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An Aging Simulation to Better Understand Your Parents and Senior Loved Ones

Kristen Hicks
By Kristen HicksJanuary 1, 2019

Although you know that aging will change your body and how it feels to live inside it, you can’t really understand the impact that it will have on your life until it happens. Genworth, a long-term care insurance company, is seeking to help us better understand and have more empathy for our parents and senior loved ones, however, through a recent aging simulation project.

Learn more about Genworth’s aging experience suit, designed to help people understand what aging really feels like.

Genworth’s Aging Simulation Suit

Our parents and senior loved ones face physical limitations that influence how they go through life each day. While you can’t know exactly what it feels like or the unique challenges it presents, you can do your best to have empathy.

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Seeking to understand your loved one’s aging experience can help you become a better caregiver, but how can you bridge the gap between your experience of the world and theirs?

Genworth came up with a novel answer to that question. Janice Luvera, VP of Marketing at Genworth, explains, “We were thinking about the fact that there are 10,000 baby boomers turning 65 every day through the year 2030.” She continues, “The research is suggesting to us that most Americans that turn age 65 are going to need some form of long-term care services at some point in their lives and they don’t want to talk about aging.”

Since people tend to avoid the topic of aging, Luvera and her colleagues wondered, “How do we create a way to educate people and get them thinking about this issue to at least start having a conversation with people about how they want to age?”

Thus, Genworth created the “R70i aging experience,” a suit designed to help people of all ages understand what some of the most common physical ailments associated with aging feel like.

They took the suit to conferences and events around the country where people of all ages could get a feel for what it’s like to have:

Luvera shares that for the people who gave it a try, it was an eye-opening experience. She states that responses to trying on the suit included comments like, “Now I really understand what my grandfather goes through.” She adds that Genworth also encountered seniors who expressed gratitude for creating something that helped their loved ones understand what they were going through.

That’s precisely the kind of empathy they were hoping to inspire, but more than that, they found that the suit helped people become more comfortable talking about the experience of aging.

Some Aging Simulations That Anyone Can Try

While Genworth’s R70i suit was able to provide an immersive experience, it’s not accessible for every caregiver to try. But Genworth also created a number of aging simulations that are available on their website for anyone that’s curious.

These simulations are divided into three main categories:

  • Hearing impairments: This simulation allows you to hear how presbycusis and tinnitus would influence how you hear music
  • Mobility challenges: This simulation provides an approximation of the experience of putting up groceries while experiencing arthritis, hand tremors and muscle loss
  • Vision simulations: This simulation provides a view of how cataract, glaucoma, floaters and macular degeneration all look

In addition to helping inspire empathy, aging simulations can also play a role in encouraging people to look into steps they can take to prevent some of the common issues of aging, such as avoiding tinnitus or wearing sunglasses more often to protect their vision.

Genworth’s aging simulation can be an interesting experience, but it’s only valuable if you walk away from it willing to turn the experience into positive action. Use what you’ve learned to start conversations in your family about what your parent or senior loved one is dealing with and how you can better help them.

Do you think an aging simulation could help you better understand your senior loved one? Why or why not? We’d like to hear your thoughts in the comments below.

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Kristen Hicks
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Kristen Hicks
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