What if simple devices, already widely available on the market could be combined and programmed to radically improve your independence and quality of life?
The Flinders Medical Device Research Institute responded to the challenge laid down by the South Australian Health Department’s Office for the Ageing to create an improved living environment for mobility compromised citizens for under $10,000 and the results were impressive.
The Flinders Medical Device Research Institute (MDRI) and its award winning Medical Device Partnering Program (MDPP) are long standing collaborators of the South Australian Health Department who regularly work with the MDRI and MDPP on evaluating prototypes and testing innovations in care.
This existing productive and successful relationship made the MDPP the obvious choice when the SA Health’s Office for the Ageing sought to explore cost effective ways to improve the quality of life for mobility restricted residents of SA Health housing.
Rather than develop machines and invent new devices from scratch, costing large sums in development, testing and manufacture the MDPP researchers sought to use off-the-shelf electronic and electro-mechanical products in new ways to achieve their aim.
Working with Park Holme resident Rosalie the team were able to map the mobility restrictions inherent in her condition and identify the tasks that she would appreciate being able to perform without the assistance of a carer. Rosalie’s engagement with the project was critical.
The MDPP team was focussed on ensuring that their work addressed Rosalie’s needs and took her situation into account to produce not only something generally useful but something useful for her.
The final result of the research was a series of integrated devices that were able to be fitted to Rosalie’s wheel chair and about her house that enabled her to perform everyday tasks such as make phone calls, control her ceiling fan and open her front door without the attendance of a carer.
For Rosalie the project has been a tremendous success, “the devices that have been fitted to my home are discreet and easy to operate […] It’s given me back some independence and privacy and it will make a huge difference to my overall quality of living”.
Rosalie can now call her sister, unaided, for the first time since her illness onset. MDPP and MDRI Director, Professor Karen Reynolds, neatly sums up the project thus: “We’ve been able to demonstrate that you can use off-the-shelf products in a cost-effective way to give people with disabilities greater independence and control over their own lives”.
The impact of this collaborative project has been significant and sent ripples across the assisted-living community in South Australia and the Nation more broadly. The idea that existing off-the-shelf technology can be used in this way has opened the field of assistive technology to a variety of innovations and possibilities.
The idea that some off-the-shelf products, innovative thinking and collaborative research can allow electronic engineers to make life easier and enhance independence for people with disabilities is truly exciting and shows that research does indeed change lives for the better.
For more information contact the Medical Device Research Institute