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Staying upright

2 January 2018 / by / no comments

Staying upright

Two young inven­tors have come up with a walk­ing cane acces­sory to keep the cane and seniors from falling down.

BY: Eleanor Yap

[cap­tion id=“attachment_9500” align=“alignleft” width=“467”] Sib­lings Ian and Le.[/caption]

When one sees a gap, the nat­ural thing to do is to fill it. That is exactly what brother and sis­ter, Seng Ian Hao and Ing Le, did when they encoun­tered a senior four years ago, who had fallen over while try­ing to retrieve her walk­ing stick. Ini­tially, the stick was lean­ing against the side of a table while she was eat­ing but it slid off and landed on the floor. While retriev­ing her cane, the senior lost her bal­ance, fell and ended up injur­ing her head.

Said Ian, 13 and Le, 11, “We realised that the walk­ing stick can be a haz­ard rather than an aid if the user is unable to reach it. We decided to come up with a solu­tion for this prob­lem of falling canes.” The two young inven­tors were deter­mined. First, they tried locat­ing a cane that would not fall over but they could not find any in the mar­ket that the seniors they spoke with liked enough to sta­bilise their canes and keep them upright and within reach. They com­plained that the exist­ing prod­ucts were either too heavy, just too cum­ber­some, or not suf­fi­ciently stable.

So, they did the next best thing – they came up with a prod­uct of their own! They roped in their users – the seniors them­selves – to help them come up with some­thing that is easy to use and keeps their walk­ing canes upright called Qane­Mate (Qane stands for Qual­ity Ambu­la­tory Novel Equip­ment). The walk­ing cane acces­sory is a sim­ple and portable hand-​held clip that fas­tens all walk­ing sticks securely onto a sup­port­ing sur­face such as a table edge so that it is within reach of the seniors using the canes and it doesn’t fall. This holder has also been tested and worked on hos­pi­tal beds, pub­lic trans­port bus poles and MRT poles. It fol­lows some­what of the same prin­ci­ple as the hand­bag clip which can be fas­tened to a sur­face and keeps the hand­bag near the owner.

The sib­lings shared: “We have always enjoyed com­ing up with inno­va­tions to solve prob­lems faced by the elderly. It gives us a great sense of fulfilment!”

Early days

How­ever, Qane­Mate didn’t become Qane­Mate overnight. The first pro­to­type was made by Ian when he was nine years old using Lego in Novem­ber 2013. And over three and a half years later, the sib­lings made 13 pro­to­types and tested them on seniors, includ­ing those at var­i­ous nurs­ing homes and elder­care cen­tres that the two vol­un­teer at with their family.

Every time our users dis­cov­ered a flaw or gave us sug­ges­tions on how to improve it, we would take apart the Qane­Mate and rebuild a brand-​new pro­to­type incor­po­rat­ing their feed­back. It was dis­cour­ag­ing in the begin­ning as we kept hav­ing to re-​invent the older pro­to­types to get bet­ter user experience.

We kept going back to the elderly and they tire­lessly tried and re-​tried our pro­to­types until even­tu­ally, they deemed Qane­Mate sat­is­fac­tory. The elderly never gave up on us, and kept encour­ag­ing us in our jour­ney. We are for­ever grate­ful to them,” said Ian, who is a stu­dent at Saint Joseph’s Insti­tu­tion (SJI) Inter­na­tional School and Le, a stu­dent at Sin­ga­pore Chi­nese Girls’ School.

As the two got feed­back, their inven­tion was fur­ther tweaked and mod­i­fied to what it is today. Qane­Mate has even passed the test for seniors with arthri­tis and stroke. “Many elderly com­plained that with­out our inven­tion, the walk­ing stick is as clumsy as them­selves, always falling over and need­ing to be picked up. With our inven­tion, the ordi­nary walk­ing stick is trans­formed into a qual­ity walk­ing aid which the elderly who used them felt so much hap­pier. They were con­vinced that the inven­tion raised the qual­ity of their daily life too,” said the brother and sis­ter, who have since set up a social enter­prise that hopes to explore other inven­tions and gaps for seniors.

Since com­ing up with their final pro­to­type and man­u­fac­tur­ing it, they have been giv­ing Qane­Mate for free to needy elderly using walk­ing sticks. Accord­ing to the two sib­lings, their par­ents were their “first-​ever finan­cial back­ers” and they have also con­tributed their ang-​pow sav­ings to their cause. So far, they have donated more than 200 units and they are cur­rently being tested by phys­io­ther­a­pists, and the two still are col­lect­ing feed­back and sug­ges­tions from seniors.

[cap­tion id=“attachment_9501” align=“alignright” width=“640”] The QaneMate.[/caption]

The sib­lings have also taken Qane­Mate a step fur­ther with the use of IT. The lat­est ver­sion has a smart, inbuilt NFC (near field com­mu­ni­ca­tion) chip embed­ded within the Qane­Mate logo sticker and enhanced fea­tures such as an emer­gency con­tact num­ber espe­cially for those with demen­tia and wan­der­ing ten­den­cies. The smart NFC chip allows stor­age of basic user infor­ma­tion such as the sur­name and ini­tials, abbre­vi­ated IC num­ber and the emer­gency con­tact of a next-​of-​kin. A tap of a mobile phone with NFC capa­bil­ity will allow one such as a kind Samar­i­tan to con­tact the user’s next-​of– kin imme­di­ately, and these lost seniors can then be reunited with their fam­ily safely and quickly. Cur­rently, many lost seniors found wan­der­ing are brought to police sta­tions with no source of iden­tity on them. This can be a very emo­tion­ally trau­matic and stress­ful expe­ri­ence for these seniors.

In addi­tion, the young inven­tors are work­ing with the Land Trans­port Author­ity (LTA) engi­neers to trial hav­ing the Green Man Plus device (that are at traf­fic cross­ings) acti­va­tion func­tion incor­po­rated into the smart Qane­Mate holder too and pro­mote road safety among seniors. “We hope to get some kind cor­po­rate spon­sors in the future, who have a heart for the elderly so we can pro­duce more of the lat­est ver­sion and give to the needy elderly.”

Help­ing seniors has always been in their blood. Besides vol­un­teer­ing at elder­care facil­i­ties with fam­ily mem­bers since they were tod­dlers, the two sib­lings draw inspi­ra­tion from their late grand­fa­ther, Dr KM Seng, an obste­tri­cian, nurs­ing home vol­un­teer doc­tor, and co-​founder of TauRx Ther­a­peu­tics, a drug devel­op­ment com­pany look­ing at break­through ther­a­pies for Alzheimer’s disease.

Sup­port & recognition

Over the years, their inven­tion has received much com­men­da­tion and sup­port. This year, they were granted their first patent by the Intel­lec­tual Prop­erty Office of Sin­ga­pore. They also won the Inno­va­tion of the Year Award at the 2017 Age­ing Asia Inno­va­tion Forum and went on to rep­re­sent Sin­ga­pore at the 2017 Geron­tech Innovation-​cum-​Exhibit Sum­mit (GIES) in Hong Kong. They have even been recog­nised abroad includ­ing in the US, in 2014 at the 26th Young Inven­tors’ Show­case by the Young Inven­tors of Amer­ica Asso­ci­a­tion, and Ian and Le brought home the first prize in their category.

Wise beyond their ages, the two shared, “We won’t remain kids for­ever. One day, we will be elderly our­selves and will need our inven­tion to help us move around and pre­vent us from falling down.

We also hope that one day, our own grand­kids will invent even bet­ter tools for us to use when we grow old.”



Two young inventors have come up with a walking cane accessory to keep the cane and seniors from falling down.

BY: Eleanor Yap

Siblings Ian and Le.

When one sees a gap, the natural thing to do is to fill it. That is exactly what brother and sister, Seng Ian Hao and Ing Le, did when they encountered a senior four years ago, who had fallen over while trying to retrieve her walking stick. Initially, the stick was leaning against the side of a table while she was eating but it slid off and landed on the floor. While retrieving her cane, the senior lost her balance, fell and ended up injuring her head.

Said Ian, 13 and Le, 11, “We realised that the walking stick can be a hazard rather than an aid if the user is unable to reach it. We decided to come up with a solution for this problem of falling canes.” The two young inventors were determined. First, they tried locating a cane that would not fall over but they could not find any in the market that the seniors they spoke with liked enough to stabilise their canes and keep them upright and within reach. They complained that the existing products were either too heavy, just too cumbersome, or not sufficiently stable.

So, they did the next best thing – they came up with a product of their own! They roped in their users – the seniors themselves – to help them come up with something that is easy to use and keeps their walking canes upright called QaneMate (Qane stands for Quality Ambulatory Novel Equipment). The walking cane accessory is a simple and portable hand-held clip that fastens all walking sticks securely onto a supporting surface such as a table edge so that it is within reach of the seniors using the canes and it doesn’t fall. This holder has also been tested and worked on hospital beds, public transport bus poles and MRT poles. It follows somewhat of the same principle as the handbag clip which can be fastened to a surface and keeps the handbag near the owner.

The siblings shared: “We have always enjoyed coming up with innovations to solve problems faced by the elderly. It gives us a great sense of fulfilment!”

 

Early days

However, QaneMate didn’t become QaneMate overnight. The first prototype was made by Ian when he was nine years old using Lego in November 2013. And over three and a half years later, the siblings made 13 prototypes and tested them on seniors, including those at various nursing homes and eldercare centres that the two volunteer at with their family.

“Every time our users discovered a flaw or gave us suggestions on how to improve it, we would take apart the QaneMate and rebuild a brand-new prototype incorporating their feedback. It was discouraging in the beginning as we kept having to re-invent the older prototypes to get better user experience.

“We kept going back to the elderly and they tirelessly tried and re-tried our prototypes until eventually, they deemed QaneMate satisfactory. The elderly never gave up on us, and kept encouraging us in our journey. We are forever grateful to them,” said Ian, who is a student at Saint Joseph’s Institution (SJI) International School and Le, a student at Singapore Chinese Girls’ School.

As the two got feedback, their invention was further tweaked and modified to what it is today. QaneMate has even passed the test for seniors with arthritis and stroke. “Many elderly complained that without our invention, the walking stick is as clumsy as themselves, always falling over and needing to be picked up. With our invention, the ordinary walking stick is transformed into a quality walking aid which the elderly who used them felt so much happier. They were convinced that the invention raised the quality of their daily life too,” said the brother and sister, who have since set up a social enterprise that hopes to explore other inventions and gaps for seniors.

Since coming up with their final prototype and manufacturing it, they have been giving QaneMate for free to needy elderly using walking sticks. According to the two siblings, their parents were their “first-ever financial backers” and they have also contributed their ang-pow savings to their cause. So far, they have donated more than 200 units and they are currently being tested by physiotherapists, and the two still are collecting feedback and suggestions from seniors.

The QaneMate.

The siblings have also taken QaneMate a step further with the use of IT. The latest version has a smart, inbuilt NFC (near field communication) chip embedded within the QaneMate logo sticker and enhanced features such as an emergency contact number especially for those with dementia and wandering tendencies. The smart NFC chip allows storage of basic user information such as the surname and initials, abbreviated IC number and the emergency contact of a next-of-kin. A tap of a mobile phone with NFC capability will allow one such as a kind Samaritan to contact the user’s next-of- kin immediately, and these lost seniors can then be reunited with their family safely and quickly. Currently, many lost seniors found wandering are brought to police stations with no source of identity on them. This can be a very emotionally traumatic and stressful experience for these seniors.

In addition, the young inventors are working with the Land Transport Authority (LTA) engineers to trial having the Green Man Plus device (that are at traffic crossings) activation function incorporated into the smart QaneMate holder too and promote road safety among seniors. “We hope to get some kind corporate sponsors in the future, who have a heart for the elderly so we can produce more of the latest version and give to the needy elderly.”

Helping seniors has always been in their blood. Besides volunteering at eldercare facilities with family members since they were toddlers, the two siblings draw inspiration from their late grandfather, Dr KM Seng, an obstetrician, nursing home volunteer doctor, and co-founder of TauRx Therapeutics, a drug development company looking at breakthrough therapies for Alzheimer’s disease.

 

Support & recognition

Over the years, their invention has received much commendation and support. This year, they were granted their first patent by the Intellectual Property Office of Singapore. They also won the Innovation of the Year Award at the 2017 Ageing Asia Innovation Forum and went on to represent Singapore at the 2017 Gerontech Innovation-cum-Exhibit Summit (GIES) in Hong Kong. They have even been recognised abroad including in the US, in 2014 at the 26th Young Inventors’ Showcase by the Young Inventors of America Association, and Ian and Le brought home the first prize in their category.

Wise beyond their ages, the two shared, “We won’t remain kids forever. One day, we will be elderly ourselves and will need our invention to help us move around and prevent us from falling down.

“We also hope that one day, our own grandkids will invent even better tools for us to use when we grow old.”

 


 

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