MIT’s AgeLab developed a suit, affectionately called AGNES (Age Gain Now Empathy System), to help marketers and researchers better understand what it is like to be old. The wearer sports two pairs of latex gloves to hinder his hand movements, special shoes to throw him off-balance, and a series of elastic bands to restrict movement and apply pressure to his joints.
While watching AGNES’s debut on the TODAY show, I was reminded of another condition with similar symptoms: pregnancy. Now, perhaps I’m just sensitive to this matter because I’m just days away from delivering my first child, but I think MIT really may have missed a golden opportunity here.
AGNES helps create several symptoms associated with old age such as joint pain/restriction, limited mobility (particularly in the knees and arms), balance issues, and arthritis in the hands. My pregnancy has caused joint pain and restriction, limited mobility (particularly in my knees and trying to reach things in high places), balance issues and the swelling in my wrists has given me carpal tunnel syndrome making it painful and sometimes difficult to use my hands.
Did I miss any symptoms? AGNES is pretty well covered, but the list of pregnancy symptoms goes well beyond the ones mentioned above just like the symptoms of aging. In fact, I think pregnant women have more in common with the elderly than most people realize. Take a look at these additional common symptoms that many of the elderly and pregnant women share: stomach sensitivities (digesting food, constipation, and/or increased heartburn), trouble sleeping, mild incontinence, memory problems, skin issues and fragility.
Lets face it, pregnant women gain an amazing insight into what it’s like to be old; Certain foods don’t sit quite right, they get a lot less sleep, they aren’t suppose to participate in certain activities in case they get hurt and they develop “prego-brain” a condition that causes you to stand in the bedroom for five minutes looking for an apple before your husband points out that you still keep fruit in the kitchen.
If marketers and researchers are really looking for people to try out their products and their placement location on shelves for the elderly, I will happily apply for the job – no AGNES suit required! I’ll probably even give them better feedback than a 27 year old in the AGNES suit. For instance, I’ll tell them about the countless hours I spent trying to convince my husband that we needed to buy one of those mattresses that raises and lowers with a remote control. And if they ask me to get something from a bottom shelf, I’ll laugh at them instead of trying to bend over to see how difficult it is.
But if pregnant women replace the AGNES suit for marketing and research purposes, what will become of AGNES? I certainly don’t want it to go to waste, so I’ve come up with a solution for that, too. If AGNES simulates old age and old age is like pregnancy, then AGNES also simulates pregnancy. And I can’t think of a better way for fathers-to-be to get in tune with their pregnant wives than wearing the AGNES suit for a day. Perhaps they will then understand why daily back massages and motorized mattresses are necessary.
“Suit up! Aging outfit makes you feel old.” TODAY. Host: Peter Alexander. NBC. New York. 24 Mar. 2011.
AgeLab, AGNES. MIT. 12 Apr. 2011 http://agelab.mit.edu/about-agelab
Singer, Natasha. “In a Graying Population, Business Opportunity.” New York Times 5 Feb. 2011.