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A pothole sensing walking stick

Photo of Nenio Mbazima

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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?

My idea is designed for older adults who use a walking stick. Lets face it, even a strong person does fall or come near a fall when while walking on a level surface, the feet suddenly steps on an uneven surface like a pothole on the pavement. My stick will sense a pothole and then automatically expand its length so that the pothole will have no effect if the elder accidentally put the stick on the hole, after passing the hole, the stick adjust itself to its default length.

Falling by the elderly is very serious, unlike young people where in most cases the fall won't need a visit to the doctor, the same cannot be said about the elderly. We have to come up with ways to prevent falls, and my idea is in a form of a pothole sensing walking stick that causes the pavement to feel even even if it's uneven, this way, the elderly will walk without feeling like s/he has missed a step that can lead to a loss of balance and a potential fall.

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

I will need a walking stock built from a pipe and then a smaller pipe inside, take a walk in a pavement that have a pothole ahead of me. When I place the walking stick in the pothole, the small pipe inside comes out to maintain a level surface. BUT, the final design will have a sensor, and battery/ solar power operated so that everyone, even those who cannot afford batteries will benefit form it through the power of the sun.

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

I will appreciate assistance in getting in touch with companies that have the means to make such a walking stick a reality, the company/ies, should have the ability to manufacture the stick and sensors.

How long has your idea existed?

  • 0-3 months

This idea emerged from

  • An Individual

Tell us about your work experience:

I'm a film producer/ director by profession. I'm also a building plans architect, an award winning author and a motivational speaker. I founded a company that produces Sign Language DVDs and video clips that are solve to subscribers through whatsapp.

How would you describe this idea while in an elevator with someone?

(I talking to my fellow passenger in the elevator) "We all know that what elder adults fear the most is losing balance and fall, I have this idea of a walking stick to help curtail that. The walking stick will have a special sensor able to sense a pothole on the pavement and expand its length when it feels that it's now being placed on an uneven surface, this will prevent a loss of balance.

How does your idea demonstrate our Criteria of Affordability?

Prevention is affordable than cure; great care should be taken to keep the cost of designing the sensor to a minimum, but even then, this walking stick will cost more than normal walking stick, however, it should be noted that it is far expensive to send an elder to a hospital after an injury from a fall and buy medication. This means that no matter the cost of this walking stick, it is still cheaper.

How does your idea demonstrate or plan to demonstrate scalability?

South African elder adults will be the first recipients of this walking stick, this will be done through sponsorship that will enable us distribute 200 walking sticks to retirement homes for a three months test phase. On receiving their feedback which I believe will be positive, we will then seeks ways to make the walking stick available worldwide through partnerships so that it will be manufactured in the country where it's needed which will remove export costs if it was made in South Africa.

How do you plan to measure the impact of your idea?

200 walking sticks will be distributed to retirement homes and the elders will be asked to go out in places knows to have potholed pavements so that they feedback will be based on experiences.

What are your immediate next steps after the challenge?

My immediate next step after the challenge is to have the ability to manufacture the walking stick and sensor at a cost that will be affordable to the final user. The aim should be to enable elders to live their best lives without burning their pockets.


Join the conversation:

Photo of Kate Rushton

Hi Nenio Mbazima 

Thank you for all your hard work in this challenge and dedication.

All of the ideas posts are locked but the comments section is still open, so please feel free to look at other ideas and comment on them, seek feedback on your idea etc.

I know I have asked many ideators this question but I am asking again as some ideas pivoting in the challenge. Would you say your idea is Most Viable or Most Promising? How would the incentives associated with that Award (Most Viable/Most Promising) be helpful for you?

Photo of Nenio Mbazima

Dear Kate Rushton

I thank you for your message.
With pride, I say that my idea is both viable and most promising, here's why:
"Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication", my idea is simple in design, simple to use.  As long as an elder has low cost batteries to power the sensor, s/he is set.  Have you ever wondered why it is rare to find an elderly adult using a smart mobile phone?  They use a simple mobile phone because a smart phone is complicated.  My idea is sophisticated without being complicated.
Incentives associated with the award would assist me to afford to focus more on sensor research and prototyping and be able to visit companies that on their websites they state that they design/ work with sensors, but have not replied my email requesting if they can design the sensor for my walking stick.

Thank you

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