January 12, 2012

USA: At MIT, there are students dedicated to learning all about the realities of aging

HAMBURG, New York / The Sun News / January 11, 2012

Reflecting on the challenge of aging
By Christina Abt

Recently, I celebrated a milestone birthday that led me to reflect on the challenges of aging. 

In review I considered the aches, the pains, the bifocals, the hearing aids and yes, the Depends, which will undoubtedly become exciting life essentials in my not too distant future.

Interestingly, I am not the only one reviewing the experience of growing old. There are students at Massachusetts Institute of Technology AgeLab who are dedicated to learning all about the realities of aging, in partnership with a very special elder named, AGNES.

Age Now Gain Empathy System is a specially constructed body suit designed to emulate a 75-year old person in the throes of arthritis and diabetes, two of the most common and problematic elements of aging. 

AGNES incorporates shoes that compromise the wearer’s sense of balance and shortens their gait. She has special knee and elbow braces that limit joint mobility, along with earplugs that tune out soft or high-pitched sounds. As a special fashion treat, AGNES offers a helmet that compresses the spine and gloves that reduce the strength and mobility in the wearers’ hands. And finally, there are AGNES’ high fashion yellow goggles that realistically blur the vision.

According to MIT AgeLab officials, AGNES was created primarily for young people, so that they could experience the realities of neglecting one’s body and the end result of such neglect as they age. 

It is also intended as a social experiment to help companies and governments better understand ways to redesign and produce helpful solutions for senior citizens in their everyday lives. 

Yet it’s the statistical backdrop to AGNES that really caught my attention and started me thinking. 

According to associated AGNES reports, we humans grow and develop until age 30, at which point our bodies immediately start going to hell in a hand basket. 

The good news is that we have about four or five times more capacity for living at age 30 than we need, and we only lose about 1 percent of our functionality a year. 

So by the time we turn 80, we’ve lost half of our capabilities, but we still retain twice the capacity that we actually need to function.

Eureka! So basically aging is really a well thought-out plan that allows us to remain functional while gracefully accepting our slowly diminishing bodies since, in reality, we can’t really see our cavernous crow’s feet and receding hairlines or fully hear the snarky remarks from those forced to follow behind our senior shuffle. 

Additionally, with young people now becoming fully aware of the senior lifestyle that awaits them, there’s bound to be a whole new world of empathy and respect for we aging baby boomers.

When you add in all the senior discounts that my daughter keeps telling me about.... I’m starting to think that perhaps this aging thing isn’t so bad. 

Copyright 2010 The Metro Group
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