Here’s my latest article on McKnight’s Long-Term Care News:
I’d read about the Genworth R70i Aging Experience and when I discovered the exhibit was making a brief appearance near me at the Liberty Science Center in New Jersey, I headed over with my 9-year old assistant to see what it was all about.
The Aging Experience involves a high-tech suit designed to help younger people gain insight into the physical effects associated with aging. When I told residents I was going to age myself via the suit, reactions ranged from an incredulous, “Why in the world would you want to do that?!” to “Great! We can compare notes,” to, “Can they make a suit to make you feel twenty-five?”
My assistant and I arrived 15 minutes before the 11 a.m. demonstration so that I’d be dressed and ready. The Applied Minds staff, who partnered with Genworth on this project, took us into the back of a tech-filled room where they Velcroed various parts of the suit onto me, adding an extra 40 pounds strategically placed to mimic age-related weight gain.
This resulted in the constant thought throughout the half-hour presentation that it would be really nice to sit down.
The helmet included goggles and headphones, so that they could give me various disorders including glaucoma, macular degeneration, cataracts, age-related hearing loss, tinnitus and aphasia. I was finally able to see what one of my patients referred to when she said, “I have macular,” as if she was intimate enough with the condition to be on a first name basis.
After undergoing vision and hearing loss, I was faced with rheumatoid arthritis and hip problems that made walking on the treadmill a chore. Even without the additional physical challenges, trudging on the virtual beach was so difficult that I estimated a two-minute hike would be enough before it lost its pleasure – and I love walking on the beach.
The audience was able to observe my heart rate and perceptions on the screens behind me and then to try on goggles and headsets and experience the ailments themselves.