Category Archives: Aging

Pills and Pill Bottle

Medication Lists

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For our design innovation theme, I wanted to present an interesting idea called the Twinlist and open up the floor for some discussion of whether this approach is promising.

Comparing two long lists of any kind is always a challenge. For example, you may have experienced the difficulty of reconciling a bank or credit card statement when comparing the list with your personal tally of transactions. In healthcare the challenge is even more daunting when physicians have to maintain an up-to-date list of a patient’s medications, compare the medications taken at home with the ones taken during a hospital stay, and rapidly put together a new list.

nutrition facts

Personalized Food Labels

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I have been involved in the design of nutrition labels for over 25 years and it still amazes me that they are not better than they could be, even just given what we already know and even more if we conduct a few well designed human factors studies. So whenever I see a new proposal, I am always eager to check it out.

The FDA has regulated food label nutrition claims such as ‘reduced sodium’ and ‘low fat’ since it began enforcing the Nutritional Label and Education Act in 1994. However, there has yet been no quantitative evidence that the FDA’s definitions of these quantifier terms correspond to consumers’ perceptions of what the terms mean. This study investigated three common quantifier terms used on food labels (reduced, low and free) in relation to four dietary components (fat, sugar, sodium and cholesterol).

Plastic Utensils

Chop Chop Kitchen

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Universal design is an important concept for all of us who practice human factors and ergonomics. What I value most about universal design is that it does not treat people with limitations as fundamentally different populations, but rather simply at the tail end of a distribution that we all fall somewhere along. It is not the case that non-disabled have 100% of their working memory capacity or vigilance and the cognitively challenged all have the same smaller amount. It is not the case that non-disabled have 100% bicep strength or aerobic capacity and the physically challenged all have the same smaller amount. Some people fall high on the distribution, some medium, some lower. The disabled may fall lower on some distributions, but are just as likely to be higher on other distributions.

Lifting a heavy box

Increasing Lift Strength with a Simple Idea

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This is an example of an ergonomic development that innovates by taking a novel perspective on an old problem. A team of researchers at Hiroshima University wanted to develop a low cost version of the exoskeleton suits that provide hydraulic or pneumatic power to help people lift extraordinary loads. But theirs accomplishes a similar feat with regular cloth and no electronic devices. How do they achieve this feat of magic?

A prototype for wearable equipment to support human motion has now been developed. This wearable equipment, called the Sensorimotor Enhancing Suit (SEnS), enhances sensorimotor functions by reducing the muscle load of the upper limbs. SEnS is inexpensive because it is made of flexible fabrics using regular cloth and does not include any electronic devices. SEnS assists human sensorimotor functions and improves the quality of life of not only elderly individuals but also healthy people who work under extreme conditions.

Fireworks

One Year Anniversary

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In honor of the one year anniversary of EID’s relaunch (check out our first post ever here) under our new format, we thought we would copy an innovative technique used by Ta-Nehisi Coates. In addition to being a brilliant, award winning writer, he is also credited for having one of the best comment management strategies for his blog at The Atlantic magazine. One dimension of his strategy, which seems obvious on the surface but is incredibly rare, is to start with the assumption that some…

a small computing device clipped to a pocket to track movement

Fitbits for People with Multiple Sclerosis

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I have written before about wearables. They are a nice toy, but in general they don’t really do anything particularly useful, at least not with the current technology. This week, I read about a great application in health care, and I think it works.

Drugmaker Biogen Idec is exploring ways to use fitness trackers to gather data from people who suffer from multiple sclerosis (MS), an autoimmune disease that affects the brain and spinal cord.

a model of a small kitchen

Crowdsourcing Microapartments

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First Build is a crowdsourcing platform that works with companies to facilitate R&D. The advantage to the company is that the time from concept to working model is radically shortened. The crowd gets a percent of revenue. In one pilot project, GE Appliances submitted a project for innovations on its washing machine and I think the crowd got 1% of revenue for three years…

two older adults sitting on a bench

Counterintuitive Findings on Aging: Cognitive Plasticity

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As far back as I can remember, the conventional wisdom about learning is that we lose cognitive plasticity as we age. Our mental schema become fixed and dominate our ability to learn new material. Anything that doesn’t fit what we already know is really hard to fit in and is often not remembered later.

But some recent findings (here and here) turn this assumption on its head.

a woman carving a turkey with a child looking on

Bring Some HF/E to Your Thanksgiving Meal

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In honor of Thanksgiving, I thought I would provide some warnings about the risks you may want to watch out for as you celebrate the holiday. Since it is a holiday post, I didn’t feel obligated to check for hard statistics on any of these. I am pretty sure that these are well established risks on Thanksgiving…

a woman testing her grip strength with a device

Aging and Designing for Your Real Age

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I was an early adopter of Real Age when they launched many years ago. Now they seem to have gone too commercial and I am unconvinced of the validity of the test any more. But the idea I think is still very sound. So I was happy when Lynn Strother at HFES HQ shared this article with me from the NYT. The article just focuses on physical measures, but I think that is way too limited a perspective.

Warren Sanderson, a professor of social and behavioral sciences at Stony Brook University, is working on ways to define aging other than the passing of years. With colleagues at the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis in Laxenburg, Austria, he recently published a study showing that the strength of an adult’s hand grip can distinguish different rates of aging in people with varying levels of education…