Manufacturers Should Consider Older Consumers' Diverse Needs and Develop a Diverse Set of Walking Aids

Manufacturers Should Consider Older Consumers' Diverse Needs and Develop a Diverse Set of Walking Aids

Emma Baldwin (Leiden University, Sheffield, UK)
Copyright: © 2018 |Pages: 9
DOI: 10.4018/IJUDH.2018010104
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Abstract

Manufacturers worldwide could help many elderly people within society, maintain their independence and meet the demands of their environment with more ease and functionality, if they would consider the needs of elderly more carefully and involve them in development.
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Introduction

Nowadays it is not a rarity to see an elderly couple caring for each other, and this often requires one assisting the other with a mobility impairment. Consider a typical elderly couple, the man is 80 and unable to walk unaided without his four-wheeled walker, his wife is 78 and has bi lateral shoulder joint osteoarthirtis (OA) and chronic OA of her hands. She can still drive, and this is the couple's main mode of transport, to access the local supermarket and general practitioner (GP). A requirement of her husband and herself maintaining their independence, is to put the four-wheeled walker in the car, this is no longer possible due to the 78-year-old wife’s chronic OA. Mobility aids help to provide support and reduce pain (Stowe et al., 2010), along with helping to alleviate the negative impacts, that reduced mobility has on a person’s independence and quality of life. Manufacturers worldwide could help many elderly people within society, maintain their independence and meet the demands of their environment with more ease and functionality, if they would consider the needs of elderly more carefully and involve them in development.

There is observable evidence in everyday life, that manufacturers are still not inquiring into the mobility needs of the elderly population. There are many factors influencing manufacturers focus on the needs of the ageing population. Firstly, it isn't exciting enough, especially when you compare to the likes of smartphones (Gooberman & Ebrahim, 2007). Secondly, they don't think it will generate them enough finance (Dozet et al., 2002), and finally they don't feel the target population is demographically viable enough (Rosenberg et al., 2012). This is worrying when we know that worldwide, by 2020 for the first time in history, the number of people aged 60 years and older will outnumber children younger than 5 years (WHO 2014). This highlights the massive demographic need, for a change of the focus on mobility equipment from manufacturers. Overall it is better for the economy to have more active older people (WHO, 2014). Since the 1950's, the mobility aids that have become available to the elderly and disabled has improved somewhat, but we know that this still isn't adequate enough, for the environments of today's elderly and disabled population, and this can be also seen in clinical practice. Another problem with today's aids, is a substantial lack of choice and this means that the specific needs of the older users are not met. This is demonstrated by the reduced options for these aids on the market today. Technology is thought to be a contextual factor that modifies the disability process and reduces its severity (Hoening et al., 2002). Having an aid is not without its challenges though, we know that with use of mobility aids comes increased stigma (Gooberman & Ebrahim, 2007).

There is clearly a need for a more diverse set of walking aids, in order to fulfil the needs of the consumer, yet there are many opposing views. On the one hand manufacturers don't think there is a big enough market and on the other, it is difficult to design stigma free walking aids. It is the aim of this essay to draw attention to the different aspects of consumers' needs and to reach a conclusion on how these can be better addressed in the future by the manufacturers.

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