A unique simulator for geriatric care allows students to see, feel, and understand what it is like to be an aging human being.
Medical innovations often, if not always, stem from insights drawn first-hand from patients afflicted with conditions that need treatment. To help understand and address the health concerns and needs of an aging population, Rahel Eckardt of the Evangelical Geriatrics Center in Germany has created the “Age Man,” a special suit that allows the wearer to simulate the physical limitations and constraints of the elderly.
Weighing in at a heavy 10 kilograms, the suit features ear mufflers that prevent full hearing, pads on elbows and knees to stiffen joints, a tight jacket to prevent easy breathing, a yellow visor to disorient sight and color differentiation, and padded gloves to partly disable the sense of touch. In this manner, Eckardt hopes to encourage empathy and sensitivity among medical students toward geriatric care. As told to The Guardian, Eckardt explains the insight behind the Age Man suit:
My aim is to turn young energetic people into slow, creaking beings, temporarily at least. That way they will I hope, develop a feeling for what it’s like to be old. Rather than a PowerPoint presentation, this is the best way of giving them a real idea of what it’s like to be old – that is, 75 and upwards – and only once we have their empathy can we really begin to win students round to becoming interested in old people as patients. Maybe then they will consider a career in geriatrics, which until now has fought for recognition alongside other fields of medicine that are considered to be more exciting.