In the not-too-distant past, the process of aging could leave a once strong man or woman house-bound and then pathetically bedridden. Unless you are very wealthy, there are neither the resources nor the technology available to offer someone with limited mobility any quality of life.
If this continues to happen, the longevity we are fortunate to experience now will become a curse rather than a blessing. Fortunately, during the 20th century in particular, entrepreneurs, businesses and scientists have used gray matter and their creativity to create mobility aids that revolutionized the lives of their users.
A prime example of the progress that has been made is the evidence at last year’s London Paralympics. Prosthetic blades allow amputees to run with a strength and grace most of us can only admire, while wheelchair marathon racers far surpass their bipedal counterparts.
Here are some of the most significant innovations in the history of mobility aid development.
The modern, lightweight, collapsible wheelchair was first invented in 1933 by Jennings and Everest.
We often take wheelchairs for granted now, but before they became widely available, most people with mobility problems were doomed to short and static lives.
Today, technology has developed super-light carbon fiber chairs, and the disabled community has created sports such as wheelchair basketball and killer ball (formally known as quadriplegic rugby!), the latter featuring clashes of sometimes terrifying intensity that belie the notion of human fragility.
Inventors are constantly looking for new ways to improve wheelchairs, such as off-road mountain version which allows the user to explore trails and into nature.
At that time first started in the 1920’s, the now common stair lift is revolutionary. Stairlifts mean people who suffer arthritisParkinson’s disease or infirmity can stay in their own homes and maintain their independence and self-respect.
With a variety of different seating positions, the ability to traverse curved or narrow staircases and the option to be remotely operated, stair lifts eliminate the danger of potentially fatal falls and reduce the burden on caretakers.
A number of smaller devices have been created to help users with disabilities with a little bit of movement that many of us take for granted, but without which life can be very difficult.
Telescopic reach system let the user reach down or up without shifting weight or exerting himself. A bit like scavengers, they dramatically increase the reach of a person making picking up a dropped purse or purse easy.
Flomeanwhile it is a beautifully designed high-end walking aid which gives its user the ability to stand unaided and also functions as a walking stick.
Robots and Exo-Skeleton!?
Japan has nearly 50,000 people are 100 years or older, leading the way in developing robotic technology to help the elderly stay mobile. There are robots already operating in hospitals, and in the future they could wash people’s hair or helping people take a walk.
These machines will not be released to the general market for several years, but they can reduce the demand for maintenance and improve long-life quality, provided they overcome serious cost problems.
Alternatively, in the not too distant future we could see exoskeletons feature in the mobility aids market. Already under development by the US army, the exoskeleton is a smartly designed piece of equipment that augments the user’s muscular strength.
Meanwhile, wheelchairs and ladders in particular will continue to grace the lives of millions of people around the world. Mobility aids have come a long way from their humble beginnings, and there are exciting prospects for the future that are visible.
Guest post by Acorn Ladder. We innovate, design, build and install stair lifts to suit every stair and user.