Washington University students simulate the effects of aging

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ST. LOUIS, MO (KPLR) - The Beatles once asked, "will you still need me, will you still feed me, when I`m 64." Thursday afternoon Washington University is asking freshmen to take a walk in an elderly person`s shoes.

"By the year 2050 Missouri is going to look like Florida," says Susy Stark, Occupational Therapy Assistant Professor. "The United States is going to look like Florida. We haven't really begun to think about what that's going to mean."

The program titled, "When I`m 64" encourages underclassmen and women to understand aging and the growing population issues that come with it. Most of these freshmen have a 50% chance of reaching the age of 100.

"It was incredible," exclaims Shayel Patnaik, Anthropology & Biology major. "I'm forever changed. I certainly don't look at the human lifespan in the same way."

"What better place to start than with 18 year olds who may not be thinking about their aging but need to be because they're the ones who are going to end up solving these problems," asks Brian Carpenter, Associate Professor Psychology.

This is the second year for the class that delves into retirement planning, meal planning and like today, experience functional losses like older adults.

"We also tackled issues of end of life care and students initiated those conversations with their own parents," says Stark.

Thursday afternoon they suited up and made their way around the Washington university campus at albeit a slower pace than they`re used to.

"Completely altered my perspective of what it's like to lose function and sense," says Patnaik. "It's really critical and something I took for granted all the time. To live without it for a few hours, wow it was really difficult."

As Will Rogers once said, "we could certainly slow the aging process down if it had to work its way through congress."

Until then, these students will attend to understanding aging with a new found healthy respect.