Robots and Sensors Help Make Seniors Mobile: Assistive Technologies Improve Mobility and Independence

Article excerpt

A new generation of robotic assistance systems is restoring quality of life for the elderly. Designed for use at home as well as in hospitals, rehabilitation facilities, and nursing homes, these systems are helping older, less-agile people to keep moving on their own.

New robots and other technical aids emphasize human-machine cooperation using novel communication interfaces between the elderly and their environment, according to Rodolphe Gelin, head of the Robotics and Interactive Systems Department at France's Atomic Energy Authority.

One system, called Nemo+, uses stored infrared and other codes to remotely control telephones, televisions, lighting systems, and doors in the home. A small box attached to a wheelchair's armrest houses the electronics and software. Nemo+ can perform up to 200 functions and responds to commands in English, Italian, and Swedish.

Another system helps restore manipulation functions for elderly people suffering from serious impairment of the upper limbs. The robot, which can carry up to 4.5 pounds, has six degrees of freedom, and is fully computer controlled. The control interface is personalized and can be voice-controlled. The manipulator arm makes it possible to carry out everyday tasks such as picking up a book, pouring a drink, or using a microwave oven.

Between 6% and 8% of people older than 65 and living at home are incapable of standing up from a chair or a bed without assistance. The Automax unit, patented by Alter Eco Sante of France, is a swiveling grab bar that helps patients stand up on their own.




Intelligent walkers are also increasing mobility. …


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