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Hindering Tools Help Young Therapy Students Appreciate What It's Like To Get Old

PITTSBURGH (CBSNewYork) - Physical therapy students are learning how it feels to be decades older.

In the aging simulation lab at Chatham University in Pittsburgh, wraps, bandages and braces are used to mimic stiff joints, limit motion and create balance problems, reports CBS2's Dr. Max Gomez.

Goggles and colored lenses show students what it's like to have trouble seeing.

These physical therapists in training are experiencing how age related changes affect movement.

"Most of them really like it, because it's active learning, said Dr. Michelle Criss, a physical therapist at Chatham University. "They say they will remember it much better."

"A classmate and I were trying to play catch with a ball," said student Olivia Zeiler. "And just the depth perception was completely off."

The lab simulates everyday tasks the elderly can find challenging like reading cooking instructions and opening medicines with hands impaired by gloves.

Criss says showing students how the elderly navigate the world fosters more understanding in caregivers.

"The goal is really more empathy, having a little bit more understanding," said Criss.

Having limited mobility and vision up and down these stairs has made this student see things in a new way.

"It gave me a perspective on what my patients are going to be going through and how I can change my treatment to help give them a better opportunity to live a better life and a better active life," said student Jared Krater.

The one thing that simulations can't convey is pain, especially the chronic pain that afflicts so many elderly patients.

So while students and other caregivers can learn about mobility issues, they should also remember that pain is often an unappreciated part of growing older.

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