Research purpose and aims
By 2039 more than one in twelve of the population is projected to be aged 80 or over, bringing increased prevalence of immobility and reduced quality of life (ONS, 2015). Current assistive equipment for improving mobility can be experienced as stigmatising and constraining. A radical change in assistive and rehabilitative devices is needed.
The purpose of this collaborative study was to to inform ‘yet-to-be-designed’ soft robotic trousers for improving mobility in everyday living.
Research design and methods
Two focus groups were held in a robotics lab. Participants were: people with mobility impairments due to stroke or age related pathologies, engineers, rehabilitation doctors and an Occupational Therapist. Topics included advantages and disadvantages of existing assistive technology, acceptability of the idea of soft robotic trousers and what was needed from the materials. An artist provided a silent ‘running commentary’ and summary to check that views had been captured.
Participants liked the idea of assistive trousers but had many and varied requirements for them. In addition to improving mobility, the trousers will be required to look and feel normal, be easy to put on and off and to look after, as well as being safe, reliable and adaptable.
Conclusions and impact for Occupational Therapy
The focus groups highlighted the need for the trousers to be compatible with the person, environment and occupations. Co-design with potential users and a multidisciplinary team has led to exploration of a variety of new materials to address the needs of potential users.
Turton, A., Manns, S., Hampshire, L., O'Conner, R., Helps, T., Rossiter, J., & Mure, B. (2017, June). Focus groups for co-design of robotic trousers for improving mobility in older people. Paper presented at Royal College of occupational Therapists Conference 2017