Ford uses 'Third Age Suit' to develop elderly friendly cars

To make the elderly more independent and self reliant, Ford created "Third Age Suit" to make driving for old people easy and hassle free. As the age passes elderly drivers may experience decline in vision, motor control or hearing — making the overall experience more challenging.

So how can we design cars that extend a similar level of ease, safety, and comfort to our elderly drivers? Ford created the "Third Age Suit" so its young designers could understand how the elderly would interact with the vehicles they are developing. By simulating common effects of aging, such as hearing loss, vision related problems like glaucoma, stooped posture and impeded flexibility, the Third Age Suit ages the young Ford engineers 30 years under 30 minutes.

The suit named after the European concept that life goes through three stages is a key component of Ford’s design and ergonomics processes. Thanks to that, the engineers at Ford get a closer understanding and develop deeper empathy toward the needs of all drivers, to create an inclusive vehicle.

Third Age Suit Include and its Functions:


A vest weighing about 10kg that stiffens the abdomen, waist and hips region 2.5 kg of weights placed on the insteps that increase the difficulty both in lifting the feet and the operation of the pedals. As we get older, our joints show signs of stress and aging. The extra weight of the suit represents the additional effort required for the elderly in their daily activity.


A torso brace that uses shoulder straps to simulates a stooped posture. A cervical collar that makes the turning of head more challenging. Braces on the elbow joints that hinder movement and impede grabbing and carrying things. Knee braces that limit the movement around knee joints, making activities like sitting down, standing up, and walking, and getting in and out of a car more laborious. These braces are routinely used by orthopedic surgeons to immobilize injured limbs after accidents and operations.

Gloves and Mitts

Fingerless gloves that help young engineers experience the lost power in the hands and the immobility of fingers. Cotton mitts worn underneath the fingerless gloves that limit the sense of touch, a common consequence of diseases such as diabetes. Seniors with such ailments often find basic activities like picking up a coin from a table considerably more challenging.

Aural & Visual Handicaps

Specially-designed acoustic earmuffs that filter out the high frequencies the elderly often find challenging to perceive. Specially-designed goggles that simulate the effects of reduced sight due to aging as well as common disorders such as glaucoma and cataracts.

After suiting up, bending the elbow to grasp the door handle will become a lot less comfortable. It is suddenly requires great exertion to look over the shoulder when changing lanes. Even stepping into the car is much more difficult than usual. Other routine tasks like handing and operation of the switches and buttons, fastening the seat belt also become a real challenge.

Of course, one must not forget that getting older is usually a process which takes place slowly over many years and not within 30 minutes. This means that an elderly driver experiences these same limitations less intensively than a younger engineer to whom all this is completely new.

Nevertheless, no detailed description from an elderly driver is able to replace the experience of feeling the limitations caused by the Ford Third Age suit. And that's why it is so valuable for young engineers.

Source : CarDekho