Assistive devices are, to many, essential in managing daily life. The goal of such devices is improving the user’s daily life and maintaining their level of functioning.
In Norway, 30,000 people suffer injuries due to falling in stairs each year (source: Statistics Norway). Those above the age of 65 suffer the most falls. Additionally, each year 40 to 50 people die due to stair falls. In Trondheim, three young entrepreneurs focused on this problem and developed a stair aid which enables safe training during rehabilitation.
Eirik Medbø, Halvor Wold and Ingrid Lonar were students at the NTNU School of Entrepreneurship when they began their work in the fall of 2011.
- “We talked, among others, with InnoMed, a national competence network for need-driven innovation in the healthcare sector. Here, we got input that many suffer stair falls, both elderly and others who for instance suffer poor balance due to illness, or are rehabilitating after fractures,” says Halvor Wold.
Three young students coming up with a solution for the stair climbing issues of the elderly might not be the obvious course of things, but this was a problem that hit all three of them.
- “Both Eirik and I had experience with grandparents who have had issues with stair walking. We talked to many different people and agencies. Everyone from potential users to occupational and physical therapists, doctors and municipal staff. The feedback we received, was that this was a problem in need of a solution.”
Exercise and safety
The target group for the stair aid also includes those who have stairs at home, and who have difficulties using them. The solutions thus far has been getting people to rebuild their homes or installing a stair lift. But this is not a good solution, according to Medbø and Wold.
- “Lifts and stair lifts are expensive and intrusive, and in addition make the users more passive by removing a source of daily activity.”
The three of them recruited two more students, and together they have, through five years, developed the stair aid AssiStep, which in 2016 was made available through distribution partner Hepro, and which is now in use in several municipalities.
- “We are very pleased that also Hepro saw the potential of enabling increased activity and management of daily life activities for the users. This cooperation also makes it so the AssiStep stair aid is now available throughout the country,” says Eirik Medbø.
MANAGING DAILY LIFE
Stair training is used in connection with rehabilitation and is a good form of exercise to maintaining leg function. But there’s a big difference between training during rehabilitation and climbing the stairs by yourself at home. Many people end up with a stair lift, or having to move their bed to the living room.
- “We’ve seen that a stair lift isn’t always a proper solution for people who still have some ability to walk. It furthers passivation of the user, and makes it harder to maintain leg functioning. Our focus has been to make the user able to get up the stairs in a safe and simple manner that keeps the user active,” explains Wold.
The AssiStep stair aid has now taken on a life of its own, but the entrepreneurs are still traveling around to attend many of the installations in order to instruct installers all over the country. The Assitech gang won’t leave it at this, however, and are working on new clever solutions to make it easier for people to keep living at home.
Skjærvøy municipality occupational therapist Karin Hennie Meilandstind saw a Facebook advertisement for the AssiStep stair aid and read more about the product on their homepage.
- “I saw at once that this could be an assist device with good functionality. We have many clients who have issues with stairs, and just at that time I was working with a client who had balance related problems with stairs. The risk of falling was great. Without aid, the user was completely unable to use the stairs. We considered a stair lift to be the only option, but when I learned of the stair helper, we decided it should be tried. The processing and delivery time was short, and Halvor Wold of the company came himself for the installation of the aid. At once, we saw that this was a very good alternative to a stair lift. It contributes to the user maintaining and improving walking function. If we had installed a stair lift, I would have contributed to diminishing the client’s functioning, and in the long term made this person worse off. The client is very satisfied, and feels very safe.”
Walking stairs without worry
Leiv Reiakvan lives in Naustdal. He’s had the stair aid since August 2016.
- “This is a fantastic aid for me. I wouldn’t be getting up or down the stairs without help. It was my physical therapist who recommended that I tried this, and got in contact with NAV. Things went very quickly, and I thought that if this works as they say it will, it will be good help. The stair aid is mounted in two places. Along the stairs from ground level to the entry, and in a stairs up to the kitchen. Now I can walk the stairs without worrying, and while I previously always used my right foot to start due to issues with my left side, I use the left much more now. The stairs give me additional exercise. My 92-year-old father-in-law also benefits from the stair helper when he is visiting, and gives it a lot of praise.”
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