Simulating Seniors: How do Engineers Know what the Older Generation Needs? - BodyShop Business
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Simulating Seniors: How do Engineers Know what the Older Generation Needs?

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You can produce cars that appeal to young people easily enough, but how do you make sure those cars also suit the unique needs of senior citizens and members of AARP? Simply adopting the ad slogan, “Built for those of you with muscle aches and hemorrhoid pain,” isn’t going to be enough to convince seniors that a vehicle is right for them.

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But how do engineers know what the older generation needs when the engineers themselves are still whipper snappers?

Don the “Third Age Suit,” and get ready for a simulated senior experience.

Created by Ford engineers to wear when designing cars for older people, this bulky suit looks to be a combination of a hockey goalie’s uniform and a beekeeper’s outfit, with a little bit of astronaut gear tossed in. Designed to simulate the conditions of seniors, the suit adds bulk and restricts movement in key areas of the body, like the knees, elbows, stomach and back. A set of gloves also reduces the sense of touch, and goggles simulate cataracts.

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The Ford Focus is the first car to benefit from the use of the Third Age Suit. This may seem unusual, since the Focus looks to be marketed toward a younger crowd. But if you take a closer look at the Focus, you’ll see there’s a wide, high front door and a raised H-Point (the point where the hips swivel). Both of these were the result of engineers and designers wearing the suit during the design phase.

While the Third Age Suit is giving Ford designers an advantage by artificially aging them during developmental stages of a car, other manufacturers are also taking the needs of older people to heart. For example, the latest Corvette has doors 11.5 inches wider than before, and the opening height has been raised by 2 inches. While this may seem odd on the sporty Corvette, designers noted that the aging baby-boomer crowd (a.k.a. men going through a mid-life crisis) are a top buying segment of the classic sports car and might need extra help, even if they don’t ask for it.

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Meanwhile, the Chevy Impala has oversized knobs for climate control, bigger inside door latches, large outside mirrors and an interior tire-pressure gauge that helps those who have trouble bending down to check the tires. Designers note the trick to these features is to not make them obvious. People of all ages can use them, and the people who need the features the most won’t notice they were put there for them. Unless they read this article.

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