MIT IDM Students Try Out AGNES
by Adam Felts
The AgeLab’s AGNES took a trip across the MIT campus to provide students a taste of life in older age. AgeLab researchers Taylor Patskanick, Lexi Balmuth, Lauren Cerino, and Sophia Ashebir demonstrated and deployed AGNES for the first-year cohort of MIT’s Integrated Design and Management program.
AGNES, the Age Gain Now Empathy System, is a suit designed to simulate limitations in mobility and sensation associated with living in older age.
The IDM students were invited to try components of the suit – gloves to reduce tactile sensation and dexterity and goggles to simulate vision impairment – and engage in tasks such as opening medicine bottles and inserting batteries into hearing aids. These are tasks that, for some older adults, may be challenging in ways that a younger designer might overlook.
Later, two students were fully outfitted in AGNES and assigned to complete tasks around campus, with the rest of the cohort following and taking notes. The AGNES-wearing participants reported on how it felt to wear the suit and what activities they experienced differently. At the end of the session, the IDM cohort debriefed on what they had learned from their temporary experiences of older age.
AGNES is used with engineers, designers, and professionals to help them develop a better understand of the experiences of older adults, with the aim of designing better products, services, and experiences for older consumers.