>Industrial Design, Architecture, Computer Science, Human-Computer Interaction, Gerontology, Business

SAFE - Strategies to Avoid Fall among Elderly

Project Description

People over 65 years of age constitute the largest demographic in the United States. Our project focuses on this population that moves out of their homes when their physical abilities decline with aging. Ultimately, they come to rely on assisted care facilities. Research has shown that this displacement in the lives of the aging population has a demoralizing and detrimental impact on the elderly. Atul Gawande in his book, Being Mortal, cites examples from several case studies of how medical science has it all wrong, especially when people get old and decline. Most often than not, for the aging population, the move to an assisted care facility did not enhance their quality of life, but it shortened their life span and made them unhappy, sick.

The waning days of our lives are... spent in institutions— nursing homes and intensive care units— where regimented, anonymous routines cut us off from all the things that matter to us in life. Our reluctance to honestly examine the experience of aging and dying has increased the harm we inflict on people and denied them the basic comforts they most need. Lacking a coherent view of how people might live successfully all the way to their very end, we have  allowed our fates to be controlled by the imperatives of medicine, technology, and strangers. 

Excerpt from “Being Mortal” by Atul Gawande

This team believes in the need to identify causes and build working solutions, using Artificial intelligence and machine learning technologies. What forces the aging population out of their homes and into assisted living facilities? How can we prevent that with the use of technology? It is important that we be able to make the experience of living happy, purposeful, and joyous for the elderly.....in their own home. This project will focus on areas of direct interaction between elderly and their physical environment, more specifically the bathroom. 

Statement of Innovation

AI and Machine learning theories should be challenged to find answers to some of the most serious problems we face today. If Amazon/netflix can recommend me the movie or show I want to watch and the clothes that will look good on me, why can’t we use the same technology for envisioning better healthcare for elderly, or better safety for our kids in schools, or helping humans to not repeat the same dumb mistakes over and over again. This project aims to focus on using technology to not only prevent fall for elderly but also create a safe, enjoyable shower Experience. On one hand the elderly population would prefer to stay in their own home but on the other hand it is not safe for a variety of reasons. Research in the United States has proved that the elderly live longer, happy lives when left in their surroundings, no matter how unsafe those surroundings appear to the caretakers, and the adult children of aging parents and relatives(Being Mortal, Gawande). The question that rises then, is this: What exactly prompts this move in the aging population? According to the Center for Diseases Control and Prevention, “Each year, millions of older people—those 65 and older—fall.” These falls can lead to fractured hip, brain injuries, lack of confidence, and increase the possibility of a second fall. For this project, we narrowed down why and where do people over 65 fall. “Injuries getting on and off the toilet are quite high in people 65 and older,” said Judy A. Stevens, an epidemiologist with the C.D.C (New York Times). A study in The Gerontologist in 2006 attributed balance, surface conditions and unexpected movement as major causes for fall among elderly

By putting together the right technology and timely interventions in the bathroom environment, we should be able to create a safe, assisted bathroom environment for the elderly population.The Industrial Design program has, in the past, focused on a variety of projects that look at assistive technologies and use them for the benefit of the elderly to make their living experience better. This project wants to build upon the last ten years’ worth of work done in collaboration with SFCS Architects in Roanoke, VA. SFCS Architects is one of the leading senior living facilities design firm. As part of the year-long project, we will focus on the following:

  1. Complete a literature survey of existing assistive technologies
  2. Document the concepts that have been developed as part of ‘ aging in place’ studio.
  3. Identify critical areas of improvement in the context of a bathroom
  4. To explore the possibility of creating a small startup in collaboration with one of the nation’s top senior living facilities design firm

A combined studio in Fall 2018 semester will create three proposals for a smart bathroom. Looking at the shower the shower area, in particularly because a high number of falls take place in the shower/bath area. 

  1. Exploring new shower stall configurations to enhance safety that also eliminates the need for cleaning it by use of sensors and robotic cleaning systems.
  2. Traction on a wet surface.
  3. Feeling of comfort safety while bathing/showering
  4. Automated cleaning after one has taken a shower
  5. Water temperature control
  6. Fog control for better visibility

For this stage, the project will focus on creating a shower stall that is always at the right temperature, the floor will provide just the right amount of traction. It has excellent visibility and self-cleaning technologies built into the shower stall. 

Imagine a scenario where you are a senior couple, living in your own house that you bought in Recently, you upgraded your bathroom to get a new shower stall with SAFE (Strategies to Avoid Fall among Elderly) technology. As you walk into the bathroom at 7:00 AM, the shower stall automatically starts getting the water to the right temperature for you, the stall doors are always open and they slide in the close position only when you are ready to take a shower. The floor of the shower stall is warm, the grab rails are at the right height and so is the shower seat that not only provides a comfortable seating position but also adjusts to the right height. The water spray starts at the base so that you can adjust the water temperature before you get soaked. The soap dispensing is built into the system. The vent system keeps the stall fog free so that you can see better and once you are done with taking a shower, the system provides a gentle air drying experience before you use a towel and as you are exiting the stall, the doors are already open and you have grab handles for support if you need. Once you are done, the stall goes into self cleaning mode and just like magic, it is clean, dry and without any traces of soap scum on the floor or any other surface.

Members:

Akshay Sharma, Industrial Design

Aisling Kelliher, Computer Science

Kevin Deck, Industry Expert

Loring Bixler, Resident of Warm Hearth Village

Collaborative Colleges:

Areas:

Industrial Design

Architecture

Computer Science

Human-Computer Interaction

Gerontology

Business