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Asia’s ageing population drives development of rehabilitation technologies targeting elderly disabilities
Specialized systems and solutions, from hydrotherapy to robotic gaming devices, are the latest in rehabilitative innovations that combat functional decline in elderly.

According to the National Council of Aging, approximately 92 percent of seniors (aged 55 and above) are at risk of at least one chronic non-communicable disease (NCD), including hypertension, heart disease, cancer, stroke, diabetes and osteoarthritis, among others.1 These non-communicable diseases are a leading cause of mortality, contributing to over 60 percent of deaths across Southeast Asia, with numbers expected to rise due to a rapidly aging population.2

According to a report by Marsh & McLennan Companies’ (MMC) new Asia Risk Center, in Singapore alone, one in four adults will be 65 or older by 2030, resulting in a projected tenfold increase in elderly healthcare expenditure over the next decade, straining both government budgets and the personal savings of older individuals and their families.3

While NCDs may already be responsible for most deaths in the region, they are also a major cause of disability among the elderly. According to the Medical Journal of Australia, the prevalence of disability — defined as any restriction to perform normal activity — increases to 84 percent by age 85, due to an accumulation of NCDs with age, otherwise known as comorbidities.4 Furthermore, as older people become weaker, decreased levels of physical activity may contribute to more functional decline, such as immobility and muscle atrophy, potentially leading to hospital readmission, a longer hospital stay, and transfer to permanent residential care.5

Although medical intervention can treat or manage the diseases faced by the elderly, in-patient and out-patient physical rehabilitation solutions are effective in addressing if not preventing disabilities brought about by these diseases. In fact, physical rehabilitation proves to not only restore mobility and their musculoskeletal function, but also generate long-term healthcare savings by reducing admission into hospitals and nursing homes.6,7

Businesses are developing rehabilitation technologies that address the specific physical needs of older adults and showcasing them at MEDICAL FAIR ASIA (MFA), one of the leading medical and healthcare trade exhibitions in Southeast Asia and the Asia-Pacific region.

Taking place from 9 to 18 December 2020, the 13th iteration of MFA will be held as a digital event for the first time, bringing together manufacturers, start-ups, and distributors of equipment and supplies for the hospital, diagnostics, pharmaceutical, medical and rehabilitation sectors. Organized by Messe Düsseldorf Asia, MFA 2020 is poised to deliver all the onsite benefits of a trade fair but with all the convenience and safety of an online experience.

Among the rehabilitative technologies showcased at MFA 2020 is B. Green Technology. Headquartered in Taiwan, B. Green Technology manufactures the Turtle Gym sports and rehab equipment, based on the philosophy that slow exercise is seniors’ first line against disability and degeneration. One such innovation that helps seniors achieve this is the Whole-Body Periodic Acceleration (WBPA) system that offers passive exercise to immobile patients for overall improvement of brain and cardiovascular function as well as musculoskeletal strength.

“In addition to the WBPA system, we will also be showcasing the Accessible Wheelchair Sports Platform and Whole Body Harmonic Vertical Vibration Armchair, which offers passive exercise to wheelchair-bound patients and users sitting at rest; the Isokinetic Strength Training Equipment which helps the elderly train their limbs and trunks safely, the Proceed Dynamic Gait Training Platform that helps train the gait of patients with stroke and Parkinson’s disease, and the Bones and Joints Activation Exercise Training Platform to help improve patient’s strength and sense of balance,” said Brad Chen, Senior Marketing Executive of B. Green Technology Co. Ltd.

Water-based rehabilitation technology will also be featured at MFA 2020, such as EWAC Medical’s hydrotherapy systems which are designed for nursing and healthcare facilities. Exhibiting through the EU Business Avenues in South East Asia Program, EWAC Medical will be highlighting a range of innovations — including their modular pool and underwater treadmill and bicycle — which harness the rehabilitative effects of water to promote strength and balance in the elderly.


Medical Modular Pool for Hydrotherapy. Photo Credit: EWAC Medical

“Hydrotherapy is beneficial to geriatric patients because it offers psychosocial benefits and provides the support and resistance that otherwise cannot be achieved on land. In addition to truncal stability and body awareness stimulation, water also reduces joint impact and allows ease of motion, while hydrostatic pressure and therapeutic temperatures increase venous circulation, improve range of motion and reduce weakness and stiffness associated with stroke or osteoarthritis,” said EWAC Medical’s Sales Manager Joep De Graff.

He added, “Our systems are also adjustable in terms of depth and resistance according to personal needs, allowing each patient to benefit from a tailor-made program that is suited to his/ her unique capabilities and stage of progress.”

HOMER ION, a developer and manufacturer of medical and beauty equipment, will be showcasing the G-TES system, a belt-type electrical stimulation technology clinically proven to reduce geriatric patients’ muscular contractures from prolonged bed rest.


G-TES system. Photo Credit: HOMER ION

“While electrical stimulation is scientifically proven to reduce spasticity in children with cerebral palsy, conventional pad-type stimulation is difficult to apply on bed-ridden individuals. G-TES is a suitable alternative for such patients as it can be easily applied to their lower extremities, allowing for effective muscular stimulation which not only reduces contractures, but also promotes patient’s compliance to passive exercise and achieve a better range of motion.” said HOMER ION’s International Marketing and Sales Business Manager, Takashi Kajikawa.

Heaxel srl., a company that designs and commercializes technologies for robot-mediated rehab, is also slated to showcase their icone® system at MFA 2020. CE Marked and FDA registered, icone® is the world’s first neurorehabilitation robot for the upper limbs, delivering intense rehabilitation via interactive games to help the brain heal itself and regain control of the arm after a stroke. The portable plug-and-play system may also be used outside of hospitals, such as in patients’ homes, making it more convenient for healthcare practitioners to monitor patients’ progress remotely.


Icone System. Photo Credit: Heaxel srl.

“We aim to develop clinically tested and proven robotic systems that help doctors and therapists deliver effective rehabilitation treatments which are affordable and improve the quality of life of neurological patients,” said the CEO and Founder of Heaxel srl. Maria Teresa Francomano.

In addition to commercial systems built for facilities and institutions, at-home systems and products, such as Push Braces, will also make an appearance at the digital event.

Developed by Nea International B.V., Push Braces offers a diverse range of braces for different joint injuries, including the ankle, hand, knee, elbow, wrist, back, shoulder and neck. Unlike conventional taping techniques, Push Braces are clinically proven to offer the perfect balance between support and pliability, allowing patients to move without constraints as they heal.

“Push Braces are focused on the retention, recovery, and improvement of joint function. Made of durable, lightweight materials, and designed for a perfect fit, Push Braces are available in various designs for different areas of the body and are highly comfortable in shoes and under clothing, ensuring better patient compliance for effective joint repair,” said International Account Manager of Nea International BV, Jorgen Van Beem.

For more information on MFA 2020, visit https://www.medicalfair-asia.com

References:

  1. The National Council of Healthy Aging, Washington D.C., Healthy Aging. Accessible at: https://www.ncoa.org/wpcontent/uploads/FactSheet_HealthyAging.pdf (Last accessed: 30 November 2020)
  2. Dans, A., Ng. Nawi., Varghese., The rise of chronic non-communicable diseases in southeast Asia: time for action. The Lancet, 2011;377 (9766): 680-689. Accessible at: https://doi.org/10.1016/S0140-6736(10)61506-1 (Last accessed: 30 November 2020)
  3. Marsh & McLennan Companies Asia Pacific Risk Centre, Advancing Into the Golden Years – Cost of Healthcare for Asia Pacific’s Elderly, (2016). Accessible at: https://www.mmc.com/content/dam/mmcweb/Files/APRC/APRC%20Ageing%20report%20EXEC%20SUMM.pdf (Last accessed: 30 November 2020)
  4. Cameron, I.D. and Kurrle, S.E. Rehabilitation and older people. The Medical Journal of Australia, 2002; 177 (7): 387-391. Accessible at: https://doi.org/10.5694/j.1326-5377.2002.tb04847.x (Last accessed: 30 November 2020)
  5. Peel, N.M., Sanjoy, K.P., Cameron, I. D. et al. Promoting Activity in Geriatric Rehabilitation: A Randomized Controlled Trial of Accelerometry. PLOS ONE, 2016; 11(8): e 0160906. Accessible at: https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0160906 (Last accessed: 30 November 2020)
  6. Forster, A., Lambley, R., and Young, J.B. Is physical rehabilitation for older people in long-term care effective? Findings from a systematic review. Age and Ageing, March 2010; 39(2): 169-175. Accessible at: https://doi.org/10.1093/ageing/afp247 (Last accessed: 30 November 2020)
  7. Bachman, S., Finger, C., Huss., Anke. et al. Inpatient rehabilitation specifically designed for geriatric patients: systematic review and meta-analysis of randomised controlled trials. BMJ, 2010; 340. Accessible at: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.c1718 (Last accessed: 30 November 2020)
  8. Cifu, D. X., Lew, H. L., and Oh-Park, M. Geriatric Rehabilitation. Elsevier, 2019; 16: 213-221. Accessible at: https://doi.org/10.1016/C2016-0-04564-3 (Last accessed: 30 November 2020)
About the Author

Mariel is a PR executive based in the Kuala Lumpur office of medical and healthcare PR company Bridges M&C, which specializes in the medical and healthcare industry, servicing pharmaceutical companies, trade fair organizers, and manufacturers and distributors of medical devices.

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