The design concept of walking aids is basically the same as that of general product design, following the design philosophy of serving people and being convenient for others, that is, the design research and development of any product cannot be separated from human needs. However, the elderly have special requirements for walking aids, mainly manifested in the elderly themselves:
Different application environments will cause different changes in demand, leading to the diversification and complexity of demand levels. Elderly people who go out to parks or gardens are more willing to choose powered or wheeled walking aids, which are more conducive to body movement, reduce the burden brought about by long-distance travel, help increase physical activity and create a comfortable mood, and are more conducive to physical rehabilitation of the elderly.
The elderly experience changes in various aspects of physical function as they age, and the degree of degradation varies from person to person, even at the same age. Degeneration of vision, hearing, touch, and other functions become more severe with age. Degradation of physical function in the elderly is not a single event but a chain reaction. For example, degeneration of vision and hearing will lead to loss of body balance and mobility, and decreasing immune system functioning and increasing diseases will inevitably cause rapid degradation of physical function.
The physiology and psychology of the elderly undergo changes. Social development has led to an increasing number of elderly groups with stay-at-home, solitary living, and lonely problems. They gradually experience psychological changes such as depression, sadness, lack of confidence, and even inferiority due to physical degeneration. Therefore, the key design elements that must be extracted in the design process of walking aids must comprehensively consider the special needs and special "services" of the elderly to finally transform into design elements that meet the actual needs of the elderly.
Firstly, ergonomics is one of the necessary conditions for assessing whether a product is humanized, especially for the special group of the elderly. The interaction and relationship among people, machines and the environment are the basis of ergonomics. Its purpose is to make users feel convenient and comfortable during the use process, so as to establish the most harmonious relationship among people, machines and the environment based on the characteristics of human physiology and psychology. Secondly, the primary and secondary functions.
For special service groups, it is necessary to demand reasonability of functionality, which is particularly prominent in the design of walking aid products. For example, walking sticks mainly provide physical support for the elderly to reduce the weight burden on their legs, prevent joint wear and tear, and promote the recovery of the lower limbs. With the highlighting of humanized design, corresponding auxiliary functions have been added to assistive walking sticks, such as lighting, GPS positioning, and drug storage functions, to meet the safety needs of the elderly in their daily travel. At the same time, the multifunctional design of walking aids aims at satisfying users' various needs while taking into account both auxiliary and primary functions, and avoiding unnecessary impacts caused by cumbersome functions on elderly users. In terms of environmental protection, as an essential tool in the life of the elderly, most of the structure of walking aids has intimate contact with the body. Especially for the soft material parts of the handles of walking sticks and frames, environmental-friendly materials are required and green design is advocated.
In terms of structural elements, non-powered wheeled walking aids are mainly controlled by hand brakes. The traditional handbrake design mainly refers to the bike handle design, where the brake size is controlled by hand grip strength. Today, the handle design is a push-forward type, such as a baby stroller handle, and hand brakes are designed below the handle like a handle, which reduces hand strength and balances the brakes. In addition, for some walking aids, their structural design can be adjusted to facilitate storage and carrying. Meanwhile, due to the decline of physical function in the elderly, such as nervous weakness or degradation, it is necessary to focus on the design of assistive walking aids' functional structures.