“The good news is that we’re living longer. The bad news is… [we’re] not really prepared for it,” said Janice Luvera, global brand leader at insurance company Genworth.
Many people don’t like to talk about, or even think about, the problems that come with aging. Which is an issue if you’re an insurance company specializing in long term care insurance. So the team at Genworth came up with an inventive solution-- an exoskeleton that simulates what it’s like to age. The hope is that it will get people talking about and planning for aging and, of course, help sell insurance plans.
The demonstration includes three parts. First, the helmet stimulates a number of visual impairments, including tunnel vision and what it’s like to have cataracts. Second, it stimulates auditory impairments, including tinnitus and faux-aphasia. After experiencing this second part, journalist Chris Davies wrote, “I suddenly understood why so many older people might opt to sit back and tune out of social situations rather than face something so stressful.”
The third part of the demonstration is physical impairment. Users walk a treadmill and experience what it’s like to have mobility issues, with their joints seizing up. According to Davies, the worst isn’t when both legs have issues, it’s when just one does, as this throws you off balance.
The makers of the exoskeleton hope that, in addition to it being a sales tool, the exoskeleton might one day help seniors. As inventor Bran Ferren points out, “rather than being used to slow you down” the exoskeletons could in the future “replace muscle strength that is gone.”