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.

The video will load shortly

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

Brain disease seen in most football players in large report

July 25, 2017
Research on 202 former football players found evidence of a brain disease linked to repeated head blows in nearly all of them, from athletes in the National Football League, college and even high school.

Safety of medical devices not often evaluated by sex, age, or race

July 25, 2017
Researchers at Yale and the University of California-San Francisco have found that few medical devices are analyzed to consider the influence of their users' sex, age, or race on safety and effectiveness.

Why you should consider more than looks when choosing a fitness tracker

July 25, 2017
A UNSW study of five popular physical activity monitors, including Fitbit and Jawbone models, has found their accuracy differs with the speed of activity, and where they are worn.

Dog walking could be key to ensuring activity in later life

July 24, 2017
A new study has shown that regularly walking a dog boosts levels of physical activity in older people, especially during the winter.

Study finds 275,000 calls to poison control centers for dietary supplement exposures from 2000 through 2012

July 24, 2017
U.S. Poison Control Centers receive a call every 24 minutes, on average, regarding dietary supplement exposures, according to a new study from the Center for Injury Research and Policy and the Central Ohio Poison Center, ...

Alcohol to claim 63,000 lives over next five years, experts warn

July 24, 2017
Alcohol consumption will cause 63,000 deaths in England over the next five years – the equivalent of 35 deaths a day – according to a new report from the University of Sheffield Alcohol Research Group.

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.