It should come as no surprise that the U.S. population is aging. There were 46.2 million people 65 and older in 2014 and that segment of the population is estimated to double by 2060. It also shouldn’t surprise us that most seniors want to age in place. AARP found that nearly 90% of seniors want to stay in their own homes as they age.
But are we ready for this onslaught of older baby boomers? Probably not. The Joint Center for Housing Studies of Harvard University has found that the U.S. housing market is poorly prepared to accommodate the needs of older people. It is even less prepared for older Americans who are living with disabilities. Very little of the U.S. housing stock has been altered to accommodate issues with mobility, for example.
From senior project to an award-winning product
During his senior year at MIT, engineering student Howard Liles, embarked on a design project that focused on mobility. In order to observe first hand the challenges many seniors face when trying to stand up independently, he spent time in senior and assisted-living facilities. He vividly recalls watching one woman, tired of waiting for someone to help her up, drop to the floor and crawl over to climb up a piece of furniture to get to standing. When he learned that the basic walker design had not been altered much since the 1960s, he and his design team decided to tackle the problem of designing a walker that would also assist people in going from sitting to standing.
After Howard graduated from MIT, he went on to Georgia Institute of Technology to pursue his masters in mechanical engineering. But he returned to work on the stand-assist walker design after his fiercely independent grandmother found herself struggling to get herself up out of bed or from a seated position to a standing position while recovering from hip surgery. Inspired to help solve this problem for people like his grandmother, Liles revisited his undergraduate design determined to develop it so that it could become a commercially available solution for seniors and anyone else needing help getting to standing.
The StandUp Walker
This is the genesis of what is now known as the “StandUp Walker,” an innovative 2-in-1 Stand-Assist + Mobility Walker that enables the user to independently lift themselves from a seated position easily and safely. Here is a video that shows how it works:
After watching it, I wondered if the walker really made standing from sitting as easy as it looked in the video. Luckily, one of the reps lives close to me and was willing to bring a walker over so I could try it out. I found the walker to be sturdily built and easy to move around. It only weighs about 10 pounds even though it has been designed to hold up to 400 pounds. It can be moved up to a chair much more easily than a traditional walker and collapses for transport. One of my friends who was recovering from surgery and had had recent experience using a traditional walker also tried it out. No question, we thought, this is a big advance for people who not only need help walking, but also need an assist to stand up. One caveat, of course, is that the person using the walker has to have enough strength in their arms to propel them to standing.
Since it’s launch in April 2016, StandUp Walker was featured and won The Doctors TV show Inaugural Funders Game, and has won numerous awards from industry experts, including the Gold winner in the New Product Pavilion at Medtrade 2016, the largest Home Medical Equipment Expo and conference in the U.S. In addition, StandUp Walker won the HME Business 2016 New Product Award for Retail as well as Aging 2.0’s Pitch-4-Partners Award.
Kenneth C. Paulus, CEO of URise Products, the company bringing the StandUp Walker to market notes,
“The recognition from both the home medical equipment professionals as well as from experts in aging, demonstrate the need for innovative mobility products that help people stay independent.”
The role of personal passion
Innovative products, like the StandUp Walker, help address the strong desire by older adults to stay in their own homes. They also help reduce the strain on family caregivers—ask anyone who has had to help a loved one with their mobility issues. In addition, they can help reduce the risk of falls, one of the leading causes of morbidity and mortality in seniors.
I have been impressed by how often innovative ideas and products happen when someone experiences a tragedy or challenge for themselves or a loved one and they start to think about problems and solutions in new ways. Thanks to Howard Liles, who wanted to make life easier for his grandmother, people with mobility issues now have a new way to get around.