Ergonomic Engineering: Ford Third Age Suit – II

by Vikram

How does it feel not being young and fit like a 30 year old person? The Third Age Suit developed by Ford provides a tangible answer to this question. Within 30 minutes a young engineer grows approximately 30 years older. The Third Age Suit consists of many different elements.

It’s not just variation in size and shape that needs to be factored in. Not everyone who buys a car is going to be a sprite and nimble 25-year-old; just as our population—including car buyers—is getting larger, it’s also aging. Accessible design needs to take this in to account. Back in 1994, Ford commissioned Sharon Cook, an ergonomicist at Loughborough University in the UK, to research the issue of older drivers’ ergonomic needs, and the result was the Third Age Suit.

The Third Age Suit is a series of orthoses (orthopedic braces), gloves, and corsets, as well as goggles that simulate partial vision loss, allowing the wearer to experience what old age is like: restricted movement in the joints and neck, decreased manual dexterity, and impaired vision. By donning the Third Age Suit, Ford’s designers are able to experience their creations the way their parents might, in a mere 30 minutes rather than 30 years.

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