Why do we need to do this?
Ageing results generally results in a reduction of physical ability, and an increased likelihood of some form of chronic illness such as arthritis or musculoskeletal pain. There are numerous musculoskeletal and arthritic conditions. Osteoarthritis is the most common form of joint disease. The surfaces within your joints become damaged so the joint doesn’t move as smoothly as it should and it causes joint pain and stiffness. The second most common type of arthritis is Rheumatoid arthritis which is an autoimmune disease that causes inflammation in your joints with the main symptoms being joint pain and swelling. In the UK, 8.75 million people (49% of women and 42% of men of those aged 75 years and over) have sought treatment for osteoarthritis with women more likely than men to have sought treatment. Rheumatoid arthritis affects different people in different ways, so it's difficult to predict how it might develop and to measure but it's estimated that approximately 2% of adult women have the condition.
Recognising the need for products and services to meet the demands of the older population with some form of hand impairment, many assistive devices are available to aid with eating and drinking. However much of the current designs are of low quality, poor design, lacking in aesthetic quality and are not fit for purpose.
What has been done?
We have been working with groups of older people to assess current design of assistive cutlery and tableware. We've looked at what cutlery they already use, how and why they use the cutlery they do and we also measured their strength and dexterity to assess their capabilities.
From the conversations, observations, measurements, working with design student Charlotte Simmons, we created a series of new design concepts that addressed issues of tactility, of aesthetics as well as the ergonomics of hand comfort.
What am I doing?
I am continuing to work with Charlotte Simons to help her design into production. I have been working with design student Amelia Candon to look at similar issues for children with Cerebral Palsy and research work is ongoing with senior designer at Sheffield Hallam University, Heath Reed.