Help needed with developing an assistive device for elderly and people living with upper extremity mobility and strength limitations

Greetings fellow GOSHers,

My name is Gideon, and I was introduced to GOSH last year through AfricaOSH during my participation in the OpenFlexure Microscope workshop in Ghana. I am currently a student at Kwame Nkrumah University of Science & Technology in Kumasi, pursuing a degree in Biomedical Engineering.

I am reaching out to fellow GOSH members for assistance with my final project.

A little background on my project. The aging population in Ghana and Africa, coupled with the prevalence of conditions like ALS, Parkinson’s disease, and others affecting independent functioning among the elderly and people suffering from nervous system disorders, highlights the crucial need for assistive devices. The prolonged time taken to perform essential activities of daily living, particularly eating, underscores the necessity for designing an automated feeding system for the elderly and individuals with nervous system disorders.

Additionally, the significant emigration of Ghanaian nurses, to America and Europe, who serve as primary caregivers for the elderly and people suffering from nervous system disorders, presents a substantial threat to their quality of life and independence. Hence, the urgency for developing assistive devices.

I aim to create a portable device capable of scooping food from a bowl and transporting it to the user’s mouth without requiring physical contact with either the bowl or the device. I would greatly appreciate assistance on integrating microcontrollers into the hardware to achieve the intended functionality of the device. Guidance on suitable software for designing a model for the project would be invaluable as well.

Your suggestions and contributions to this endeavor are highly appreciated. Thank you.

Best regards, Gideon


Hi Gideon

I love the intention with your project to use tech for meaningful practical purpose here. I work with #techForGood makers and volunteers to bring similar solutions for persons with disabilities here in Singapore, I find that every device / automation system we build eventually needs to be customized and personalized to the persons specific needs. So our approach is to design for one single use case instead of trying to design an automation system that could work for many. Following this approach seems strange to most people who think of factory production as a “default” and assume it’s more expensive. However, since we’re using open-source design, and consumer level production like 3d printing, laser-cutting, and hand-crafting (usually the best tech) we can make things that fit and work better than mass production of expensive customizable assistive devices.

My recommendation is to invite the user and their caregivers into the design process of the assistive device. When we design iteratively with smaller and simpler little prototypes we often find the user needs are such that we don’t really need complex automation but something that can be self-maintained as well as it’s designed usage. A question we ask of complex electronic devices is: how does it affect the user when it breaks or stops working? Is the user able to self-fix? Or do they now rely on someone else? Is that okay? Can the caregiver handle the support?

Bringing the intended user of the assistive device and the caregivers into the process allows for these questions to be asked and understood along with the development of prototypes. They don’t need to be design or tech people to share ideas and sketch out little drawings that make the prototyping process meaningful.

That said, you’ll find more about the process and devices ive been working on here: Makerspace in a Library in Singapore
While I don’t have a specific device that automates feeding, there are several designs of related devices we can suggest to the user, caregivers, and makers.

Thank you so much😊

Ni! Hi Gideon @Deonboachie

It could be interesting for you to contact these folks, a makerspace/association that specializes in making devices for handicapped people:

(website mostly in French, just use a automatic translator, and you can definitely write them in English)

Wish you success with your project!

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Thank you so much :smiling_face: