When I was working on Mobility devices for the Elderly project, my team and I had to do design research on why/how the seniors in the greater New York area used assistive devices for ambulation. While we uncovered many different insights, one of the thing that struck out was the ergonomic nature of the device itself.
Seniors used walkers, canes, rollators, shopping carts and also other make-shift devices to support themselves when they moved from place to place. No matter what device they used, it had to be comfortable to use. Comfort here doesn’t equate to the psychological feeling of stigmatization, rather, it is the congenial ease in using the device itself– hence the ergonomic nature.
When working on the ‘Adaptacane‘, we came across many materials to use it for the grip of the cane, such as memory foam. However, the best material that one could possibly use while making the grip of the cane is polycaprolactone (try saying that a few times). This material, sometimes shortened as PCL, can be molded by applying heat from, say hot water, and shaped into anything, including the shape of the inside of a gripping hand. It is also biodegradable!
Let’s look at an example:
The best part of using this material was that it could be remolded any number of times. The handle (white) of the adaptacane prototype below was made using PCL.
Pretty cool stuff!