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Ford design your own car


The most annoying thing about aging 30 years in 15 minutes was the crook in my spine and the sag in my shoulders. It felt like being stuffed into some smaller version of myself, but I was lucky. "I’m being nice, " said the woman who’d just fitted me into the suit, designed to simulate old age. "I could have given you back problems, too. Now you just have a bit of a belly."

Just like I was doing now, every new ergonomics engineer at Ford gets a turn in the suit. It's meant to teach what is probably the most important rule of design: Your customers' lives aren't your own, and you’re designing for them. From the outside, the get-up looked like SWAT gear. Tough as it looks, each one of these pieces was designed not to protect me, but to slow me down and simulate decrepitude. The braces on my elbows and knees cut the range of motion in my joints by 75%. Straps pulled down my shoulders and back, while weights, fastened around my belly like a life jacket, simulated a couple more decades worth of french fries. The final, genius touch: a vibrating counterweight on my right hand, to simulate a hand struck by Parkinson’s tremors.

I was told to try and get into a Ford F-150, but I could barely make out what the hell it was I was supposed to do first. My hearing was gone, buried behind a stifling headset. The photographer I brought along was moving her lips in my direction. Maybe even looking at me? I creaked forward in an old man lurch, mouth agape, and croaking at a ridiculous volume, "WHAT DID YOU SAY?" To get into the truck, I had to give a leery appraisal of the handholds. Sitting down gracefully was out of the question. I had to point my butt at the chair and collapse, letting gravity do what my knees could not. I was acting old without even trying. Which was exactly the point of the suit: It’s hard to describe what being 70 is like. So you have to make someone feel what it’s like.

Arm braces restrict your movement and simulate the loss of joint flexibility that happens when you age.

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