Everyone thinks about getting old. Some people look forward to it with excitement, counting the years until they can shake their cane at annoying neighborhood kids. Others fear but accept the coming of old age, and still others do everything they can to keep it at bay.
In recent years, a few scientists have tackled the advent of old age in a technological, futuristic manner – they have created “old-age suits” that make the wearer, whatever his or her biological age, feel all the day-to-day sensations of an average person in their twilight years.
The R70i Suit
One such suit was designed by MIT researchers in 2012, but early this year a new suit – designed by an inventor of visual special effects and a former Disney employee – came to science centers and technology innovation events around the U.S.
The suit, called the R70i, grants the detriments of old age – such as arthritic joints, increased body mass, reduced eyesight – to healthy, able-bodied people.
- One 23-year-old reporter who donned the suit at the New Jersey Liberty Science Center, described weight added to her hips and back to increase her “body mass”, and immobilizing restraints on her arms and legs, which imitate poor muscle tone. Walking becomes a trial as her legs struggle to lift their own weight.
- Another guinea pig experienced the hugely debilitating onset of macular degeneration through goggles that transform the wearer’s vision into a haze of grey “blobs”. A helmet simulates tinnitus, making noises to echo and sound muffled.
Adjusting for the Individual
Since to assume everyone past a certain age is experiencing the same physical issues is unrealistic, the R70i can be manipulated through controls manned by the engineer, who can alter the intensity of the goggles, helmet and body suit. One side of the suit can be set to a different level than the other, creating the lop-sided experience of someone who has had a stroke or hip replacement. The virtual reality “eyesight” can be lessened or worsened with the turn of a dial.
Why Experience Old Age Before Your Time?
So, what’s the point?
The concept came from an insurance company – Genworth Financial – who will use the suit to help potential clients, and the general public, better understand what they can expect as they grow older (minus issues like internal pain, or an increase in the loss of loved ones, of course, which are not so easy to replicate). In addition to selling insurance, the experience could instill young people with more patience and respect for the elderly.
The engineer who designed the suit hopes his creation will expedite the formulation of a different device, intended for an opposing purpose: to improve the lives of elderly folks already struggling with these physical restrictions. He hopes the future holds a more streamlined version of the suit, one that can be worn under regular clothes and facilitate, rather than hinder, movement.
When we consider the very human-like robot that has been gracing our social media feeds recently (warning if you haven’t seen it yet: it’s a bit eerie), the future he imagines, where the elderly get to experience what it feels like to be 40, doesn’t seem so far off.
If you’re feeling the effects of getting older without the help of a suit like the R70i, then you might want to give cannabis a try. At Growers Choice, you can choose cannabis seeds to grow right in your own garden, which some medical marijuana cultivators claim can tackle an array of conditions.