Experiencing 65, as a 40 year old – The AGING SUITMake text bigger | Make text smaller
Last week I went into Seattle to the Abodian showroom. I was invited, as an “Aging in Place Specialist” to come in and try on their rented “AGE Exploration Suit” as part of a presentation on learning more about Aging in Place and Universal Design features of their industry’s leading-edge technology, in cabinetry and storage solutions that have internal motorized openers and closers, along with high tech appliances like refrigerators, dishwashers, stoves and hoods. What a wonderful experience.
Now I’d seen much of the technology they had related to drawer openers and closers. But what I hadn’t ever experienced was the SUIT. BLUM has created a suit that you can wear which creates the sensation you are about 20-25 years older, 25 pounds heavier, can’t bend your joints as well without pain, and can’t lift your arms and shoulders above your head as well. Beyond that, they also outfit you with gloves that take away the tactile sensation in your hands and fingers (wow, what a pain THAT is to not be able to feel with your fingertips!), headphones to create a detriment in your hearing ability, a helmet that has a lense which
yellows (like the aging eyes) your environment and damages your ability to ascertain the differences between colors, as well as bi-focal glasses that blur your eyesight at two different levels. Talk about a NEW REALITY EXPERIENCE… Wow.
Before they put on the suit, they have you operate some of the drawers and cabinetry, and get a few things up and down, in and out of the base and upper cabinets, so you have a reference point of “able” at your own age, before putting on the suit. Then you gear up! After about 10 minutes of talking to you while you are in the suit (getting hot and tired from holding the extra weight that’s been inserted into sleeves in the suit), they begin your “testing regimen”. You are tasked with the following to do list, and you are watched and timed while you do the following daily ritual type activities:
1) Open a wallet and get 81 cents correct change out of the coin purse pocket in the wallet.
2) Pick out a BLUE paper clip in a box with about 250 paperclips of assorted colors.
3) Get a ream of paper off the back of a bottom shelf in a base cabinet and put it on the counter.
4) Get a stack of breakable plates down from an upper shelf and put them on the countertop.
5) And a few other similar type daily tasks…
So, how do you think it went? How do you think I FELT? The first word that comes to mind is “Appreciation”, followed by “Empathy”. This “age addition” puts me right where my folks are, with me being 40 years old and they being 63-64. WOW, what a reality check this was. Not only as an architect and professional designer with a passion (and already plenty of education) about Baby Boomers and housing solutions that consider our new 1/3 of life longevity we have created in the last 150 years (with medical and technology advances). But also as a SON, as an ADULT CHILD. As someone that WILL soon be tasked with helping create care solutions for my own folks as they enter their latter 1/3 of life.
Is what YOU are designing considering any of this? Are YOUR products and services aware of where we are going? Did you know that 2/3 of people that have EVER turned 65 years old are ALIVE TODAY!? Did you know that between 1950 and 2040 the 85+ age group will have grown from 0.5% to 5% of the population, a TENFOLD increase!? Did you know there are forecasters who are saying the it’s quite likely my own children (6 and 9 years old) could live to 100… 120… maybe even 150 years old when it comes to THEIR children?
Does your business, service, or products design solutions FOR this information? If NOT, how does that make YOU FEEL? Time to consider it, and get ahead of the needs of the Boomer Consumer. 10,000 people are turning 65 years old EVERY DAY for the last 3 years and the next 17 years. For me, I’m designing HOUSING solutions (and teaching / speaking / writing books) that show others how to do so as well, with this “plate tectonics” level massive shift in the demographics of our clients and consumers. You’d better start paddling in your R&D boat, or you are going to get swallowed by the “Silver Tsunami” as it’s being called… Or be up a creek, without a paddle. Your choice.
I can only INFORM and INVITE people to consider the information, education, and learning we provide. I can’t force anyone to PLAN AHEAD, or NOT PROCRASTINATE. We all know that working in planning mode and being pro-active is much cheaper and emotionally more sane that waiting for an accident that forces us into panic mode, back-peddling, emotionally overwhelming decisions that usually aren’t the best or most cost effective. But I can’t MAKE you want to keep your independence, your happiness, your home, your pets, your memories, your garden, and your neighbors. YOU have do decide it’s important enough. We hope you do!