AGNES helps students feel the effects of aging

HANCOCK – Copper Country Intermediate School District health career students are learning the physical effects of aging, thanks to AGNES, which stands for Age Gain Now Empathy System.

AGNES is a suit designed to simulate the impact of aging by limiting mobility; altering vision, balance and touch; and impairing hearing. While wearing the suit, the students experience activities such as buttoning a shirt, using a cell phone and managing medications.

“It’s to give them an idea that when they’re working with older clientele, they appreciate or have a better understanding of what they may be facing,” CCISD superintendent George Stockero said.

Stockero said the suit creates a real understanding for students who will work with the elderly.

“It has all these things that restrict your movements.” Stockero said. “It gives you a little pain, it makes you feel like you have extra weight on you. It’s pretty unique.”

The age simulation suit came to the CCISD last fall as the result of a grant from the Youth Advisory Council (YAC) of the Keweenaw Community Foundation. The $600 grant provided the opportunity for the CCISD program to create empathy suits and age-related experiences inspired by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s AGNES. The project was part of $15,100 awarded to several local organizations from the Kellogg Youth Endowment Fund as part of its 2015 fall 2015 granting cycle.

The project was chosen for funding by the KCF’s Youth Advisory Council because it addressed an area of need highlighted by a youth needs survey.

“One of the grant goals was to provide experiences that would promote empathy in the students’ clinical settings, Teresa Shoup of the CCISD said. “In this respect, the grant was successful. Even more impressive, however, was that students reflected on the need for empathy in all aspects of their lives.”