AGNES puts her best foot forward on NPR's Weekend Edition Sunday

AGNES puts her best foot forward on NPR's Weekend Edition Sunday

The AgeLab's AGNES put its best foot forward on NPR’s Weekend Edition Sunday, which aired a segment on the Age Gain Now Empathy System. AGNES, a suit designed to give its wearers the physical limitations of older age, was as part of a continuing series by NPR on aging. The article and sound bite can be found here.

AGNES has been used by the lab to determine the accessibility of products in the supermarket for older adults. From opening packaging to putting together the ingredients for a box cake mix, wearing AGNES builds understanding of consumer choices and why these decisions change as we age.AGNES (Age Gain Now Empathy System) alters movement, dexterity and even vision to imitate the physical limitations of aging.

“You don’t need to come to MIT to find out what it’s like to get older,” said AgeLab research engineer Jarrod Orszulak. “You can call up a grandparent and ask them to explain that. You come to MIT to experience it. That is why AGNES is unique – it creates empathy.”
AgeLab researchers last summer endeavored to find out exactly how old people feel when wearing the AGNES suit. Rozanne Puelo, Camille McAvoy and Kathryn Godfrey are currently analyzing the data from the project.

And there are future plans under consideration to fully utilize the system’s potential. Orszulak demonstrates how the AgeLab creates research projects out of everyday situations:

“AGNES is a snowbird. Her grandchildren live in Boston and she is coming to visit them. She goes through airport security with her knitting and all her prescriptions. The metal detector goes off because she had a hip replacement. How can we make it easier to get her through airport security? If we can use the suit to build empathy, either by having engineers wear it or even the security staff, AGNES will get through security smoother. And there’s a trickle down effect to that. If it’s easier for AGNES, it’ll be easier for all of us.”

Potential projects involving AGNES include following the system through a trip to the airport via car, shuttle or public transportation. Time and ease of travel could be studied so that older travelers have a better understanding of their options.

Last week, NPR’s All Things Considered ran a segment on the AgeLab’s e-Home Social Kitchen Project. The article and sound bite can be found here.