Help the aged

None of us is getting any younger. It’s not something a lot of us want to think about, but ageing is inevitable.

A s covered earlier in this issue, the UK’s population is growing. In 2016 it reached 65.6 million, the largest it has ever been, and that growth is set to continue with estimates from the Office for National Statistics projecting the number to rise to 74 million by 2039. Add to this advances in medicine meaning we’re living longer and it doesn’t take a genius to see that there will be more people requiring care for age-related disabilities.

Arthritis is a debilitating condition that can severely impact a person’s independence, making even the most menial of tasks, such as doing up buttons or turning a key in a lock difficult or even impossible.

The challenge

This month’s challenge is, therefore, to design a simple to use device to help people with arthritis use their keys, as this is a huge barrier to their social lives and independence as well as the cause of anxiety and worry.

Remember that this is a device that will be used by people with limited dexterity, so don’t over-complicate the idea. Simplicity is the key here.

The idea we have in mind will be revealed in the November issue of Eureka! Until then see what you can come up with. Submit your ideas by leaving a comment on the Coffee Time Challenge section of the Eureka! website or by emailing the editor:

The solution

The solution to the specific problem posed last month comes from a designer called Geoff Rolandsen who thought up his solution, the Keywing, when he saw his father, who lives with arthritis, struggling with keys.

The Keywing is a huge help for people who find it difficult to lock and unlock doors. It is a small, light assistive device that hinges open and clips closed onto the head of a key to create a larger more ergonomic surface area, essentially forming a handle that’s easy to turn and hold.

It can be kept attached to a keyring or even just left on a key without becoming too big to slip into a pocket or a bag. But, crucially it provides piece of mind for its user and gives them back their independence.

This was just one in a range of products and concepts developed by young engineers through the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) which is looking to tackle the ageing population issue as part of the Government’s Industrial Strategy. The other products included ‘Handy-Fasteners’, magnetic alternatives to buttons; ‘Wondrwall’, a sensor-based IoT system to track your movements and help with routines; ‘The Prompt by Memrica’, a calendar app for people with dementia that also stores images and information about who you’re meeting and ‘Nimble’, a gadget that helps people who struggle with arthritis to open tricky food packaging.