Youth can feel old with MIT's new AGNES suit, while there's no stopping aging

Dave Masko's picture

FLORENCE, Ore. - A 100-year-old man often quips about the pains of being old but states “there’s nothing on this green Earth that can stop aging;” while a new research suit from MIT makes you feel “very, very old” once you put it on.

While most people have heard of “the fat suit and the pregnancy suit; now meet AGNES – the old person suit,” stated a Jan. 3 report in the Los Angeles Times; while the irony is not lost on the “beautiful people” in L.A. and elsewhere who think they will never get old. “I’m here to tell you that unless you die first, you will age and feel so many pains I can’t tell you,” said “Red,” a 100-year-old man who lives in Florence during a recent Huliq interview. Meanwhile, Red says he’s never really complained about aging other than his frustration about “young people who think they will never get old.” In turn, he says “after living to be 100 now, I’ve never encountered anything on this green Earth that can stop aging.”

In turn, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) recently revealed its “AGNES “suit that stands for “Age Gain Now Empathy System.” The Los Angeles Times reported how the suit was designed by researchers at MIT’s AgeLab “to emulate what it feels like to be 75 years old (about the same age as Republican candidate Ron Paul) with arthritis and diabetes.”

In addition, MIT is aiming to dispel all the claims made by companies that claim that have the magic elixir to stop aging; while knowing “good well that American women are obsessed with remaining young even while the creams and tonics they use never work and their faces look like theater masks after ‘getting work done,’ state health experts.

Boomers spend billions on anti-aging stuff that doesn’t work

In our never ending quest for health and longevity humans have found many different vitamins, and so-called “anti-aging cures” that simply line the pockets of hucksters who would serve seniors and Baby Boomers much better if “they got real, and helped us slide into aging and our deaths with some dignity,” says Harriet, who at age 81, is “forced” she says to live at a retirement home here in Florence, Oregon, where more than 60 percent of the population is over the retirement age of 65.

“I’m a realist, and that means I don’t play when it comes to money I have to lay out for things I need. And those things are not creams or other junk that my daughter Brenda likes to use to hide those wrinkles,” adds Harriet with a veined face that presents here fundamental appreciation of reality.

In turn, a fellow senior named Alfred says he concurs with Harriet “one hundred percent.”

Women fight aging, but can’t win

“I guess we’re in here (a senior retirement home in Florence) because our family is trying to protect us from a crass society that worships youth. They don’t want us seen in public because we’re old as old boots,” says Alfred with a wry smile that’s hidden under an umbrella of a mustache.

Also, another senior named “Red” – who turned 100 in September – reveals that what he and his fellow seniors talk about is simply “death and dying.”

“There’s some who like to think they will see their dead husband or other family up in heaven. They’re looking forward to it. Then, with the point of his tongue slowly moistening his under lip, Red explains that he thinks death will be “like taking off a tight fitting shoe.

Anti-aging stuff never works, appeals to some myth in society

Longevity hucksters and health gurus are mostly young presenting youth myths to the aged

In her new book, ““Never Say Die: The Myth and marketing of The New Old Age,” Jacoby cautions that marketing has deceived the public by suggesting that "cures for mankind's most serious and frightening diseases are imminent and that medical reversal or significant retardation of aging itself may not be far behind."

As she attends to the "genuine battles of growing old," Jacoby is both moving and informative about Alzheimer's costs to the psyche and the purse of sufferer and caretaker, and eye-opening as she reframes impoverished old women as “a women's issue."

The author also raises timely and "uncomfortable questions about old age poverty, the likelihood of dementia, end-of-life care, living wills, and assisted suicide."

Youth culture disses on seniors

What seems to really upset seniors in this retirement community of Florence, says Harriet and other seniors is “they think they’re going to live forever.”

“They don’t know that this life can be taken away in an instant,” adds the senior while also noting that she heard some “kids laughing about God” on some TV program. “I will tell you nobody laughs at God when there’s an earthquake, when the police are at your door, and when you get news that your little girl has died, as it happened to me.”

“Nobody laughs at God when they’re old either,” she said.

AGNES old age suit aimed at empathy

While it’s known that senior citizens wish they were young, it’s also known that many young people think that aging happens to other people; such as their parents and grandparents.

“The business of old age demands new tools,” said Joseph Coughlin, director of the AgeLab. “While focus groups 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.”

AGNES suit gives people a preview of aging

According to the MIT website, based in Cambridge, AGNES suit is worn by students, product developers, designers, engineers, marketing, planners, architects, packaging engineers, and others to better understand the physical challenges associated with aging.

Also, it was developed by MIT’s “AgeLab” researchers and students so that AGNES can be calibrated to approximate the motor, visual, flexibility, dexterity and strength of a person in their mid-70s. AGNES has been used in retail, public transportation, home, community, automobile, workplace and other environments.

For instance, the MIT AgeLab notes how AGNES mirrors the following body parts:

-- Knee and Elbow: Braces limit knee and elbow joint mobility, simulating joint stiffness, increased muscular fatigue, and slowed movements.

-- Arms: Bands that connect the arm and waist reduce joint mobility in the shoulders, making it harder to reach above shoulder height.

-- Legs: Straps attached to the harness and shoes decrease hamstring flexibility and shortens gait, promoting slower, shorter, leg movements while walking.

-- Spine: The helmet and band attachments simulate spinal compression and limit spinal rotation, giving the wearer a sense of curving of the spine that occurs with aging.

-- Neck: A neck brace reduces cervical spine rotation and extension, simulating increased stiffness and causing the turning of one's head to be a full torso movement.

-- Eyes: Yellow glasses simulate the natural yellowing of eyes, making it difficult to see contrast and small print, as well as difficulty seeing in low light.

-- Ears: Earplugs simulate difficulty with high pitched sounds and soft tones.

-- Balance: Custom shoes simulate the changes in our musco-skeletal system and inner ear that occurs with age, causing imbalance and giving us a feeling of uncertainty with each step.

-- Hands: Gloves and braces simulate the reduced tactile sensation as well as decreased wrist strength and mobility.

Also, the Los Angeles Times report noted how “the suit provides a feeling of imbalance, limited joint mobility and decreased strength and mobility in the hands and wrists.”

In turn, the AGNES suit “makes it hard to hear high-pitched sounds and soft tones, decrease hamstring flexibility and shortens the wearer’s gait,” just like Red describes being in a 100-year-old body.

Hundred-year-old Red then explains that it’s important for young people (he calls anyone under age 100, “young people”) to understand the impact of getting old so they will be kinder to seniors; while also getting a taste of “what’s to come. Yes, you too will get to be my age – maybe.”

Add new comment