Indoor living space improvement – Smart Habitat for the Elderly

Author: Dr Konstantinos Ninikas STSM Period: 2021-05-08 – 2021-04-20

ECI: Yes

Hosting institution: Linnaeus University, Sweden

From ITC: Yes

PURPOSE OF THE STMS

The purpose of the STEM was to identify criteria and options towards improving the indoor living space and more specifically to approach the design and construction phases of indoor furniture from a perspective that is focused on the final user (elderly people). The key elements which were chosen to be identified are the accessibility, functionality and embedded technological features, taking into consideration the safety at home and work concerning the furniture used more largely.

A vital element to achieving all these was to classify possibilities for optimising the design, construction and assembly parameters based on several criteria amongst them sustainability.

This visit aimed to address the demand for new elements concerning the furniture used by an elderly person. The idea of networking and exchanging ideas and experiences with professionals with the same or different background, culture and knowledge was also another reason which triggered this STSM.

DESCRIPTION OF WORK CARRIED OUT DURING THE STSMS

During this week, a series of meetings took place according to the submitted work plan.

The host of the Linnaeus University Stergios Adamopoulos Professor of Forest Products, organised a series of meetings with teaching staff of the two departments (Forestry & Wood Technology and Mechanical Engineering) to network and exchange methods and practices for the design and manufacturing processes for furniture addressed to elderly people.

 

On the first day, an online short presentation was delivered to address the purpose of this STEM and to present the work already undertaken from the University of Thessaly in the field of “smart furniture” for elderly people (the link for this presentation):

https://www.dropbox.com/s/mq7w2frv78coe1o/RESEM%2020210511.mp4?dl=0

This, due to the current circumstances (Covid-19 restrictions) aimed to inform as many people as possible and diffuse actions already undertaken and activate new ones. Following that, I met the Head of the Department of Forestry Professor Jimmy Johansson where we had a detailed and analytical discussion regarding specific furniture characteristics and identified potential functions to make those more accessible and lighter. We went through a series of typical joints and how can we modify those to be modular instead of fixed ones.

Another meeting took place with the Senior Lecturer Bishnu Chandra Poudel where we went through a series of furniture projects with regard to the adjustability (height and size) as well as the flexibility (expand-retract) potentials of the specific furniture. The possibility of incorporating a sustainable approach during the furniture design phase was the main topic discussed and analysed with Dr Elaheh Jalilzadehazhari Architect and

Post-Doctoral fellow in the department. A series of designs were presented from both sides aiming to conclude in the key characteristics which are necessary towards presenting a modern and minimal armchair acceptable to elderly people. With Dr Reza Hosseinpourpia, Senior Lecturer we discussed in details how the bio-based adhesives are used and how this affects the well-being of the users compared to typical adhesives used in furniture.

From the Mechanical Engineering department, a meeting with Janka Kovacikova, Associate Senior Lecturer demonstrated that several assembly and disassembly parameters embedded in beds has assisted in transforming the specific furniture according to the elderly people’s needs (different parts who can be easily taken off converting the dimensions of the furniture. She also demonstrated how sensors are incorporated into furniture to monitor basic vital readings (heart rate, time at rest etc).  Following that, I spent a half-day with Anders Ingwald, Senior Lecturer of the Engineering dept. at the workshop working on several materials with less weight and more durability compared to wood joints. This demonstrated that hybrid furniture (with a variety of materials) are more durable, versatile with less weight compared to the majority of the furniture found in the market today.

Several meetings with Professor Stergios Adamopoulos took place the last two days, where his expertise and collaboration with the IKEA identified the key role of sustainability in the whole chain of furniture production and especially in the “elderly furniture” once this has a limited operational time expectancy.

The only scheduled task that didn’t take place was visiting a furniture manufacturing company due to the Covid-19 restrictions.

DESCRIPTION OF THE MAIN RESULTS OBTAINED

The main results after this scientific mission were the following:

The networking and the knowledge exchange with the staff from both departments (Forestry & Engineering) demonstrated that certain characteristics of furniture for elderly people are missing or can be improved (integrated sensors for monitoring the seating time, heart rate, emergency button, etc.). This type of embedded health monitoring sensors is a critical aspect, and these health-related parameters may deliver live monitoring of the elderly people providing data to the health system.

There is a substantial gap with regard to the use of advanced materials (especially in the furniture joint’s) where such materials could lead to adaptable and flexible furniture (in our case studies: armchairs and beds). This is expected to diminish the elderly people’s bending and lifting efforts during their daily use of those. Another key result, following the discussions and the practical engagement with several furniture at the University, was the lack of the “disassembly and reassembly” option for most of the furniture targeted for the elderly people. The principle of “alteration of use” for a range of furniture (for the age of over 65)  is a feasible option without interfering greatly with the furniture construction phases rather than including some “steps” at the design phase with very small changes at the beginning. The modularity of the furniture was concluded that is crucial for people at a certain age and that the typical furniture joints aren’t capable of addressing this feature. Small furniture joints 3D-printed which have been already used in our department (at the University of Thessaly) from light and robust filaments are to be further improved from both Universities to identify the functionality in a case study modular furniture (armchair transformed to bed).

After the workshops and the meetings, it was presumed that the sustainability factor of this type of furniture has to be highly noted and taken into consideration especially for all the furniture targeted to the elderly people once the lifetime of these products is smaller compared to other furniture. The experience of Linnaeus University in this field displayed how this can be achieved (design-wise and manufacturing-wise) with specific actions and how this is expected to add value and shift the whole market concerning products for elderly people.

FUTURE COLLABORATIONS

As a future collaboration, a joint paper was discussed between the host and myself which is anticipated to demonstrate and present the implementation steps for a case study of a modular furniture. This is expected to describe the principles with regard to how novel materials and methods can be linked together with an innovative design towards identifying new tailor-made furniture for elderly people using a sustainable approach together with novel custom-made joints.

An “open channel” between the two departments (Forestry, Wood Sciences & Design – University of Thessaly & Forestry and Wood Technology – Linnaeus University) has been agreed, aiming to continue the collaboration in providing updates and information on everything novel concerning this topic.