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Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Kernels of corn in their shoes: A simulation of life after age 85

They put on distorting glasses to blur their vision, and stuffed cotton balls in their ears to reduce hearing, and in their noses to dampen the sense of smell. They put on rubber gloves with bands around the knuckles to interfere with their manual dexterity. And they put kernels of corn in their shoes to mimic the feel of feet that have lost some cushioning fatty tissue – all to simulate what it can feel like to be age 85 or older.

Then to work: unfolding and reading a map with tiny type, blurred by the glasses, in order to plot a driving route. And buttoning a shirt, finding a number in the phone book, dialing the tiny buttons on a cellphone, fishing change from a zippered wallet.

Dr. Vicki Rosebrook developed this set of exercises, called Xtreme Aging, to teach middle-aged and young people sensitivity to the humbling difficulties that seniors can experience. As the Executive Director of the Macklin Intergenerational Institute in Findlay, Ohio, she teaches the program to people in schools, churches, and workplaces.

She started the company three years ago, after a teenage clerk at a hotel joked about her husband being a member of AARP. “We all started sharing experiences and realizing [the] discrimination.”

Advice to people in contact with elderly patients: Walk a mile in their shoes.

Read an example of compassionate care.

Thanks to Jim Leland for the source article in Sunday's New York Times.

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