Aging simulation suits are becoming more popular because they can be used to emulate the physical and sensory limitations that may be experienced by individuals as they age. This allows the user to gain a better understanding of how aging may affect an older adult’s ability to successfully navigate their physical environment and perceive their physical surroundings. When used in a structured way by business owners, this insight can help them dispel their assumptions about aging to develop better products and services for older adults.
When we consider the physiological changes that most commonly occur with increasing age (e.g. sensory impairments, reduced mobility, decreased strength, etc.), it is easy to imagine how the suit can be used to evaluate existing environments. An article entitled As Baby Boomers Age, Is Architecture Failing Them highlights how one architecture firm uses aging simulation suits to ensure that an aging population can successfully negotiate the commercial buildings they design. By focusing on how ‘baby boomers interact with buildings’, the firm was able to identify specific design elements that needed improvement such as ‘lengthening the landings on escalators to allow [the] user to regain balance’.
Another practical use of aging simulation suits is the Working With Seniors: A Primer for Health Care Providers program at The Michener Institute for Applied Health Sciences in partnership with Baycrest. This program provides healthcare students with simulation experiences to gain ‘first-hand perspectives and experiences of the challenges that seniors often encounter during medical appointments’.
When used strategically, aging simulation suits are effective tools that enable users to consider ways of making environments more accessible for older adults. It is, however, vitally important to remember that not all older adults age in the same way and that the changes simulated with the suits are not indicative of the challenges faced by all older adults. This is why the upcoming Business of Aging Global Network Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area (GTHA) chapter meeting, hosted by the Centre for Elder Research, will feature a tailored experiential workshop that not only uses aging simulation suits, but also explores participants’ beliefs and attitudes about aging. (See flyer for details.) The simulation, when paired with the introspective exercises, can help users make the best use of aging simulation suits, improving their products and services for individuals of all ages and abilities.