Two Chula architectural graduates have developed Squeezium and Rehabit innovations to provide an incentive for the elderly to get up and move to strengthen their bodies. As a nod to their creativity, the innovations received Gold Medal and Special Award at the 7th World Invention Innovation Contest, Korea Invention Academy (KIA).

Newswise — Exercise and play are important activities for humans regardless of age.  This is even more important as we get older and exercise and play are needed to maintain strong and vibrant physical and mental health.  But, incentivizing the elderly to get up and exercise is not easy, with their less agile body and illnesses that often discourage them from making the effort to move.

Two graduates from Chulalongkorn University’s Faculty of Architecture tried to solve this problem with Squeezium and Rehabit innovations which most recently won the Gold Medal and Special Award at the 7th World Invention Innovation Contest from the Korean Invention Academy (KIA), hosted by Korea Invention News.                                         

“Data from the Geriatric Excellence Center and the Department of Rehabilitation Medicine, King Chulalongkorn Memorial Hospital, Thai Red Cross Society show that the elderly often lack the motivation to exercise, do not enjoy it, and do not exercise properly.  This may have adverse effects on their health,” Chanidapa Savangvaroros, a graduate of Chula Faculty of Architecture, who created Rehabit, discusses the concept behind the innovation which she got inspired from the “Design for Ageing” course, offered by the Department of Industrial Design, Faculty of Architecture, in collaboration with the Geriatric Excellence Center.

“So, we designed and applied the mechanics of games to exercise to encourage older adults to feel challenged and want to exercise continuously and correctly.  Moreover, exercise data can also be sent to healthcare professionals for review,” Chanidapa explained.

Squeezium hands stimulation exercise to lower blood pressure

According to a study abroad that stated that proper hand compression can contribute to lowering blood pressure, so Jintjutha Prateepthinthong, a graduate of Chula Faculty of Architecture developed Squeezium, a hand-squeezing device that looks like a Joy Stick, used in conjunction with an application to recommend and plan correct hand exercises.                                                                

“Players simply squeeze their hands to force a floating balloon (on-screen) to dodge the obstacles. If they squeeze their hands with the correct force of 30 percent, the balloon will dodge the obstacles, but if the force is not sufficient, the application will suggest how to do it until the correct force is applied.  Players will continue to increase the level of play. The game is believed to make the elderly enjoy their exercise.”                               

For those who don’t like playing games, Squeezium will act like a personal trainer who will recommend the right exercise. The device’s screen will display the levels of strength of hand squeeze in a graph format. A reminder for workouts based on a set goal can also be set.                         

“Hopefully, this innovation will serve as an option for people who start to have high blood pressure but still don’t want to take medications. Continuous exercise may help. This device will help motivate the seniors to continue exercising,” Jindjutha added that Squeezium is easy to use.  Seniors can just open the application, and there will be animated instructions for them to follow and enjoy themselves.

Rehabit — a workout with an animated trainer

Rehabit looks like a traditional digital workout device with a strap like a wristwatch complete with an application to record exercise data, but Rehabit’s creator, Chanidapa Savangvaroros said her work stands out from the crowd and can motivate seniors to enjoy their workout.                   

“Rehabit is more than just a fitness data storage device that we are familiar with because it is equipped with animation that acts like a personal trainer to guide users to follow correct and safe exercises for the elderly. These exercise data are the advice of physicians and physiotherapists from the Geriatric Excellence Center,” Chanidapa explained the strengths of Rehabit.

The easy-to-use innovation has two components: a wearable sensor to collect data during exercise and an application to accurately recommend exercise for the elderly with animation.

“This device not only recommends the correct and appropriate exercises but also processes the user’s exercise and stores exercise data so that doctors and physiotherapists can track the patient’s progress.”

Gamification, a motivational exercise game for the elderly

Both innovations apply Gamification principles to exercise to create a sense of fun and challenge like playing a game to collect points. When the set goal is reached, there is a stimulus for the elderly to always feel the novelty of the game. Afterward, the players can share their accomplishments with friends and family. This will motivate them to continue working out.

“Our intention is to design devices to stimulate physical activity through various applications and games so that seniors can become more attentive to their health through exercise. We hope that these innovations will meet the needs of Thai seniors,” said both innovators.

Squeezium and Rehabit innovations are now in the prototype phase in which more senior users can try them out and adjustments can be made before production and marketing to interested parties in the next phase.  In the future, the innovators plan to increase the variety of games and devices that reach wider and more diverse groups of audiences, including the vulnerable, the disadvantaged, rural residents, and the general public of all ages.