Car designers in Japan are using a specialized suit to simulate old age to add greater accessibility and utility.
Planning for your old age? Designers in Japan are.
Using a specialized suit, carmaker Nissan simulates what it's like to have bad feet and ankles, stiff joints, a sore neck, weak eyesight or colour-blindness, and even an extra five kilos.
Designer Etsuhiro Watanabe says the suit and goggles are used to make decisions about special needs and accessibility, putting younger staff not only in the minds of the mobility-challenged, but also in their bodies.
SOUNDBITE: ETSUHIRO WATANABE, ASSOC. CHIEF DESIGNER, NISSAN MOTOR, SAYING (JAPANESE):
"Difficulty in walking, back pains, trouble in lifting arms - we wanted to consider assorted infirmities as we designed our vehicles. It's easy to do this for the young, but we wanted to design for adverse conditions and see what modifications are needed."
An ageing suit was first used by Nissan a decade ago and is also worn at firms such as washlet maker Toto to simulate getting around the bathroom.
Nissan's suit and glasses helped the automaker decide on dashboard angling and visibility, as well as driver space and support in a nation where over 40% of the population will be retirement age by mid-century.
Driver Naoki Yamamoto says just getting in and out of the car is a chore.
SOUNDBITE: NAOKI YAMAMOTO, NISSAN DESIGN CENTER, SAYING (JAPNAESE):
"It's very difficult to drive. You lose the freedom you're accustomed to, and while you can move, there are limitations on mobility, such as turning the steering wheel or switching on the indicator."
Universal design technology is not just for the elderly, as larger drivers also have space and mobility needs.
Already in Japan and the United States over 40% of Nissan's customers are over 50 years of age, and that number in greying Japan in particular, is expected to grow over the next few years.
Dan Sloan reporting.
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