Bathing for Elderly made Easy

Illustrating the innovation at work at HKUST, Prof Neville Ka Shek Lee and his design team consisting of HKUST alumni have devised a novel way for seniors to wash in greater safety while retaining their independence

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The bathroom can be a dangerous place especially when you are a senior. The US National Institute of Aging has found that more than one in three aged 65 and over fall each year, with 80% taking place there. Heart attacks, scalding and fainting are other incidents that can frequently occur while bathing.

Determined to bring a permanent solution, Prof Neville Ka Shek Lee, Associate Professor Emeritus, Department of Industrial Engineering and Logistics Management, and his research team have created an innovative bathing chair with dual shower and toileting functions. What’s more, the straightforward design makes it simple for bathers to get in and out while full automation makes it easier to clean and dry, making life much easier for caregivers and allows seniors to bath safely and comfortably.

Focused around bathing in a sitting position, the bathing chair is equipped with angled water jets to avoid splashing and an internal thermometer that ensures the water never gets too hot. “The ease with which the machine can be used and the additional safety it offers enables seniors to bathe in comfort and privacy. Now elderly can bath on their own and take their time to relax without worrying about falling, or be seen by others.” Prof Lee said.

The “Sit & Shower” chair can be installed in most existing bathrooms without the need for modifications or removal of existing fittings. “Our team liaised with social workers and care givers in elderly homes to ensure our ideas would truly address current difficulties,” he said. “HKUST gave us great support to turn our concept into reality.”

A prototype went on show at the HKUST booth at InnoCarnival 2016 at Hong Kong Science Park at the end of October, and also at the InnoDesign Tech Expo at the HK Convention Centre in early December.  It will also be shown at the Golden Age Expo (Booth E13, HK Convention Centre) from January 21st to 22nd. This potential new way of elderly bathing has attracted attention from attendees with over a half dozen nursing homes and hospitals in Hong Kong already expressing their interest.