Ritu Belani: Bringing AgeLab lessons back to California
It sounds absurd to walk into an office space and see a life-sized mannequin sitting in the middle of the room, but if there’s anything I’ve learned about the AgeLab from my summer with them, it’s that they embrace uniqueness and the moments of inspiration which arise from it. If you’ve ever taken a tour of the AgeLab, then you’re familiar with AGNES, a suit designed to simulate some of physical limitations associated with aging and reduced mobility.
Before interning at the MIT AgeLab, I was conducting technology classes at local senior centers and leading policy causes related to older adults in the California Bay Area, such as nursing home reform and home accessibility modifications. The platform provided by the AgeLab has helped me think at the next level and prepared me to build programs back home which can have a greater impact on the older population. For example, the AgeLab’s focus on longevity planning got me interested in expanding opportunities for older adults to get involved in the workforce later in life.
Going into the school year, I look forward to working on a project making a local community college curriculum more accessible to older adults and connecting these program graduates to professional opportunities.
Among other things, the MIT AgeLab has also opened my eyes to the diversity in experiences with aging across the country. At the July Lifestyle Leaders session that the MIT AgeLab organized, where interns played a critical role, I learned about the perspectives of different adults over the age of 85 on extreme weather preparedness and climate change.
The MIT AgeLab also gave me an opportunity to collaborate with student interns across the US. It was a great bonding experience, from exchanging notes on courses offered at our respective schools to sharing about our collective usage of social media.
Having spent an enriching and inspiring summer with the AgeLab team, I’d highly recommend getting involved in the Lab to high schoolers who want to expand their horizons and make an impact beyond their local initiatives.