March 12th, 2003

Putting Designers In an Aging-Population’s Shoes

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German company Meyer-Hentschel is taking some of the guess work out of designing for an aging population with its Age Explorer, a simple suit that lets the wearer take a turn at life at age 70.

Equipped with 13 pounds of weights strapped into the legs, pads that stiffen the elbows and knees, and thousands of tiny “needles” sewn into the gloves to achieve a sense of instant arthritis, the Age Explorer jettisons its wearer decades into a human body’s potential future.

The goal of the Age Explorer is to afford decision-makers, designers and marketing execs an opportunity to see the effect of products and product development on older users. According to an article on Deutsche-Welle (dw-world.de), that can be a boon to world that can’t see past hip, small, and convenient technology built by a 25-year-old, but impractical for a 75-year-old. Currently, about 10 percent of the world’s population is over age 60, but the United Nations predicts that number will grow to 22 percent in the next two decades.

In addition to movement difficulties offered by the suit, the Age Explorer also hinders the wearer’s vision with a mask that eliminates a portion of the wearer’s peripheral vision, and tints what is left a yellow color. The suit also blocks sound with earphone-like devices, and gives the user an overall sense of detachment from his or her physical surroundings. According to the Deutsche-Welle article, Meyer-Hentschel is hoping to incorporate mental conditions, including interrupted thought processes and confusion, into the Age Explorer’s next incarnation.

Source: Deutsche-Welle (dw-world.de)



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