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Design For Independent Living

Brief (Set by Calderdale Council): Using a research through design method explore new concepts to increase independence within the home, decrease the workload of a carer and therefore affording them more time to talk to a patient.

Duration: 6 Months

Year: 2015

Skills shown: Product Design, Graphic Design, Interface Design, Team Management


Chris Green, Kit McBride, Matthew Marshall, Richard Stringer, Tim Frankland

All work shown is my own unless otherwise stated.


A research report was produced in the first months exploring other concepts and their strengths and weakness and exploring new ideas. 7 concepts were the produced and presentedback to Calderdale Coucil. After deliberation 3 were chosen to be taken forward in the last 3 months, namely the Warning System for dementia patients, the kitchen walker and the oven dial aid.

The Problem: 

The world is facing a crisis of an aging population, where the percentage of people aged 60 and over will have doubled from 11% to 22% by 2050.  Councils such as in Calderdale are already struggling to fund the annual £50 million that is spent on sustaining their care homes and therefore 60% of local authorities now commission 15 minute visits by carers. It takes the able bodied 40 minutes to wash, dress, cook and eat meaning carers struggle to accomplish these in the 15 minutes and have no time to deal with emotional needs. As people age, more barriers between them and social interactions are erected meaning their carers can be the only people they talk too and so emotional needs are just as important as physical ones. This loneliness can result in illnesses such as dementia.



This reminder system is split into two sections, the hub which sits in the kitchen and can be set by the carer and a satellite which one or more can sit in different rooms. A carer, family or even the patient can set reminders on the hub and even input their voice. When the alarm goes off this is translated to the satellite which uses LEDs and a speaker to both visually and audio-able to the user the task at hand. They must then get up and go to the hub to turn the alarm off. The hub has an easy to use interface that takes the user through what they must do.  This system is an improvement on conventional times but be less expensive then Telehealth products. It could be still be developed into a system that can be controlled remotely for future development.

The Problem:

A common problem found in the elderly and more specifically dementia patients was that of forgetting to eat. When a carer does make a meal for them this is often left in the oven or fridge and forgotten about., which can be detrimental to their health. This problem is not restricted to eating, it also includes taking medicine, going to doctors appointment etc. Living Independently when you forget things can be hard and when the alarm is both stressful and near you it is easy to turn it off quickly and forget about it. Alternatively things such as oven timers are often not heard by patients if they are in a different room.



The design went through a number of development phases, some of which can be seen here. At a number of points the designs were shown to occupational therapists and carers to ensure the design was suited to the intended market despite the actual real life users not being accessible due to ethical restrictions.

The Interface:

The interface has been designed so that carers can lock patients out of the system if needs be. Research showed that patients often fiddle and change important dates if this feature did not exist. However this is for the choice of the carer. When the alarm goes off there is an extremely simple interface with large buttons in appropriate colours to walk them through the task. When the alarm is not going off the patients personalised standard screen can show the time and date or even pictures of the patients family. 

The Prototype:

To produce the both the prototype of the hub and the satellite a tablet and speakers were purchased and harvested for parts. The rest of the parts were 3D printed.


Due to ethical restrictions dementia patients could not be directly asked in the scope of this project to either help with the design or evaluate the end result. However occupational therapists and carers as well as elderly people without any cognitive conditions were used to evaluate the design as well as evaluating the design against their original requirements aided to see whether the design was success. In terms of requirement the device was 87%.



A simple, inexpensive add-on that can be fitted over any oven dial and transfers the temperature reading to the top, cutting out bending altogether and is large with big font for the visually impaired and arthritic users.

The Problem:

When turning an oven knob some traditional designs are not adequate in displaying the temperature to the user unless the user bends over. This can be a problem for people with osteoarthritis or other back injuries. We also found even newer types have accommodated for this problem have such small script that the visually impaired cannot see the temperature. Lastly people with arthritis of the hand can sometimes struggle with small pinch grips and prefer a wide grip.


Shown is the developments from the middle stage  and were shown to occupational therapists to analyse which ones they considered would be most appropriate for the target market. Although they liked electric designs, due to the extra cost involved they opted for the most simple and least costly option.


As well as a biomechnical evaluation proving the design was successful in terms of solving the problem directly, evaluations against the requirements and user evaluations were conducted in order to see whether the design met the initial aims set by the team post research as well as what users thought of the problem. Against the requirement the design was 83% successful with problems in installation due the slight workload of sticking the temperature degrees on in the correct place.


Solution: This walker is specifically designed for the kitchen. It holds ingredients such as some common inside walkers but it also has fork-lift style fold-out arms that can be used to load and unload the oven. Some of the features this has is:

- Fold-able legs, height adjustable handles, retractable arms, 360 degree castor wheels with brake system (Manor Castors), simple remote control system, tray that can be used as a tray in itself or have a tray placed on top

The Problem: People with a variety of illness such as osteoarthritis, MS and other often struggle to move around the kitchen and lift often heavy objects such as oven dishes, especially if they are required to bend and stretch such as putting food into a regular oven.


Sketching was used in order to develop the design. This started off as a brainstorming session were all 5 members of the team were present and ideas were developed as a group. These ideas were then taken and developed individually with different people focusing on different areas. I focused on the product design while the engineers focused on internals and and the mechanisms.


As well as a bio-mechanical evaluation proving the design was successful in terms of solving the problem directly, evaluations against the requirements and user evaluations were conducted in order to see whether the design met the initial aims set by the team post research as well as what users thought of the problem. Against the requirement the design was 75% successful with the same problems coming up in the user evaluation with the design being too large. In the final report I decided that although the design was very successful in solving the problem, it was not yet adequate for users and needed further development.