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Applied Research Impact Case 5

“3D Printing for the Elderly” Project

Mr Alex King, Faculty of Design and Environment

 

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Demonstration of 3D printer to the elderly

 

While the global population aged 60 and above is on the increase, Hong Kong is inevitably facing the same problem and its ageing population is more pronounced than other major Asian cities. Elderly people are considered to be a vulnerable group as they lack social networks and their needs are often neglected. For instance, at present there are only a few assistive products designed for the elderly on the market. Moreover, the products cannot fully satisfy their needs since elderly people are not involved in the design process.

 

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Participants and instructors engaging in a collaborative design process

 

To address the problems encountered by the elderly in their daily life, Mr Alex King provided opportunities for a group of senior citizens to participate in a collaborative design process with the use of 3D printing technology. The project was funded by the Social Welfare Department, with an aim to promote active ageing and social inclusion by establishing a mutual support network among senior citizens.

 

In the project, Mr King organized a series of workshops to improve the existing assistive designs with 78 local elderly people, with a group of design practitioners, social workers, tertiary students, and design entrepreneurs. The involved parties enriched the creation process and they also offered constructive solutions to improve the products. Their active participation allowed a decision to be made with consideration of different views, thus achieving an ultimate goal for the benefit of everyone working together. The common interest among the elderly helped them build up rapport with one another, so those living alone could meet new friends and interact with neighbours.

 

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Participants of the workshop

 

The method of creation in the current project involved brainstorming, freehand sketching, generating foam models to facilitate participation, and promoting the design. The application of 3D printing technology assisted with the verification of form factors, physical sizes and proportions, individual preferences, product details, and use of products. To help the elderly get familiar with the new technology, a public seminar was organized before the workshops.

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Group photo of participants, instructors and organizers

 

The co-designed kitchen product “Chopping Board with Sharpener” entered Hong Kong Smart Design Awards 2018 and obtained Merit Award in the Conceptual Group. By putting participants’ design concepts into actual practice, the process of product design is fully utilized to benefit seniors in their day-to-day activities.

 

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Participating elderly and Mr. King interviewed in a TV programme