Family caregivers can feel frustration when caring for senior loved ones because we can’t identify with what they are experiencing.
We don’t know what it means to have an aging body that isn’t as mobile as in younger years.
Hearing challenges are simply difficult to understand when they’re not ours.
Diseases of aging eyes can make it harder to see than we imagine, often because seniors don’t let on their eyesight is failing them.
Senior loved ones are often too proud to admit their bodies are betraying them – and may want to avoid becoming an even greater burden to family members who are already doing so much for them.
It doesn’t help that we as family caregivers often don’t know the signs of conditions that may be affecting our seniors and don’t know the questions to ask.
Wouldn’t it be nice if we could get a better understanding of what is happening to them?
Genworth Aging Experience
I received a wonderful gift today at CES® 2016, a chance to experience a small taste of what my grandfather lived through in his elder years.
The Genworth Financial and technology innovation firm Applied Minds have teamed to create a unique experience, the Genworth Aging Experience, to help create a bridge between generations.
If walking in someone’s shoes helps understand them better, imagine what walking in their body can mean.
Being able to walk in my grandfather’s body, even for a short time, was the eye-opening gift I received today.
We have a video of the experience we will share in a future Senior Care Corner® Show, but want to talk about the experience now in hopes of motivating other family caregivers to take the stroll themselves.
Innovative Technological Exoskeleton
I was able to simulate walking in his body through the use of a technology supercharged exoskeleton (“suit” just doesn’t do it justice) at the Genworth Aging Experience.
My first hint I was in for a special experience came in the dressing room, where two technicians spent fifteen minutes fitting and attaching the exoskeleton to me.
The exoskeleton weighed 40 pounds and felt heavy and constraining, even before any of the special technology enhancements were put into action. This was to give me the experience of life with 40 extra pounds if I didn’t watch my weight as I age.
I got that message!
Senior Eyesight Challenges
My first demonstration was of the impact of some diseases of the eyes on senior’s ability to see.
- Macular Degeneration
I had heard about these conditions – and have senior loved ones who have experienced them, usually in silence – but had no idea about the impacts.
This demonstration at once gave me great respect for someone living with one of those conditions and motivation to help them avoid letting a condition progress to a point where their eyesight is so greatly impacted.
It also left me with motivation to make greater use of my sunglasses.
Senior Hearing Challenges
Just as eye-opening (no pun intended) as the first demonstration was my opportunity to experience what can happen to older – and not so old, in some cases – adults’ hearing.
I received a lesson in what tinnitus can mean to someone suffering from that condition.
I heard what is experienced by a senior with presbycusis, the loss of ability to hear sounds at the higher and lower ends of the range. That cuts out a lot.
What really hit me was the impact those two conditions can have when they double team a senior, which is not uncommon.
I also got a hint of what it means to have aphasia which is not a hearing disorder but can make communication difficult.
Maybe my greatest lesson from wearing the exoskeleton was its simulation of the mobility limitations an aging body can impose on our senior loved ones.
I was able to experience the impact of arthritis and other conditions on relatively simply motions, like shooting a basketball (okay, that’s simple for me due to lifelong practice), changing a lightbulb or even reaching for an item in a kitchen cupboard.
My grandparents had some of those same limitations, which leaves me amazed they were able to do so much – – and wishing they had asked for help so they wouldn’t have to do so much.
We often talk about the impact of mobility loss on seniors’ ability to live independently and now I understand a little better why that is the case. Simulated hip and knee joint issues made it much more difficult to walk.
It’s no wonder a senior with a hip issue doesn’t want to get up and go out for a walk, shopping or to visit others.
Prevention is the Objective
The gift I received today is one I encourage other family caregivers experience for themselves if they have a chance.
Having walked in my grandfather’s body, even for just a short time, gave me great respect for what he experienced every day.
If only he would have said something – – or I would have known what I do now and asked the right questions.
While the Genworth Aging Experience helps us understand what our seniors are experiencing in their aging bodies, it was explained the objective is to motivate us to help them (and ourselves) take actions to avoid those conditions.
Genworth has plans to take the experience around the U.S. to give many more people an opportunity experience what impacts the bodies of the seniors in their lives. We encourage you to take advantage of that opportunity if they go to your community.
I am grateful for the opportunity I was given and consider our coverage of CES 2016 to be a great success, even before the show officially opens.