MIT suit puts a new wrinkle into feeling old (w/ video)

January 3, 2012 By Deborah Netburn

You've heard of the fat suit and the pregnancy suit; now meet AGNES - the old person suit.

AGNES stands for Age Gain Now Empathy System and was designed by researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology's AgeLab to emulate what it feels like to be 75 years old with arthritis and diabetes.

"The business of old age demands ," said Joseph Coughlin, director of the AgeLab. "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."

Coughlin and his team carefully calibrated the suit to make the wearer just as uncomfortable as an who has spent a lifetime eating poorly and not doing much exercise.

Special shoes provide a feeling of imbalance, while on the knees and elbows limit joint mobility. Gloves give the illusion of decreased strength and mobility in the hands and wrists, and earplugs make it difficult to hear high-pitched sounds and soft tones. A helmet with straps attached to it compresses the , and more straps attached to the shoes decrease hamstring flexibility and shorten the wearer's gait.

It's not a pretty picture of aging.

"The three words we associate with wearing AGNES are fatigue, and frustration," Coughlin said.

AGNES has been used most recently by a group of students working on a design for an updated walker. By wearing the suit they could see for themselves what design and materials would make the most sense for a physically limited older person. Coughlin said the has also been used by clothing companies, car companies and retail goods companies to help them understand the limitations of an older consumer.

If all this is making you terrified of getting older, Coughlin offers a bit of reassurance.

"AGNES is not the destiny of everybody," he said. "She is a badly behaved lady who didn't eat and exercise very well. A secondary benefit we've found with AGNES is that it has become a powerful tool to get younger people to invest in their long-term health."

Related Stories

Recommended for you

Sleep better, lose weight?

January 17, 2018
(HealthDay)—Sleeplessness could cost you when it's time to stand on your bathroom scale, a new British study suggests.

Who uses phone apps to track sleep habits? Mostly the healthy and wealthy in US

January 16, 2018
The profile of most Americans who use popular mobile phone apps that track sleep habits is that they are relatively affluent, claim to eat well, and say they are in good health, even if some of them tend to smoke.

Improvements in mortality rates are slowed by rise in obesity in the United States

January 15, 2018
With countless medical advances and efforts to curb smoking, one might expect that life expectancy in the United States would improve. Yet according to recent studies, there's been a reduction in the rate of improvement in ...

Teens likely to crave junk food after watching TV ads

January 15, 2018
Teenagers who watch more than three hours of commercial TV a day are more likely to eat hundreds of extra junk food snacks, according to a report by Cancer Research UK.

Can muesli help against arthritis?

January 15, 2018
It is well known that healthy eating increases a general sense of wellbeing. Researchers at Friedrich-Alexander-Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg (FAU) have now discovered that a fibre-rich diet can have a positive influence ...

Your dishwasher is not as sterile as you think

January 13, 2018
(HealthDay)—Your dishwasher may get those plates spotless, but it is also probably teeming with bacteria and fungus, a new study suggests.

1 comment

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

not rated yet Jan 03, 2012
I've worn Birkenstocks for 35 years now, when I was 21, I was managing the store in Key West, I did all the repairs on the sandles( cobbling ) and orthopedic modifications as well.

I got pretty familiar with peoples' feets .

I cannot stress how important footwear is to your health in the long run. Bad shoes are like a crooked foundation on a house, add in massive amounts of stress-energy moving through your skeletal system, over a lifetime of bad eating and spare time on the couch, it really adds up.

Women especially, they tend to pick their shoes with their eyes, as opposed to letting their feet pick them out.

Trust me....old peoples' feet are usually gnarled and twisted beyond belief, all from wearing nice looking shoes.


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.