Empathy is not usually a word that springs to mind when I think of good design.  However,  MIT believes that’s exactly what the designers, product developers and engineers of the future will need.  They believe that we have to come to terms with the fact we are an aging population, and we will need to make provisions for the limitations that can come with old age.

“U.S. Census data projects that the last of the Baby Boomers will turn 65 in 2029, making up 16% of the total population. And now a suit — called AGNES (Age Gain Now Empathy System) — created by researchers at MIT’s AgeLab, can simulate old age. The suit can be worn by students, product developers and engineers for the sake of better design. Heavy helmets, neck braces and yellow-tinged glasses create the feeling of achey joints, limited mobility and blurred vision.”

The people who wear the AGNES suit get to feel what it’s like to have limited mobility in order to have a true understanding of the needs of our aged population.

Tesco is putting these kind of insights into effect by developing “Seniors Supermarkets”:

“The slow-tempo music fills the air as customers edge their way across the nonslip floor towards the extra-wide aisles. The shop’s overhead lighting is brighter, the shelves fitted with steps and there’s even the chance of a relaxing massage to ease away any trolley rage. This is the Seniors Supermarket – a European success story set to revolutionise the way silver shoppers buy their groceries.”

The Living Vicariously™ wave is about having an experience that doesn’t have drastic consequences. I’m sure after wearing these suits for a while, the students are very glad they can take them off …something I bet our senior citizens wish they could do.

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