Most of us imagine our twilight years as a time of exploration and relaxation; a time to throw off the demands of work and children and enjoy all the world has to offer.

But for those with physical health concerns, the gap between expectation and reality is often widened by a lack of mobility support as they struggle to retain independence and quality of life.

A Global Challenges project is aiming to address this issue by designing new and improved mobility aids, while, at the same time, providing a much-needed boost to the region’s manufacturing industry.

Enabilise is working with the aged care industry and local manufacturers to identify, and solve, the problems presented by existing mobility aids and develop new prototypes based on engagement with the people who will actually be using the equipment.

It does not sound like a novel approach, but it is. Until now, mobility aids have largely been developed in response to changing technology, rather than the needs of the community.

Senior research assistant, Dr Eliza de Vet, says the aim of Enabilise is to ensure those with mobility issues are able to access services and maintain their independence and involvement in the community as they age.

“Australia has a big ageing population – a quarter of the population are 55 plus – and aged care services are already stretched so it’s important we start looking at having systems and equipment in place to allow older people to have an improved quality of life,” Dr de Vet says.

In the first stage of the project, the Enabilise team held focus groups to identify current mobility issues and the daily problems experienced by those who use mobility aids.

Enabilise is now in its second stage, in which members of the community are invited to complete a survey that will help the researchers pinpoint the issues with existing aids.

The findings will inform the third and final stage of the project – designing, developing and potentially manufacturing new mobility equipment in collaboration with local manufacturers.

The project is truly interdisciplinary and enables the region’s businesses and manufacturers to provide solutions that meet the real-world needs of those aged over 55 who experience mobility issues.

Enabilise brings together different disciplines from across the university and engages with AusIndustry, Aged and Community Services NSW/ACT, and the Illawarra Forum.

You can have your say by participating in the online survey or by phoning (02) 4221 4261.