UN SDG #3 Good Health and Well-being UN SDG #3
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Assistive Utensils for Those with Disabilities

Adaptive equipment is used by approximately 23% of older adults in the United States, indicating the importance of validating the efficacy and effectiveness of these assistive devices for optimal and appropriate evidence-based prescription. Hand impairment can inhibit or reduce functional ability to perform many activities of daily living such as dressing, bathing, eating, and other self-care.

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Assistive Utensils for Those with Disabilities

Adaptive equipment is used by approximately 23% of older adults in the United States, indicating the importance of validating the efficacy and effectiveness of these assistive devices for optimal and appropriate evidence-based prescription. Hand impairment can inhibit or reduce functional ability to perform many activities of daily living such as dressing, bathing, eating, and other self-care.
16M
people impacted
$1.7T
potential funding
the problem
Nature and Context

Adaptive equipment is used by approximately 23% of older adults in the United States, indicating the importance of validating the efficacy and effectiveness of these assistive devices for optimal and appropriate evidence-based prescription (Kraskowsky & Finlayson, 2001). Hand impairment can inhibit or reduce functional ability to perform many activities of daily living such as dressing, bathing, eating, and other self-care. It has been previously reported that the use of traditional utensils to feed oneself can be difficult and/or painful with impaired hand function (Brach et al., 2002). Objective assessment of hand joint range of motion (ROM) required for functional activities can be valuable in prescribing adaptive equipment for individuals with impairments. A person with normal hand ROM should not feel discomfort in performing tasks such as gripping a standard sized eating utensil; the same task, however, can be difficult if hand range of motion is limited due to either injury or disability. Examples of conditions that commonly affect hand ROM include stroke, osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, and cerebral palsy (Van Roon & Steenbergen, 2006). According to the Arthritis Foundation (2015), 1 in 5 adults in the United States are affected by arthritis, indicating a great demand for methods to relieve associated complications. A common intervention consists of using increased diameter grip handles on eating utensils. These grips are typically made from a foam-like material and are available in varying sizes such as 3.18 cm (1.25 inch) and 4.45 cm (1.75 inch) diameters as seen in Fig. 1.

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Liftware is a steadicam spoon to detect and correct the hand tremors that affect people suffering with movement disorders, such as Parkinson’s. Its mechanics are not a million miles away from a hand blender—with a detachable handle that can be charged in a dock so the utensil can be washed separately. Accelerometers in the handle detect tremors, the microchip and sensors identify the direction and force of a tremor, while actuators motor the spoon in the opposite direction in order to compensate. In the US alone, more than one million people have the incurable movement disorder of Parkinson’s, while tremors, the most common movement disorder, affect 10% of over-65-year-olds. Tremors consist of small, rapid movements and uncontrollable shaking, that are not restricted to, but are often most noticeable in the hands, interfering with eating, drinking and writing. Anupam Pathak founder & CEO developed the ‘smart utensil’, which retails at $295, alongside scientists and engineers. ‘It’s an emotional thing,’ he says. ‘If people can’t do something as simple as eating they feel like they lose some independence and dignity. It really affects them.’ Their next innovations might include a keyholder, plus a fork and soup spoon - plans which will now be supported by the power of Google, who bought Lift Labs in September 2014.

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