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A Safe Shopping Cart

Make shopping carts safer so that the seniors who have to use devices such as walkers do not have to remain stigmatized.

Photo of Rodney Lobo

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Who is your idea designed for and how does it enable older adults to live their best possible life by preventing falls?

This idea is meant for seniors who do not want to use walkers and other mobility devices because the think that those devices make them look much older. It is also aimed at the seniors who self prescribe mobility devices to remain balanced while moving around.

While doing research our team noticed the wide usage of shopping/grocery carts among the elderly. This was preferred to a classic mobility device such as a walker, even though they provide more stability and better support.

Unlike the walkers, shopping carts are cheaper, more readily available, and provide a practical use. Yet, they do not have the "geriatric label" on them  , as everyone uses shopping carts.

We are planning to modify the shopping cart in order to create a device which is more familiar, comfortable, useful, and at the same time, provides sufficient support to prevent falls and ensures safety. The cart will also have a braking system so that it is easier for the elderly to stop it when they are using it. 

We do not want to make the cart as an alternative to devices such as walkers and rollators. But we want the carts to be safer so that the elderly who will avoid using the assistive devices, can move around safely.

Update 1: April 7th 2017 (New things explored and new team member added):

We have been working on the design and wan to make many changes to the prototype. We bought a cart from Amazon to see how functional it is.  This is what we observed:


  1. Bad handle design, and it can easily slip away.
  2. Tedious to put the cart together, even with the instructions
  3. Easily slips back, needs weight inside the cart for it to not slip.
  4. Not adjustable in any way
  5. There is an open hook like metal part that is on both the sides. If we are not careful, it can hurt the user


  1. Folds pretty well, so it is easy to keep it leaned against a wall without taking too much space.
  2. Affordable

What we are going to do?

Transform the one one the left to the one on the right, and we are really excited about this!


We are meeting an industrial designer friend to explore more designs.

Update 2: April 18th 2017 (Sketch concept of the current prototype):

Below is a sketch of the prototype we are working on. The new cart has two comfortable handles, instead of a sloppy handle with a movable plastic cover. They are adjustable, and the wheels have a better chance of stopping because of the brakes. Also, a diffraction grating will generate lines to show how uneven the surface ahead is.

Update 3: April 19th 2017 (Physical prototype, Brakes still need to be attached)

We have begun assembling the prototype. As you can see in the image, Sepehr (our team mate), is over 6 feet tall, and it is easier for him to grab onto the handles, because they are closer to his arms. There is a patch of light coming out from the front which is helpful for the user to detect uneven surfaces, and be more vigilant. We are still working on the brake part, which will be done by tonight. The parts are made of plastic, so they are not heavy. But, the design needs to be a bit more modified so that the cart doesn't fall off on the user's side (this can happen if the new extended parts are made of heavy objects like metals). 

The red and blue parts are 3D printed. The red part can be adjusted for different heights.

Here are the images below:

What early, lightweight experiment might you try out in your own community to find out if the idea will meet your expectations?

After building the device, we are going to take it to a senior center to find out if the elderly like the modified cart.

What skills, input, or guidance from the OpenIDEO community would be most helpful in building out or refining your idea?

1. How to make the cart more light-weight and compact for storage? 2. How to make the design more appealing and personalized? 3. How to educate the elderly to use safer shopping carts rather than the existing ones?

How long has your idea existed?

  • 0-3 months

This idea emerged from

  • A group brainstorm
  • A student collaboration

Tell us about your work experience:

We are NYU students & Design for America members, building a mobility device for the elderly. We study healthcare, design, engineering, & computer science. We have built an ergonomic walker prototype for Medline in a challenge (Fall 2016). We are mentored by a Physical Therapist at Wartburg Center


Join the conversation:

Photo of Rodney Lobo

Anne-Laure Fayard Bettina Fliegel Kate Rushton  Joanna Spoth On April 24th, we went to the Weinberg Senior Center to test the modified shopping cart.

The elderly liked the idea of having braking system in the cart. One of the major insight we received was that the Bus drivers make a fuss about the elderly using their shopping carts inside the busses (this is very surprising). So, we were told that since the cart now looks more like a walker, the bus drivers would be more welcoming if they used something like this.

The second feedback we received was that there was a bias among the preference of having a light in the front. Some did not like it because they thought that it made them look like someone with poor vision. Others liked having a light (I am quoting one of them) "I would buy the cart! Sell the cart without lights for $74.99 and sell the one with lights for $99.99" But they did not care much about the grid like shape.

Another important feedback we received was that they did wanted the carts in varied sizes. Some said that they would like if their carts were less heavy, and some also said that they preferred bigger carts to carry more things.
Three of them specifically told us that the biggest issue they had to face was bending and putting/removing things.

A very important observation we made was while testing the devices, there was preference of usage of the devices. Some preferred canes, other carts. But, this was not gender specific. Some men told us that they do not mind using shopping carts, and many women said that they would rather use a cane.

Here are the images of the test:

Dawn Feldthouse please add any other details I might have missed :)

Photo of Anne-Laure Fayard

Thanks Rodney Lobo for sharing the feedback from your visit at the Senior Center. Really great to see your team going back to the senior center and asking participants to give you feedback. Nice to see some faces from the research phase. I love the quote that shows that people are serious about buying such a product and it's a nice starting point for future conversation about pricing.
Regarding the comment about bus drivers, I find it worth exploring further as it highlights the hybrid nature of the device: is it shopping cart? is it a walker? How is it perceived by the end users and by others?
On the different forms and shapes and how to get access to the things inside, have you had a chance to ask people to do some sketches. We discussed that briefly with Dawn Feldthouse last week and I know Bettina Fliegel had made a similar suggestion. It might be interesting to do a more focused workshop in the future to explore further with a small group of participants in order to understand better their needs. Great job esp. with your busy schedules in the end of the semester. Looking forward to the next steps!

Photo of Bettina Fliegel

Were the seniors surprised to see your hacks? What was the feedback on the adjustable handles?
Was Helene there? I am curious about her feedback in light of her attachment to her 40 year old cart.

Exploring needs further is a good idea. I saw images of a student project from a design school where he created attachable trays/containers for a walker that were geared for specific hobbies and tasks for the home.

Congrats on all of your progress so far!

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