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Family and Consumer Sciences


Gabriela Fonseca Pereira

Mentor Department

Family and Consumer Sciences


The GERT suit is a series of components that simulate the aging experience, aiming to help people empathize and gain insight into the needs of the aging population. It simulates changes in eyesight, hearing loss, mobility restrictions, stiffness, and loss of strength (Moll, n.d.; Yumuşak, 2019). In the Interior Design Program, students theoretically learn about the aging process and how to address the needs of older adults. However, there is an age gap of at least 40 years between most college students and their target clients. This study is aimed at understanding what students experience while wearing the GERT suit and if it has made them more understanding of the design needs of the aging process. The question guiding this study was: How does wearing a GERT suit influence students' learning about the aging process and applying design solutions for the aging population? This study was proposed at the ‘Human Factors in Interior Environments’ class in the Fall 2021. There were 22 students and each one wore the GERT suit and completed five tasks: Go up and down a flight of stairs, sit down and get up from a seat, enter and exit a bathroom and stall, get directions from someone in the hallway, and use a wheelchair to leave and return to the classroom. After finishing, students were given questions to answer based on how they felt physically and mentally during the simulation (Johnson et al., 2018). By doing content analysis, emerging themes were identified based on students’ common experiences and feelings. The results showed that students frequently experienced changes with hearing loss, eyesight, and problems with coordination. Words that appeared frequently in responses were ‘Tired’ and ‘Uncomfortable’. The majority also felt that it was difficult to complete their tasks safely and felt self conscious walking through the building. When it comes to the experience, students empathized with the aging population and thought that this would have been more difficult with any cognitive impairments and that this simulation would make them more aware of older adults’ needs when designing different spaces. This study shows that students were able to experience some of the changes that come with age and with this, a better understanding of the experiences and needs of the aging population. By experiencing some of the difficulties that arise with the aging process, students understand the diverse range of needs that must be considered during the design process.

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