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Students experience old-age life problems in a workshop

(Provided by the Program in Interdisciplinary Studies) In a workshop, students experienced what it means to be old and experience such problems as presbyopia, hardness of hearing, or hunchback. National Sun Yat-sen University invited the Hondao Volunteer Association to organize a workshop for the students to experience old-age problems and develop empathy and care towards the elderly. The Association provided an “old-age experience package - Peng Zu experience”, which included special glasses, gloves, and ballast for the participants to experience life from the perspective of the elderly through simulation and reflect on the difficulties they encounter.

As part of the workshop, three tasks were designed: Viewing experience, Dining experience, and Walking experience. The students wore special glasses, earplugs, hunchback bags, and leg stiffeners to simulate such problems as unclear vision, hearing impairment, stooping, reduced muscle strength, and joint stiffness. The participants reported back pain, unclear vision, and the need to rest. After wearing the simulation gear for just 10 minutes they were drenched in sweat, experienced pain, and were looking for a bench to catch a breath. Besides experiencing the inconveniences typical of the elderly, the workshop was an opportunity for the students to use their imagination and design an age-friendly space. Once the students were fully armed with the simulation gear, they explored the space around them with assisting volunteers. Experiencing difficulties of the elderly was an incentive for them to use their imagination and design age-friendly space, paying attention to such details as the signboard mounting height and color contrast, bathroom handles, the positioning of assistive devices for wheelchair users, and the height of chairs.

“We are young and we should have more empathy”. Assistant Professor Shu-Mei Chang of the Program in Interdisciplinary Studies, Si-Wan College, NSYSU started a user-friendly design course, hoping that the students will develop more empathy for the disadvantaged and improve the design. Assistant Professor Chang said that this experience can be an incentive for the students to use their imagination to improve and innovate age-friendly space design, and develop more empathy and a correct attitude towards the elderly.

A participant of the workshop, a second-year student of the Department of Foreign Languages and Literature Fang-Yu Liao said that experiencing the old-age symptoms might make people feel gloomy but she would now be able to better understand her grandparents. Having seen so many students willing to experience elderly’s life, a second-year student of the Program in Interdisciplinary Studies Yen-Lin Pan said that although she is scared about the physical process of aging, she hopes that from now on she will switch to a more regular lifestyle, eat well, do some physical exercise, and most importantly, stay young mentally, so that in old age, she can be a university student at heart!

(Edited by Public Affairs Division)
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