to develop solutions that make it better and easier for younger people to function in old age than it is for their parents or grandparents today. They are essentially reinventing society to live longer.


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