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Understanding the Aging Process Through Simulation

"Dialogue with Time" challenges our notions of the aging process through simulated exercises and real time experiences.

In indigenous cultures, the entire tribe cares for its elderly. They're respected and honored for their knowledge and experience. In fact, it is considered a responsibility for the aging to pass down their wisdom to the young. In Westernized countries, however, this is hardly the case. The elderly are too often thought of as dependent, disadvantaged, and unable to live fully whole lives.

A new exhibition that opened this month at the Israeli Children’s Museum in Holon, near Tel Aviv, challenges these stereotypes. Designed for children, but attended by all ages "Dialogue with Time" takes visitors through an interactive experience aimed to change our notions of the aging process, demonstrate how the elderly really live, and look at individuals for who they are rather than who society tells us they are.

The exhibition starts by taking your photograph. You then walk through the "Tunnel of Questions", an ominous purple hallway with clock sounds ticking and questions on the walls in English, Hebrew and Arabic like: “Are you afraid to be old?” "Have you ever lied about your age?" "How old do you think you look?" You then come to the “yellow room” to understand what it’s physically like to be elderly by performing tasks as an aged person would: opening a door with a replicated trembling hand, wearing a padded glove and trying to send a text message; straining to hear a voice on the other line of a telephone that goes in and out of range. Next, visitors enter the storytelling room to meet one of the exhibition’s 50 guides—all age 70 and above—who share their life stories, memories and answer questions. Towards the end of “Dialogue with Time” you are confronted again with your own photograph, only this time its been manipulated to project how you will look decades from now.

“Dialogue with Time” is the third experiential exhibition the museum has hosted, after "Invitation to Silence" led by deaf guides, and "Dialogue in the Dark," an educational tour simulating how it is to be blind. These encounters, while jarring at times, are moving, and above all educational, teaching us that a portion of the population that we may have once dismissed, deserves to be celebrated.

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