Walking aid for the elderly comes with a box for carrying their furry friends

Humans seem to be wired to be social animals, and that is sometimes a difficult problem for certain people. Loneliness affects everyone, but the pain can become more acute for people who are more advanced in age and who find it hard to develop new relationships because of limits to their mobility. Pets have become a solution for some of the elderly folk, but that, too, comes with its own puzzles to solve. People advanced in age are often advised to still go outside as long as they are able to, but they are hesitant to leave their furry friends at home as well. Solving multiple related problems can be a daunting task, but this walker concept pulls it off in a way that is both simple and effective.

Designer: Feng Chang

There are definitely plenty of walking aid designs, some even serving multiple functions. Some are just a step above crutches that you have to lift to move forward, while others come with wheels that increase mobility at the expense of some stability. Some come with small seats for the user, and others have baskets to hold their things. This particular walker concept combines some of these to present a more agile yet safe aid that has room for your pet when you go out.

The most conspicuous part of this walker is the large box that serves as your pet’s mobile home. You can simply slide the door on top to let the little furry friend in or out, or you can keep it close so that they don’t jump out suddenly. Of course, there are vents that allow the pet to breathe easily while comfortably confined in there.

The walking aid itself has a few aspects that help it rise about common designs. The handle, for example, travels in almost all directions, giving the user the freedom to grip it any way they prefer. There’s a brake button underneath the handlebar that will prevent the user from falling over or sliding. The front wheels also have LED lights above them that can be recharged via a USB-C slot on the opposite side, offering additional safety, especially in darker areas.

This walking aid concept hits two birds with one well-designed stone to help make elderly lives a bit more enjoyable and meaningful. It offers a convenient way for them to bring their beloved pets with them for a walk while also providing mobility and safety for themselves. And while the walker is primarily designed for very old people, anyone with limited mobility and a small pet can still benefit from this idea, at least if it ever becomes a real product.

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Chair with extended arms to help elderly sit and stand without assistance

There are a lot of things that we tend to take for granted just because it comes naturally to us – things like breathing properly, looking at a sunrise, listening to your favorite songs, etc. Eventually, we realize that there are people in the world, maybe even people around us, that find simple things to be a challenge because of some conditions that they have. That’s why I love it when people come up with or collaborate with persons with disabilities to create products that can make life a little bit easier for them.

Designer: Sarah Hossli

The act of sitting down and standing up is something that most of us are able to do naturally. But as you grow older, it becomes a bit more challenging as you reach your twilight years. They say that we are currently in a phase of a rapidly aging population and so we need to rethink things as simple as sitting and standing. If you’ve been around an elderly person, you see that they sometimes need to be assisted when doing these simple actions. But what if there was a chair that would help them out without needing the assistance of other people?

The designer worked with a retirement home (Generationenhaus Neubad) in Basel, Switzerland and came up with the T’ROI chair. It is basically a comfortable-looking chair whose main feature is its extended arms. This slight change to a regular chair will actually help the elderly or those with infirmities to sit down on it and get up later on without needing the assistance of other people. They are able to use the extended arms as their sort of a balancing grip to help them stand up or sit down.

While we automatically try to help the elderly when we see them having difficulties (well, most of us I guess), there are also times when they don’t want to feel totally useless and want to retain their dignity. That’s why having products like the T’ROI chair can give them more confidence in moving around despite their age-related impairments. The secret to a chair like this is to have sturdy materials that will prevent the elderly from slipping or getting into other accidents.

The chair seems comfortable enough which is something they would also need as sitting for a long time can also bring all sorts of aches and pains. It would be better if there was some sort of ergonomic feature for it that can help protect their backs, bones, and joints. But as it is, the T’RIO seems to be a pretty useful piece of furniture that can help the elderly.

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This robot follows you like a loyal pet and lets you sit on it when you’re tired

Robots have almost become mainstream these days, with the dozens of robot vacuums at homes, the numerous uses of Boston Dynamics’ Spot in healthcare and safety, and a few self-driving boxes that attempt to deliver your pizza while it’s hot. We’re still quite a few steps away, however, from the faithful robot companions of fiction, much less the humanoid machines that are promised to take care of us in times of need and frailty. This might still not be it, but this box with wheels probably comes closest to a robot that rolls wherever you go, carrying your stuff or even carrying your weight while you rest for a bit.

Designer: Piaggio Fast Forward

If this robot looks like an icebox with wheels to you, you aren’t far from the truth. Gita, as it is called, can actually carry a load of 40 lbs (18 kg) inside it, which is great for groceries or even books. It’s also strong enough to let you sit on it when there’s no chair or bench available, and it won’t make snarky comments about your weight.

And since it’s a robot, Gita isn’t something you’ll have to pull or push around, which would completely defeat its purpose. What makes it a bit special, however, is that it can follow its owner around using the same technologies you hear about in self-driving cars. It uses a variety of sensors and artificial intelligence to follow its owner and navigate its surroundings. It doesn’t rely on GPS, which makes it possible to have the robot follow you indoors where GPS signals are often weak or non-existent.

If you think that Gita is designed for lazy people, however, you are actually way off the mark. Named for the Italian word for “short trip,” the robot actually encourages people to walk around, enjoy the great outdoors, and not have to worry about carrying things or not having somewhere to sit on to catch their breath. In fact, the UK’s National Innovation Centre for Ageing is using these robots in a test that tries to get older people to be more mobile again.

Gita is also designed to also look more approachable than your common vacuum cleaner or, worse, Spot. The variety of colors available, which includes “Signal Red,” “Spark Citron,” and “Boardwalk Beige,” give the robots more personality, almost like a pet. The smooth, curved surfaces of its body and the unique design of its wheels almost make it look more like a toy than a mechanical tool, potentially helping human users get a bit more attached to their robotic porter.

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This cork planter + assistive device functions as a lantern and health tracker for the elderly!

More than a quarter of the world’s elderly population relies on assistive devices throughout the day to help with daily activities like cleaning, walking, and cooking. With contactless health services rising in popularity due to the global pandemic of 2020, that number is sure to only increase. While functionality is the most crucial aspect of assistive devices, the overall look and approachability are arguably just as important. Recognizing the importance of intuitive and simple design, designers at Iran University of Science and Technology created Fanoos, a health tracker for elderly people that doubles as a nighttime lantern.

Fanoos consists of a planter that rests at the bottom of the device’s three-legged frame and a detachable lantern that sits just above it. The three wooden legs that comprise Fanoos’s frame seem to be cut from natural pinewood, while the planter and lamplight mimic the texture of cork for a soft and lightweight feel. Included with Fanoos is an emergency button located on the top of the lamplight, which can be pressed whenever medical attention is necessary. Through integrated technology, Fanoos tracks the health status of elderly citizens, from sleeping habits to their emotional wellbeing. In fact, Fanoos adapts according to the user’s mood and emotional state.

In addition to the health-tracking sensors that fill out Fanoos, the detachable lamp’s light is adjustable so that it can be dimmed or brightened throughout the day and night according to each user’s preference or need. During the night, when a user needs to use the bathroom or grab a glass of water from the kitchen, the detachable lamp can be used like an old-school lantern and carried throughout the house. Or, if a user cannot walk and carry the lantern at the same time, the brightness can be raised to light up the room just enough to see the floor and surrounding space.

Designer: Iran University of Science and Technology

Fanoos consists of a planter and lantern equipped with integrated health-tracking technology.

Fanoos’s simple assembly further enhances its intuitive design and makes it easy to transport or switch between rooms.

An SOS button on the top of Fanoos’s lantern signal that a resident requires medical attention.

Fanoos adapts to each resident’s changing mood and preference.

Come night, Fanoos becomes a lantern for the elderly to use when moving from room to room.

The Google Nest Audio smart-speaker gets its own detachable Walkie-Talkie with a touch display

Chris Barnes’ conceptual Google device caters to the niche audience that needs connectivity the most, but struggle to keep up with technology or to avoid the complications associated with advanced tech. The Google Home Phone is a fusion of the Google Home smart-speaker (now the Nest Audio smart-speaker) and the Google Pixel), but its spiritual ancestor is, in fact, the landline phone. Designed to be a smart device with a dockable receiver or ‘phone’, the Google Home Phone lets the elderly connect with their relatives and friends who are also a part of the Google ecosystem. Once set up, the Home Phone works like a smart speaker, allowing you to ask for help, access information, or contact people, while the detachable ‘handset’ functions as the receiver on a landline, allowing you to lift it off the base and talk to people, not just using audio, but using video too!

The Home Phone is an incredibly interesting concept for a whole bunch of reasons. For starters, Barnes envisions it as a “better”, smarter, and wireless version of a landline, allowing you to contact people without remembering phone numbers, see who’s calling (via Google’s contact database), be unencumbered by coiled wires, and easily avoid robocalls (thanks to Google’s incredible spam-detection AI). The touchscreen display on the detachable unit serves as a visual aid, allowing the elderly to tap icons without navigating confusing interfaces… and accessibility features like adjustable font-sizes make it easy for people with visual impairment.

Personally, the Google Home Phone gets a bunch of things right with its form factor. Not only is the dockable receiver + base interaction very reminiscent of the landline telephone (in fact the receiver can be held to one’s ear like a conventional phone too), but its circular ‘phone’ also ticks two arguably important boxes. The circular form-factor is rather comfortable to hold in any angle (a great win for people with dexterity issues), but at the same time, dock it onto its base and it also resembles a magical crystal ball, which believe it or not, is a familiar silhouette that also cleverly ties into the magical ability for the circular screen to really display anything, from faces of loved ones, to the time, weather, messages, and even Map routes!

Barnes even fleshed out the Home Phone concept to make sure it’s a practical systems solution (and not just a pretty concept). The base sports a wired connection (so you never have to worry about batteries), and features a powerful smart-speaker that’s easy to talk to. The dockable ‘phone’ sits loosely on top of the base, with ‘no fixed docking position’, which means the elderly never have to worry about making sure they’ve placed the receiver the right way. As soon as the phone and hub are in proximity, the hub begins wirelessly charging the phone. The phone-unit also comes with a notch of its own, featuring a powerful camera system that enables two-way video communication. Not only does it mean the elderly can have video conferences with their friends, family, caretakers, and medical staff, it also enables the latter to keep a watchful eye on their elderly wards by allowing the Google Home Phone to function as a home-camera.

Designer: Chris Barnes

A bread-shaped pill box pops up from this toaster to playfully remind you to take care of yourself!

One of the little joys of life is a perfectly browned toast and you know that you will get a perfect one each time the 3 minute timer is up! Charles Strite invented the automatic toaster that saved so many slices from being burned to a crisp because it is the most human thing to forget – and we forget things all the time, right from drinking enough water to getting up from our desks. However, taking care of ourselves and having medicines on time is something we can’t forget so a team of designers came up with a simple yet genius idea of combining reminders to take our pills with a playful toaster.

This 2020 European Product Design (Design for Society/Design for Elders category) award-winning product is a pillbox that stores a week’s worth of medication divided into days and pops up when it is time to take your daily dose. The traditional pillboxes can make you feel self-conscious but if you have one shaped like bread, everyone around you is going to ‘loaf’ it and want one too – bread has the power to make everyone happy! This toaster works for everyone but was specially made keeping the elderly demographic in mind as they tend to be more forgetful. This playful pillbox and reminder device bring some familiar relief while helping people to take their medication on time. Keep in mind that the older generation may not be most comfortable with using smartphones to set reminders or may not recognize the difference between alarms/reminder tones but the toaster helps because they don’t have to learn how to operate something new. Also, if you miss a reminder on your phone it won’t ring again but the bread slice pillbox will remain popped up which is a second visual reminder to take your medication if you miss hearing it.

You have three slices of “bread” that contain a week’s worth of medication and pop up at regular times each day along with flashing lights and vibrations. The toaster’s form also appeals to the emotional needs of users and reduces the depression caused by long-term medication through its bright colors and familiarity. The Toaster Medicine Box was a 2020 European Product Design Award winner in the Design for Society/Design for Elders category.

Designers: Ding Xiong, Liu Shan, Yang Yunyi of Guangzhou Academy of Fine Arts and Xu Mengzhen of Fuxi Laboratory of China Resources Sanjiu Medical & Pharmaceutical Co., Ltd.

A portable DVD player+display designed to make binge watching easy for the elderly

The digital age was already booming but ever since the pandemic hit, it has reached a whole new level. Now everything has to be done digitally – working, ordering groceries, attending weddings, and even your doctor’s appointments. While most of us are well-versed with using apps for everything, we often forget about the elderly who don’t consider their smartphones as an extension of their body. This is a difficult time for them since they are more at risk but doubly difficult because gadgets are not their best friends. Keeping this in mind, Designer Chen Zhigang (ZJ-DDG) created DVDISC which is a conceptual device aimed at letting folks binge watch without Netflix!

DVDISC is for many of us who still have their old DVD/CD collection but mainly for those who just want to watch a movie without operating a laptop or an app they are not comfortable with. The goal of this design is to make using the device a super simple task, so the UI and UX revolve around that. It has simple physical buttons that are shallow dips in the physical surface and are all labeled which makes it very easy to operate. It literally tells you where to put the DVD or CD and if you need to ‘click’ or ‘press’ a certain button and exactly what it will do. Another important thing was to include a cost-effective display that doesn’t reduce the quality of the image. All you have to do is insert the DVD or CD in the slot and flip it over to watch on the screen. It truly makes watching content easier for the elderly or even those who may experience forms of mental disabilities. After all, everyone deserves a good binge-watching session in quarantine! I would call this a smart design instead of a smart device.

Designer: Chen Zhigang (ZJ-DDG)




MIT wants to use your microwaving habits to study your health

Researchers from MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL) have created a wireless system that monitors how people use the appliances in their homes. The team believes that with data about how and when users operate everyt...

The humble vacuum cleaner gets an inclusive makeover

Over 10 million adults in the UK alone are affected by arthritis and musculoskeletal conditions making it extremely difficult to even do basic household activities as they get older. Regular home appliances are not always designed keeping in mind the independence of our aging generations and cleaning is a tedious task for those who are in pain with the slightest movement. Vacuuming causes wrist ache, back pain and is heavy to push around – Vivo aims to solve this problem with a concept vacuum cleaner built on the ethos of inclusive design.

Its ergonomic build reduces load and strain on the user. The two handles were specifically put in to reduce the force required when pushing the vacuum – it enables the person to use hands, arms, and even their body weight as they will be standing right behind the machine. It includes two brushes, the forward brush dislodges the dirt and the rear brush sweeps it, effectively reducing the “push-pull” into just one push for cleaning.

The Vivo Vac will automatically charge when put back on the dock. It also solves the issue of taking the debris out – once docked, the dust hole on the dock aligns itself with the dust deposit hole on the vacuum and the dust from the device is sucked into a bag inside the dock. The dust bag container is up high on the device so there is no need for bending and it works for several sessions before needing a replacement. I am truly hoping this concept vacuum cleaner is a real product soon because inclusive design has the power to gift independence.

Designer: Alex Worthington

Gillette’s latest razor was built for allowing caretakers to shave the elderly

Gillette is synonymous with two things. A. Shaving, and B. Slick Masculinity. It’s difficult to find brands that have the kind of reach Gillette does, in the shaving industry. It quite literally has no serious competition, which one can only ask for as a brand, but its the latter reference that one could say is a narrow-sighted problem. Gillette has and does cater to women too, with its gentle Venus series that runs smoothly against the skin, removing unwanted body hair, but a major part of Gillette’s portfolio caters to the young man who believes beards are for hipsters, and wants to have an immaculately shaved jawline with no cuts or bruises, in record time. In maintaining that vision, Gillette forgot a significant part of their market. People who want to, but are unable to shave.

A masterpiece of inclusive design, the Treo enables assisted shaving, allowing helpers and caretakers shave the beards of men who are unable to. Using a straight-razor was out of the question, since these helpers/caretakers weren’t professionals, and using regular razors is challenging enough on your own face, so shaving someone else can be nothing short of an ergonomic nightmare.

Gillette began its work on the Treo as early as 2017, analyzing pain points, areas of failure, and coming up with solutions to the wide range of problems. Studying assisted shaving scenarios revealed that men were shaved sitting down, or in a bed, which meant that the angle on the blade and handle had to reflect that arrangement, rather than one where one shaves oneself. Since the subjects weren’t being shaved/groomed in the bathroom, there was also the challenge of shaving cream becoming a messy ordeal, given that you didn’t have a constant flow of water to periodically wash the razor. All this research culminated in the Treo, the world’s first assisted-shaving razor.

Designed with a reoriented blade angle, the Treo can be held like a brush or a pencil, making it easier to maneuver across a jawline than conventional razors. A special razor guard allows the blade to work all sorts of facial hair, thick or thin, resulting in a clean shave with lesser water. The handle of the Treo also doubles up as a tube of shaving gel, allowing the Treo to be practically a shaving kit in itself, and armed with enough gel to last for exactly one shave (so that the blade is disposed of when the gel is used up, ensuring a single blade isn’t used twice). The Treo uses a proprietary water-based gel too, which doesn’t create a mess like foam does, and doesn’t need washing off too. The water-based gel hydrates the skin too, working as an after-shave as well!

It’s great to see the company build a product keeping inclusivity in mind. The Treo not only helps caretakers groom and shave the people they take care of, it also allows the men being shaved to feel clean, comfortable, and even young again!

Designer: Gillette