Friday, January 25, 2013

The StreetSmart Walker

For this year’s FLL Senior Solutions competition, the NYCityzens have researched senior citizens’ issues. We found that seniors with mobility problems have a tendency to fall, so they use canes and walkers. However, we discovered that these aids could also lead to falls when the person encounters raised surfaces such as curbs.  So we decided to develop a new walker for senior citizens (or anyone else who is in need of a walker). Although NYC has converted many of the street crossing curbs to handicap ramps so that wheelchairs, power chairs, and walkers can more easily move up and down them. However, sometimes as we have observed that the handicap ramps crossings are not always flat to the street surface and the senior or person with a walker has trouble moving up the handicap ramps; the person might have to lift the walker slightly or give the walker or chair more momentum to make it past the slightly raised curb. Also, someone trying to enter a van with their walker, they actually have to lift it. Thus, we have come up with the StreetSmart Walker
          Conventional walkers have 3-4 wheels. Some may be fixed while others are swivel caster wheels. This StreetSmart Walker has three pairs of wheels for a total of six wheels, which we think gives the walker more stability. A sensor will scan the front of the walker for obstacles/curbs and will send a vibration to the handles to warn the senior. The person can move out of the way of the obstacle or press a sensory button to raise front wheels with the middle set of wheels, to a height to clear the curb, and then automatically readjust to the surface.
  The wheels that we are recommending for this walker are called Rotacaster® Multi-directional Wheels made by Rotacaster® ( ). These wheels are unique because they can easily move in any directions. According to Rotacastor® (the manufacturer), the “wheels are sturdy, impact resistant, precision-engineered, and made from fully molded polymers allowing the engineering of entirely new multi-directional movement.” Rotacaster® Multi-directional Wheels are wheels with little discs around the circumference, which are perpendicular to the rolling direction. Other walker wheels sometimes show some resistance when trying to move sideways or turn. Even the swivel caster wheels can sometimes become momentarily stuck when trying to turn, particularly for a senior who has limited upper body strength.
The StreetSmart Walker will be equipped with manual handbrakes on the back wheels, in case the senior feels the walker is moving too fast going down an incline, the walker can be slowed down or come to a stop. We are putting brakes on the back wheels of the Walker. Brakes require pressure to be applied on 2 sides of the wheel. We emailed Peter McKinnon of Rotacaster about how to put brakes on the Rotacaster Multi-directional wheels. He recommended putting brakes on the primary and secondary directions (left and right, forward and backward).
An optional GPS will also be available for seniors who are beginning to suffer from dementia. It will be simply programmed to return the senior to his/her residence.
This walker will also have a small basket under the seat, allowing seniors to carry small items. Since the basket is under the seat the walker will remain balanced.

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