PHILADELPHIA, PA- Many of us have wondered, from time to time, What our lives will be like when we grow old. The aging process changes the way we see, hear, taste, and smell, which in turn affects how we react to things and how we see the world.
What About Aging? Your Changing Senses, a new exhibit that was shown first at the Franklin Institute Science Museum, gives visitors the chance to experience first-hand what it's like to see, hear, taste, and smell as though they were healthy people in their 70s and 80s. Through a series of participatory devices, computers, graphics, and photographic displays, visitors will get a preview into the future, as well as an understanding of what the world looks like for the nearly 26 million people over 65 in America today.
Developed by the Rehabilitation Research and Training Center in Aging at the University of Pennsylvania and The Franklin Institute Science Museum, designed by Z Studio of Philadelphia, and funded by the SmithKline Beckman Corporation, What About Aging? describes and demonstrates the normal changes that occur in our senses as we grow older.
The 1500-square-foot exhibit is filled with interactive devices and special "environments" that invite visitors to experience some of the physical changes and hidden handicaps associated with age.
Peering through an adapted lens, a visitor sees as if he or she is 80. Everyday objects look remarkably different - colors fade, edges appear less distinct. In looking through the lens at familiar objects of different texture and surface, visitors can see how environments can be modified to accomodate older eyesight.
In another display, a videotape machine plays excerpts from a Philadelphia Phillies game, a Philadelphia Orchestra performance, and an excerpt from "On Golden Pond" while the visitor listens through a pair of earphones to the quality of sound heard by many older people. Close by are suggestions about how people can adapt to the changes in hearing caused by aging.
Elsewhere in the exhibit, instructions to a computer game are given as they would be heard by people in their 70s. Visitors attempt to play the game based on what they've been able to understand. Another computer dispels myths and discusses realities about older people - who they are and how they live.
Photographs depicting vital, active older people, and visual representations of the early and late artistic achievements of Monet, Matisse, Rembrandt, and Turner, make up another part of the exhibit.
What about aging? It's inevitable. Says project director Dr. Tamerra Moeller, of the University of Pennsylvania, "Getting a preview of what's to come will help dismiss some of the myths of aging, teach environmental modifications, help allay the fears some of us have about getting older, and foster our understanding of those who are already there."
What About Aging? Your Changing Senses will travel for two years to 12 major cities throughout the country.