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By August 5, 2014Longevity

There will come a time in our lives when fighting gravity becomes a continuous challenge if not a losing battle. We’ll be obliged to rely on one type of apparatus or another to keep ourselves upright and mobile: most likely a cane, walker or wheelchair.

In spite of this inevitability, there has been comparatively little innovation in the field of so-called “assistive technology.”

Some ideas to improve the maneuverability of such conveyances:

THE CANE. Canes were once cool. Think Charlie Chaplin twirling his around or W. C. Fields poking his indiscriminately. Now they’re musty implements of false-security and stability, good for little more than tripping rambunctious kids. Maybe cane-makers can hook up with Segway and develop a gyroscopic cane. One that will remain upright at all times to the benefit of users and others who regularly trip over them. And while in development, they could add an optional compact foldable seat. The cane would then be more functional as an assistive device and may even become a popular accessory for individuals who frequent crowded nightclubs.

THE WALKER. The awkward walker could be redesigned to be a lighter-weight, higher-tech contraption. While the ergonomics specialists are doing their thing, perhaps they can partner with Penn or Wilson on a customized and fitted tennis ball-like cushion.

THE WHEELCHAIR. Athletes have accomplished remarkable progress with wheelchair design. Theirs’ are lighter and considerably more agile than “pedestrian” models. Wheelchairs should not weigh more than cars and cost nearly as much. Tesla: How about applying some creative know-how to a lighter battery. And Trek, please share your minimalist designs, space-age alloys and blueprint for near-effortless motion with some entrepreneur who can then compete with the swindlers who currently manufacture and retail medical devices.

THE SCOOTER. Make one that lives up to its name and actually scoots; one that accelerates rather than humiliates.

In the meantime, it remains a battlefield out there; with steps and stairs, shag carpet, distracted drivers and other clear-path violations, not to mention the exorbitant cost of such mediocre products.

Demand by more than 78 million Boomers – the largest and expected to be the longest living of generations — will be the next big market for these anachronistic devices. Advancements are sorely needed and any and all will no doubt be supported by and welcomed with open arms.

Note to inventors: This is your golden opportunity to capitalize on the coincidence of doing something good for society while earning yourself success stories in Fast Company and Aging Today.

View the short (4-minute) documentary film “Life is a Ball” for an inspiring take on how a tennis ball’s life parallels our own aging experience.

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