Cities are waking up to seniors

Everyone knows that global populations are large and growing. They are also aging, with one in eight people now over the age of 60. Out of a world population of 7.4 billion, that means over 900 million people! This is a relatively new development, particularly in some regions. But as improvements in technology, health care, nutrition, and other standards of living have spread around the globe, more people are living longer than ever before.

The changing demographic makeup of our world also means changes in our cities, where half of the world’s population is already living. Urban life can be very attractive for the elderly. Services, shopping, and free-time activities are numerous, diverse, and concentrated in cities. Seniors enjoy urban living for many of the same reasons everyone else does!

Indeed, seniors who take full advantage of their urban life are doing themselves a favor. Research shows that active seniors remain mentally and physically healthier—for longer.

Creating greater mobility

Many cities have responded well to the need for better mobility. Reserved parking places for the handicapped are a great help to many mobility-impaired drivers. Permanent curb ramps make it easier for people using a walker or wheelchair to move about on city streets. Other types of ramps, movable walkways, escalators, stairlifts, and elevators allow access from one level to another—unlike stairs, which can be an insurmountable barrier to entry for many people.

Being able to move about freely throughout the city is important for everyone, seniors included. But another area is also receiving renewed attention: moving about in one’s own home, including entering and exiting it.

Good mobility begins at home with good innovation

In-home mobility can be facilitated by a simple ramp, or other means such as stairlifts and in-home elevators. In many cases, these are retrofitted into an existing structure, making each installation complex, time-consuming, and unique. Installations are also unique because people are different and mobility issues are varied, and they are complicated because of the emotional aspect of needing to permanently install large technical equipment in one’s own home. Cost, of course, can be another barrier.

New technology is providing a better way to achieve greater mobility. A new approach that streamlines the planning process, and even makes it more enjoyable, is currently being tested in Germany, Spain, and the Netherlands. Using a new head-mounted, mixed-reality (MR) device called HoloLens, technicians are able to more quickly and accurately measure the space in which a stairlift is to be installed.

But the advantage offered by the HoloLens is greater. The HoloLens uses a state-of-the-art interface to allow the user to enter the high-quality graphical world of mixed reality—the combination of what is really there with the virtual reality of what could be there. The device can also cut planning and design time, which can save costs for the end user.

This fascinating “preview” technology transforms an unwelcome medical necessity to an exciting new assistant. The HoloLens shows different design options in full color, allowing the potential customer to think of the new stairlift in the same way they might think of a new piece of furniture. That reduces stress, smooths the transition, and ensures a new mobility solution that improves quality of life and fits with the decor and dignity of their home.

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