In an age where companies are trying to produce more environmentally friendly products, a new industry is slowing evolving; age friendly products. With older adults living much longer than previous generations, companies are shifting their focus and gearing merchandise towards the elderly population. Studies have shown that the elderly are less likely to buy products that highlight their aging. There are fewer “I’ve fallen and I can’t get up” commercials, and phones with giant sized buttons. However, to invent attractive products that are user friendly for the elder consumer has proved more difficult than expected.
Agelab, which is based at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, has made this task a little easier for some companies, as discussed in a recent article in the New York Times. They have developed “Agnes” (which stands for Age Gain Now Empathy System) an age sympathy suit which when worn, stimulates the dexterity, mobility, strength and balance of a 74 year old. The researchers at MIT hope that this suit will help inventors on their mission to build products which the older population will not only buy, but will help maintain their independence and improve their quality of life.
“Agnes” reminds me of the sensitivity trainings I have conducted for years, where we rub Vaseline on eyeglasses to simulate failing eyesight, place marbles in the shoes to demonstrate poor balance, and cotton balls in the ears to illustrate reduced hearing. We gerontologists were ahead of our time!
Another trend is the desire for the older population to stay in their homes longer than previous generations. With the new technologies that are springing up these days, this wish is coming true for many of them. Wireless pill boxes, robots with video screens to use with Skype, and GPS systems and sensors that monitor the elder movements around their homes are all technologies currently being tested and used.
Growing old is inevitable, but with the new market of age friendly products, let’s hope we can all do it with grace and maybe a little style.
Marla Levie, BSW, MA, President and Founder of Focus on Aging, has successfully been providing marketing consulting and recruiting services to the elder care market and to other service-related professions in the Chicago area for over 20 years. Use the contact tab to email Marla for additional information about her services.