Thursday, March 28, 2013


Click here to read the New Straits Times article

Honestly, one doesn't have to be 70 or 80 to feel physically old. I know some 40-somethings who are already complaining of aches and pains that won't go away, of hearing problems and of poor memory. But to those who have no clue, what is it like to be old? This was a question that was raised during a talk I gave recently at a specialist hospital. It was a pertinent question given that most geriatric nurses are young and the patients in their care are elderly.

Sharing my gerontological resources and 'hospital patient' experiences with the nurses

For young nurses and caregivers, if you want to experience what it feels like to be old, here are some experiments you can try out. Make sure you have someone beside you in case you require assistance.
  • Put on a pair of reading glasses and walk around your place of work. You will feel insecure because your vision is blur. Drop by at a supermarket. Try to read the labels on the food packages with the reading glasses. You will find the words illegible.
  • Stuff your ears with heavy duty F1 ear-plugs and ask your friend to chat with you. Half the time you won't be able to hear what she is saying.
  • Bandage your elbow and knee joints and try to bend and pick up something from the floor or reach for an item on a shelf.
  • Wear woollen gloves and then try to do or undo the buttons on your shirt.
These are just a few simple examples to give young people an idea of what being old feels like in a world that still caters largely to the young and able-bodied.

For the full experience of what it physically feels like to be old, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) came up with AGNES in 2011. It is an acronym for Age Gain Now Sympathy which is a special suit designed to help young engineers at MIT understand the physical limitations of  older people so that they can come up with elder-friendly devices to help them live independently.

Let's make an effort to be more patient and caring towards our elderly parents. It can't be easy for them when almost everything they do is a physical challenge. A little empathy from us can go a long way in making life less painful for them.

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