A new software tool is helping clinicians, health care practitioners and design professionals to better understand mobility challenges facing older people.

Initial findings from a research collaboration between The Glasgow School of Art and the University of Strathclyde, supported by the UK Research Councils’ New Dynamics of Ageing programme (NDA), evaluated software that enables older people to work with professionals and suggest ways to improve their lifestyle and quality of life.

The software tool presents data visually and this allows those without specialist training–both professionals and older people–to better understand and contribute to discussions about biomechanics when carrying out everyday activities.

The software takes motion capture data and muscle strength measurements from older people undertaking everyday activities. The software then generates a 3-D animated human stick figure on which the biomechanical demands of the activities are represented visually at the joints. These demands, or stresses, are shown as a percentage of maximum capability through a color gradient: green is 0%t, amber is 50%, and red is 100%, or maximum stress.

The research shows the new software tool has the potential to improve diagnostic, therapeutic, communication, and education procedures by increasing the use and integration of biomechanical expertise in both design and health care practices.

The visualisation software could be used to improve the designer’s understanding of the different needs when developing products for older people, including enhancing the ergonomic and as well as the functional attributes of products, and improving the design of landscapes and buildings.

In a health care setting the tool could be used as part of a range of assessment techniques. It could improve the understanding by different health care professions of older people’s mobility challenges and improve communication across these professions to provide a more joined-up approach to clinical assessment, diagnosis, and rehabilitation.

[Source: [removed]Economic and Social Research Council[/removed]]