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Robo Seniors: How Robotic Technology is Giving New Life to Seniors

Sarah Stevenson
By Sarah StevensonAugust 9, 2012
Robo Seniors: How Robotic Technology is Giving New Life to Seniors

Honda’s Stride Management Assistdevice, based in part on its ASIMO robot, helps wearers walk and opens up a world of new possibilities in senior health.

Photo: Courtesy of Gizmag

The rate of mobility impairment among U.S. seniors is nearly 60%, but new developments in the world of  assistive technology have the potential to help millions of elderly adults get moving and get healthy. Honda, a company perhaps best known for its cars and other vehicles, is using technology developed for its ASIMO robot to create assisted mobility devices—namely, the Stride Management Assist, a device intended to give a boost to those with difficulty walking.

Senior Health Depends on the Ability to Exercise

We all know the benefits of exercise. It bolsters our immune system, helps prevent disease, and keeps our hearts healthy. But as we age, it can become more and more difficult to maintain the exercise regimens that used to be a breeze. Senior citizens have a higher rate of physical disability and mobility problems that may prevent exercise, and the percentage of those afflicted with such problems increases the older we get.

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It seems like a catch-22, but there are solutions to the dilemma. Besides planning an exercise routine that takes reduced mobility into account, seniors may also soon be able to belt on a lightweight, portable device that actually boosts their stride and helps them walk faster and for longer distances.

Improving the Quality of Senior Living Through Technology

The Stride Management Assist, first unveiled by Honda in 2008, consists of a pair of light metal braces that attach to the wearer’s upper legs, along with a hip piece that contains the control computer and batteries. A motor sits on each hip and provides assistance to the thighs as the wearer walks. The entire device weighs just about six pounds including batteries, and runs for around two hours.

The device promises to help seniors and others with mobility problems or weakened leg muscles to regain some of their range of movement. In addition to that, the device adjusts stride and walking rhythm and monitors the wearer’s heartbeat. In fact, in a hill test conducted by Honda, the Stride Management Assist was shown to reduce exertion and lower the user’s heart rate. Later this month Honda will be conducting further field tests in conjunction with Japan’s National Center for Geriatrics and Gerontology.

Mobility Problems May Lead More Seniors to Assisted Living

Although Honda did not mention a release date for the product, this research promises an exciting future for seniors with reduced walking ability, with personal empowerment and increased physical independence as just two of the potential benefits.

Conversely, “limitations in walking ability compromise independence and contribute to the need for assistive care,” according to Evan C. Hadley, M.D., director of the National Institute on Aging’s Division of Geriatrics and Clinical Gerontology.

“Older people with impaired walking are less likely to remain in the community, have higher rates of certain diseases and death, and experience a poorer quality of life. A successful intervention might help prevent these bad outcomes.”

Sarah Stevenson
Author
Sarah Stevenson

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