Hong Kong is facing an ageing population and an increasing demand for elderly services. Gerontechnology is a combination of elderly services and innovative technology. By developing new, tailor-made products for the elderly, it can help improve the lives of elderly persons and reduce the burden and stress of carers and nursing staff. Earlier, the Electrical and Mechanical Services Department (EMSD) and the Hong Kong Council of Social Service (HKCSS) jointly held the Gerontech Youth Challenge to encourage youngsters to use their creativity as well as knowledge in the technology and electrical and mechanical (E&M) fields to come up with ideas on products that are friendly to the elderly in community care, institutional care and home care.
Under the theme of “Sharing Gerontechnology with the elderly to foster harmony between the elderly and the young”, the competition was open to student teams in three categories: the primary school level, the junior secondary school level and the senior secondary school level. The response to the competition was good, with the participation of a total of 72 teams from 43 schools. Nine winning teams were invited to attend the award presentation ceremony with an exhibition showcasing their design proposals. I have particularly invited some of the award winning students to share their design concepts with us.
Alleviating pressure on carers
The Gold Award winner in the senior secondary category was a team of five students from the Buddhist Wong Wan Tin College, who invented a set of electric-assisted tools for geriatric chairs (Geri chairs). The students told us that, to help them develop useful and practical products, they had visited a residential care home near their school to understand how carers looked after the elders. As pointed out by some carers, despite the availability of Geri chairs in many residential care homes to keep the elderly in a good posture even after sitting for a long time, the chairs are difficult for carers to move around with the considerable weight of elderly persons sitting on them. As it is a daily routine to move the chairs around, they are susceptible to strain injuries at work.
Inspired by the carers’ sharing, the students came up with “iGeri”, an electric mini pallet truck for propelling the Geri chairs, taking reference from the lifting principle for pallet trucks. By adjusting the powered handle to a suitable height, putting a Geri chair on, and using the driving force from the wheel hub motors of an electric balancing scooter, commonly known as “hotwheels”, carers could easily move Geri chairs with mechanical help to reduce their burden and pressure. The quality of elderly care services may also be enhanced.
Products tailor-made for the elderly
Students from the St. Teresa Secondary School, who were given a Gold Award in the junior secondary category, designed a mobile app named “Elderly Smart Health System”. Apart from providing extensive information on how to use various fitness facilities at parks, it enables the elderly to check post-exercise health information such as heartbeat, blood pressure and duration of exercise, so that they can keep an eye on their physical condition at any time.
To address forgetfulness associated with ageing, three students from the Po Leung Kuk Castar Primary School capturing a Gold Award in the primary category designed a smart device named “智精靈”. Using the radio frequency identification technology, it can be installed on the main doors to remind elderly users to bring with them all necessary items like keys and wallets on their way out. If they fail to do so, the device will issue an automatic alert. “智精靈” can also check if the cooking stoves have been turned off and issue timely alerts to the elderly who are leaving home.
Works filled with creativity and love
As a member of the judging panel, Mr PANG Yiu-hung, the Deputy Director of the EMSD, expressed pleasure in seeing young entrants taking an active role in adopting technology to design the products that are each and every one very creative and heart-warming. For example, the Gold Award winning team in the senior secondary category has integrated their E&M knowledge with programme writing to create a thoughtful tool that is both cost-effective and practical for staff of residential care homes, which he believed to have good potential for market adoption in future.
Fostering development of gerontechnology
The EMSD has been dedicated to promoting the use of innovative technology, aiming to enhance people’s quality of life through collaboration with other government departments, the E&M sector, the innovation and technology sector and social institutions. I know this is already the second year that the EMSD has collaborated with the HKCSS to organise an event with the theme of gerontechnology. The EMSD is also engaged in the drawing up of the Reference List of “Recognised Technology Application Products” for the “Innovation and Technology Fund for Application in Elderly and Rehabilitation Care”, and will provide technical support for the Fund with its professional knowledge, and assist social welfare organisations to purchase technology products or hire technology companies to develop innovative products, so as to improve the lives of the elderly and the carers.
31 March, 2019Back