Get Models Now, a modern design studio based in Poznan, Poland, has designed a 3D printed “Age Suit” that lets wearers experience what it feels like to be elderly. The suit, made from PLA and other materials, restricts movement to replicate the feeling of age.
Walking, bending over, crouching down, sitting on a chair, getting up, climbing the stairs, reaching objects from the shelf: these are all simple tasks that most of us would do without a second thought. But for the elderly, many of these tasks can become an ordeal. Their bodies are not as strong or limber as ours, and we too often forget this fact when going about our own lives.
So what if their was a way to make us feel just like old people do? To temporarily make walking, bending over, crouching down, and all those other tasks as strenuous and challenging as they can be to persons aged 65 years or older. Would it change the way architects design buildings, or the way designers create furniture, in order to benefit those who may struggle most with their creations?
Get Models Now, a modern design studio based in Poznan, Poland, wanted to find out the answer to those questions, and enlisted the help of the University of Nature in Poznań and the Baltic Senior Association to carry out its goal: creating the world’s first fully 3D printed “Age Suit” that would make young people feel old, a tool designed to provoke true empathy with the senior members of society in order to make life better for everyone.
The Age Suit, made using a combination of 3D scanning and 3D printing technologies, uses specially crafted elements that block certain movements, add weight around the tendons and ligaments, and make the wearer feel heavy so that performing certain daily activities suddenly becomes difficult.
The 3D printed body suit was designed after many hours of analyzing the movements of a woman aged 75, who performed daily physical activities in a natural way. By closely observing which of her movements appeared the most strained, the Get Models Now team began to understand which areas of the suit needed to be most restrictive in order to most realistically replicate the effects of age.
Once the designers had an idea of how they wanted their Age Suit to function, they had to go about making it. This involved the use of 3D scanning technology, 3D modeling and plastering, and 3D printing on a ZMorph SX 3D printer. A combination of regular PLA and flexible PLA was used to print the firm and stretchable parts of the suit, respectively. While the entire design and fabrication process took around five months, printing took just three days.
It’s fascinating to see how the designers went about replicating certain bodily restrictions with 3D printed suit elements. The shoulder pad of the Age Suit causes a significant reduction in the movement of the hands by narrowing the angle of arm movement, while elements created for the thighs and calves simulate the fatigue of our tendons and joints, which in old age affect us to a greater extent and more often.
Replicating excess body weight, which becomes especially problematic in old age, was achieved with a heavy 3D printed belt. This belt is designed to reflect surplus weight, which significantly limits movement in elderly people. Movements are consequently not smooth and require extra concentration and patience.
In addition to the suit itself, the complete Age Simulator package includes six pairs of glasses that effectively simulate the most common eye diseases in the elderly, including cataracts, glaucoma, tunnel vision, diabetic vision, and loss of visual acuity.
Yet despite being intentionally burdensome by design, the simulator package is actually small in size and easy to use, and can fit most people thanks to its adjustable fasteners. This makes it easy to transport and offer to different parties who may be interested in simulating the effects of age. Get Models Now, for what it’s worth, has a few recipients in mind.
One of the most important targets for the Age Suit are furniture designers, whose chairs, sofas, and other products are often designed with too little thought for the elderly. If these designers were to try on the 3D printed body suit while designing their products, the hope is that they would be more accommodating to senior citizens, having experienced their difficulties first-hand.
Other potential users include public transport engineers, clothing designers, and architects, all of whom need to create products that are usable by the elderly.
Get Models now is attempting to sell the Age Simulator package to companies, but educational institutions cooperating with the Interreg Baltic Sea Region and Senior Baltic programs will receive free access to the 3D printable Age Simulator files.