Innovative Mobility Aids: 4 Life-Changing Devices, Past, Present and Future

Innovative Mobility Aids 4 Life-Changing Devices, Past, Present and FutureIn the not too distant past, the ageing process could see a once-vigorous man or woman first house-bound and later miserably bedridden. Unless you were very rich, there were neither the resources nor the technology available to offer any sort of quality of life to someone with restricted mobility.

If this had continued to be the case, the extended lifetimes that we are fortunate to experience now would be a curse rather than a blessing. Thankfully, over the course of the 20th century in particular, entrepreneurs, businesses and scientists have used their grey matter and their creativity to create mobility aids that revolutionise the lives of their users.

A prime example of the progress that’s been made was in evidence at last year’s London Paralympics. Prosthetic blades enable amputees to run with power and grace that most of us can only marvel at, whilst wheelchair marathon racers far outstrip their bipedal equivalents.

Here are some of the most significant innovations in the history of mobility aid development.

The Wheelchair

The first modern, lightweight and collapsible wheelchair was invented in 1933 by Jennings and Everest.

We often take wheelchairs for granted now, but before they were widely available, most people with mobility problems were condemned to a short, static life.

Nowadays, technology has developed superlight carbon-fibre chairs, and the disabled community has created sports like wheelchair basketball and murderball (officially know as quadriplegic rugby!), the latter of which features clashes of sometimes frightening intensity that belie notions of human fragility.

Inventors continue to look for new ways to improve the wheelchair, such as an off-road mountain version that allows users to venture off the beaten trail and into nature.

The Stairlift

When it was first pioneered in the 1920’s, the now common stairlift was revolutionary. Stairlifts mean that people suffering from arthritis, Parkinson’s Disease or infirmity can remain in their own homes and maintain their independence and self-esteem.

With a variety of different seating position, the ability to traverse round curved or narrow staircases and the option of being operated remotely, stairlifts eliminate the danger of potentially fatal falls and reduce the burden on carers.


A number of smaller devices have been created that help disabled users with little movements that many of us take for granted, but without which life can become frustratingly difficult.

Telescopic reaching systems let the user reach down or up without having to move their weight or strain themselves. A bit like a litter-picker, they dramatically increase a person’s reach so that picking up a fallen wallet or purse is effortless.

The Flo, meanwhile is a high-end, beautifully designed walking aid that gives its user the ability to stand up unaided and also functions as a walking stick.

Robots and Exo-Skeletons!?

Japan, which has nearly 50,000 people aged 100 or older, is leading the way in developing robotic technology to help the elderly remain mobile. There are a number of robots already operating in hospitals, and in future they could wash people’s hair or help people walk around.

These machines will not be released into the general market for a few years yet, but could ease the demand for carers and improve the quality of life of the old, so long as they can overcome serious cost issues.

Alternatively, in the not too-distant future we could see exoskeletons become a feature of the mobility aid market. Already in development by the US army, exoskeletons are pieces of intelligently designed equipment that augment the strength of the user’s muscles.

For the meantime, though, wheelchairs and stairlifts in particular will continue to enliven the lives of millions of people round the world. Mobility aids have evolved enormously from their humble beginnings, and there exciting prospects for the future in sight.

Guest post by Acorn Stairlifts. We innovate, design, build and install stairlifts to suit every staircase and user.

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