Mike Seskauskas / University of Illinois at Chicago
E-Z Rise Walker for Senior Citizens
University of Illinois at Chicago
E-Z Rise Walker for Senior Citizens
This project brings to the fore the problem of raising oneself from a chair to grasp a walker, plus standing with the same walker. So, walkers aren’t just for walking and therein lies the problem that the project works to solve. – Lorraine Justice
E-Z Rise Walker for Senior Citizens
When starting this project, all I knew was that I wanted to help improve the lives of senior citizens. I brought an open mind and a willingness to listen as I began interviewing residents, caregivers, nurses, and physical therapists. The stories these people shared helped define what direction I should head in with my thesis.
As this project could have gone in many directions, I added two things to the brief to help focus my design process. First, I chose to focus on redesigning the walker. Choosing to redesign an existing product made sense because it was something that senior citizens were already comfortable with. Trying to introduce a completely new product into the lifestyle of an elderly person would have been especially challenging since they like to stick with routines and things they are familiar with.
Secondly, I specifically chose to redesign the "stable" walker. Through secondary research I learned that there are two types of walkers used by the elderly; stable walkers and rollator walkers. Stable walkers are the very basic silver, aluminum bifold walkers that you typically see with tennis balls stuck to the end of them to help with maneuverability. Rollator walkers are what residents refer to as the "Cadillac" of walkers; the ones with brakes, big wheels and built in seats. Since the seniors I wanted to help were those with limited mobility and a lack of upper body strength, they were only allowed to use stable walkers. This was in order to prevent injury.4. The Process: Describe the rigor that informed your project. (Research, ethnography, subject matter experts, materials exploration, technology, iteration, testing, etc., as applicable.) What stakeholder interests did you consider? (Audience, business, organization, labor, manufacturing, distribution, etc., as applicable)
The rigor that informed my project began by getting to know the people I was designing for. By spending time with senior citizens, I was able to get a sense of what areas of their lives served as an opportunity for design. What I discovered through my interviews with the residents was that many truly missed their sense of independence.
Using the notion of independence as a basic "necessity" for my design, I spoke with nurses, volunteers, and physical therapists. They showed me that lack of upper body strength in many residents can cause injury when they try to get up and move around. I discovered that their desire to be independent was also what caused many of them to lose their independence. So I chose to focus on ways to help senior citizens get up and out of their seats safely.
Through my research I also discovered that the walker was a big part of the reason seniors were injuring themselves while getting up. They would rely solely on the walker as a source of stability and it wasn't delivering as promised. So I spent a day using a walker around the house and at school to get a sense of how senior citizens use the walker on a daily basis. This was followed by extensive sketching to realize ways to improve the current walker as it relates to sitting, standing, and stability. Then it was off to the workshop for prototype testing. This involved bending dozens of pieces of conduit to attach to the walker to test different methods of leverage. It also involved cutting and testing different cardboard handle configurations to help increase the gripping areas and ergonomics. I followed up with senior citizens as well as physical therapists on the status of my prototypes so they could give their feedback. This process helped me identify a possible solution.
Now I needed to deliver that solution in an easy to use, aesthetically pleasing, and manufacturable product. I chose to use bent steel, as this is the standard for most walkers because of its structural integrity. As the tube bending process can be complicated, I used sculpture wire to form over 30 small walker prototypes. I then went back and analyzed these wire prototypes to narrow the options down to those ones that were feasible for manufacturing. After this rigorous process a full-scale prototype was built.
Throughout this entire process my main stakeholder was the senior citizen. This walker had to be right for them and fit into their lives. By receiving feedback from the potential users of this product I found a solution that helped increase senior citizen's independence. The prototyping process also helped me to design a product that fit into the manufacturing techniques of most walkers on the market. By achieving a solution in the eyes of the elderly users, and manufacturability as compared to the rest of the walker market, the E-Z RISE walker serves its purpose.5. The Value: How does your project earn its keep in the world? What is its value? What is its impact? (Social, educational, economic, paradigm-shifting, sustainable, environmental, cultural, gladdening, etc.)
The E-Z Rise Walker earns it's keep in the world by improving upon one of the things seniors citizens want most, their independence. Most all walkers on the market are status quo; they serve one purpose, to get from point A to point B. But how do senior citizens transition to point A? By getting out of their seats.
By increasing senior citizen's stability as they get up out of their seats and move around, they are lessening their chance of injuring and confining themselves. This will allow them to be more independent. And as a result they can lead a more active and healthy lifestyle.
Knowing that this small change to the walker can potentially increase a senior's independence and make their lives a little bit better makes the E-Z Rise walker a product that makes a difference.6. Did the context of your project change throughout its development? If so, how did your understanding of the project change?
My understanding of the project changed as I delved deeper into my primary and secondary research. Before interviewing the residents, caregivers, nurses, and physical therapists, I would've never thought that senior citizen's independence would have been an important factor in my walker redesign.
Also, discovering through secondary research that there were two walker categories (i.e. stable walkers and rollator walkers) changed my understanding. Talking with physical therapists confirmed that in order for me to achieve "independence through the standing process," I would have to focus around the stable walker. Again this is because senior citizens with limited mobility and a lack of upper body strength do not have the capabilities to maneuver a rollator walker.
The insights I received from my interviewees as well as additional secondary research helped to focus my understanding of this project in a way that would end up truly benefiting the user.