Aids are to many completely crucial in order to manage daily life. The goal of these must be to improve the user’s daily life and maintain and improve their level of functioning.
In Trondheim, three young entrepreneurs focused their attention on this issue and developed a walker for stairs which not only gives an opportunity for safe rehabilitation, but also gives the option of living at home for longer without having to move rooms or rebuilding a home.
Plenty of falls
Every 20 minutes an older adult dies from a fall in the US, and stairways are involved in 1,900 deaths and 1.3 million hospital emergency room visits per year (National Safety Council 2011; Pauls 2011).
This devastating statistic was the background for students Eirik Medbø, Halvor Wold and Ingrid Lonar at NTNU’s Entrepreneurial School’s desire to prevent stair falls in the fall of 2011.
After development and pilot testing of four or five prototypes in 2013 and 2014, the AssiStep walker for stairs finally went to market in 2015. The year after, the first home installations were done through NAV Assistive Technology Centers.
To date, the entrepreneurs have delivered more than 1000 units, from above the arctic circle in the north of Norway down to France in the south, and in Norway, around 30% of users are persons who suffered strokes.
One such user is Kjell Groven, 72. He suffered a stroke on May 17, 2017, and has for several years had gradually greater difficulties in climbing the stairs in his home.
- “I can tell the strength of my legs has gradually diminished the last few years. My balance as well. My reaction time is worse, so as a result I fall quite a bit. I can’t recollect how many times I’ve fallen, but it’s more than I can count on two hands.
Three former students solving Kjell’s stair climbing problem might not have been the obvious outcome – and he discovered the walker for stairs Assistep by accident:
- “After I had a stroke and began rehabilitation, I did some web searching on my own to figure out what I could do about the stairs at home. Our living space covers three floors, so I’m fully dependent on moving between floors in order to be able to keep living at home.
Both Kjell and his physical therapist agreed that keeping his body moving was immensely important to maintain his walking ability and musculature. For this reason, they considered a stair lift to be a poor solution since it would make him more passive.
- “I saw on the internet that there were several walker for stairs installed in nursing homes and at rehabilitation clinics in Trondheim. These were available for people to test, so I went to one of these along with my physical therapist in order to try it out. This went very well, so we applied for the walker for stairs Assistep through the Governmental mobility aid service (NAV) and I had the product installed in all three staircases in my home soon after.”
“If we hadn’t installed this aid, the alternative would probably have been moving to a care residence – which was something neither my wife nor I wanted.
Training and safety
In cooperation with the occupational and physical therapists of the municipality and the hospital, Kjell has a regular training regimen he tries to follow. This may however, Kjell and his wife spent 14 days in their summer house. There, they live on one floor, so he didn’t get to climb any stairs for several weeks.
- “I try to train two to three times a day, with getting up, walking sideways and walking up and down my home stairs. After two weeks over there on one floor, I do notice my body being worse, since I don’t get the necessary training for my leg muscles.”
- “Therefore, getting back home and starting my regular training routine was tough.”
Stair training is used in connection with rehabilitation, and is a good way of training to maintain leg function, also in your own home.
More than 80 testing units of the walker for stairs AssiStep have been mounted all over Norway now, and the entrepreneurs therefore encourage anyone who might be interested to get in touch in order to make an arrangement to test one in their area.