Skip to main content

Outdoor Lean Elderly Assistant

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - OLEA (Outdoor Lean Elderly Assistant)

Reporting period: 2017-01-01 to 2017-06-30

In order to contribute to ICT solutions for healthy and independent ageing, RCS has previously developed the LEA. LEA assists elderly users in walking indoors and enables a healthy and active lifestyle. LEA’s advanced technology, large number of sensors and sophisticated software solutions offer balance support, posture correction and assistance in standing up and sitting down. During the LEA final user test-phase, the need for an outdoor model was expressed by the user. Users articulated the desire for an additional outdoor application that could offer physical activity and security like LEA. However, the current LEA is only suitable for indoor use and existing wheeled walkers (rollators) and mobility scooters currently on the market and being the only alternative lack for support and physical activity respectively (see paragraph 1.4 for more detail on the comparison with competing devices). This leaves a critical gap between user needs and available solutions.

In order to answer the needs from society and individual users Robot Care Systems (RCS) develops the Outdoor Lean Empowering Assistant (OLEA). This robotic mobility assistant offers supported walking as well as semi-automated motorised transport and functions as a full lifestyle device through it touchscreen interface. As such, OLEA makes frail elderly and rehabilitation patients more mobile and independent. Their increased mobility reduces healthcare costs and improves patient health and Quality of Life (QoL). OLEA will fulfil this need, as it will offer the possibility to flexibly alternate between high support (like the expensive but often used mobility scooters) and low support (walker) use. OLEA will be a simple, easy to use robotic tool that assists in safe and secure walking, but will also offer the possibility of seated and standing motorised transport. This way, users can alternate between walking and riding. The built in touchscreen enables the integration of navigational, communicational and physical exercise supporting applications. Through the advanced sensing and reactive support, OLEA offers an intermediate possibility on both security and physical activity with additional smart applications that can support the user in a broad range of activities and situations throughout daily life. In conclusion OLEA will offer support in mobility (walking and motorised support) but also in other life functions such as social interactions and navigation. The exact need for functionalities will be assessed in the feasibility study. The final goal of OLEA is to enable independent, active and secure living for elderly people, for which there is a pressing personal desire and societal need.

By offering this multifunctional support, OLEA provides an entirely new approach to some of the European challenges in managing healthcare and healthcare costs in relation to the ageing population. Through OLEA’s unique secure and activity-promoting functions and the additional possibility of integrating software applications (such as for social interaction or navigation), it contributes to the reduction of ageing associated healthcare expenses. The mechanisms through which OLEA aims to contribute to lowering healthcare costs, are:
• Enable elderly people to live independently longer, which results in increased quality of life and decreased healthcare expenses for caring homes. As European countries pay an average of 0.6% of GDP to finance care homes, and 3.5% for long term care at home, these make up a major healthcare expense. By assisting users in living independently, they can stay home longer and expenses for caring homes will decrease.
• Stimulate physical exercise in elderly people through promoting walking, and thereby increasing the user’s physical shape and general health. It has been shown that physically active people are healthier in numerous respects, among which are the decreased prevalence of arthrosis, vascular disease, depression, cognitive problems
During the course of the project the following studies were conducted:
(1) The commercial viability analysis consisting of a market study to confirm the market size as mapped during preliminary research on OLEA-users, investigate the product pricing and perform a profitability analysis (including research regarding reimbursement systems in countries for which this information is tell missing) to assess the viability of the business case when targeting different user subgroups. In addition the willingness to use OLEA and how to market was be investigated.

RCS has performed thorough commercial check on how to bring OLEA to the market. Detailed description was given of:
the product feasibility, market size, Market trends, EU Care market analysis, Profile enduser, OLEA Unique Selling Points; General sales channel profile; Stakeholders & Policymakers; Selected EU countries; General market entry process; Pricing and pricing analyses; Competition; Effect on the EU economy, profit analysis

(2) The user needs will be examined in a user study. It will evaluate the needs and requirements of future users, such as which functions should be integrated into OLEA, e.g. geo-fencing, remote location finder, navigation, social application and connectivity applications. To assess those needs, different subgroups within the target population have been taken into account, such as gender, age and different causes and gradations of immobility.

New features have been examined and full design ideas made based on the various interviews performed both with users and stakeholders. Users find that the proposed design of OLEA increases independence and highly increases mobility. Detailed description of user groups is given.

(3) The technological feasibility is an essential aspect in assessing the feasibility of OLEA-development. The software of the OLEA needs to be able to safely guide the user through the outdoor environment, and be able to cope with all external factors. Important criteria for outdoor use are the detection of traffic and critical obstacles (holes, debris, curbs), balance on rough/uneven terrain (ground, hills) and stability during seated and standing transport.

Full technological assessment was performed to determine which features are feasible to be designed in period of 2 years, how to keep the costs of the product low and how to certify it as medical product.
OLEA will bridge the market gap identified for outdoor mobility support for users with mobility limitations such as frail elderly and patients after orthopaedic accidents. The user needs are central in development and deployment of OLEA. The user needs were identified within phase 1 with extensive end user surveying and testing. Moreover, a detailed marketing strategy and deployment plan was set up. As such, OLEA’s impact is maximised and uptake of the disruptive innovation is achieved. Once OLEA is on the market it will stimulate independent and high quality living beneficial to user and healthcare providers and thus be taken up into their daily practice. The increasing healthcare costs for ageing population are a serious problem in the European and global society. OLEA contributes to solving these problems as the healthcare costs are reduced through moving care activities from professionals to OLEA, improving overall health of frail elderly and patients with mobility limitations and through improving the efficiency of physical rehabilitation. As such, OLEA offers a sustainable solution to one of the largest societal challenges the EU faces today. Through introducing OLEA, RCS responds to a growing demand as well as growing acceptance of high-tech medical support devices. With the increasingly online society and widespread uptake of smart devices such as phones and Internet of Things (IoT) technology, OLEA will hit fertile ground. Considering the current momentum to adopt new technology, OLEA has the potential to truly change healthcare and society.