Staff at Guy’s and St Thomas’ are putting themselves in the shoes of older patients by using an innovative ageing simulation suit that helps them experience life as an older person.

One of only three in use in the NHS, the suit has been specifically developed to reduce movement, hearing and vision, and was worn by staff to better understand the challenges elderly patients face every day.

Head of Nursing for Acute Medicine at the Trust, Heidi Jensen, said it was an important experience to help build the specific skills required to care for older patients with complex needs.

“We didn’t want to just tell staff how to help patients, we wanted them to experience the difficulties our patients face and come up with their own suggestions for how we can improve care for our older patients,” Heidi said.

“The suit has weighted wristbands and armbands to weigh the wearer down and make their joints stiff, a stiff back support to simulate curvature of the spine due to osteoporosis, ear plugs to make hearing difficult and goggles to reduce vision.

“It can also include gloves to reduce sensitivity in the hands, replicating the effects of diabetes brought on by age.”

One member of staff said: “It has really made me think about what our patients go through and what is the best way to help them to carry out daily tasks.

“We were asked to do an everyday activity, so I tried to get out of bed, put on pyjamas, and use the loo while wearing the suit – but it was so difficult to do the things I take for granted. I couldn’t move easily and had to cling to furniture to keep my balance, and I wasn’t always aware of what was going on around me.”

Girda, a staff nurse, said: “I was asked to eat food while wearing the suit – I found it almost impossible and quite distressing, which showed me how much help some older patients really need during meal times.”