Startup Designs Mobility Suit for the Elderly and People with Disabilities

February 22, 2017

Unlocking Word Meanings

Read the following words/expressions found in today’s article. 

1. mobility / moʊˈbɪl ɪ ti / (n.) – the ability to move
Example: Joint pains can cause difficulty in mobility among older people.

2. posture / ˈpɒs tʃər / (n.) – the position of one’s body
Example: Proper posture is very important to keep your bones healthy.

3. textile / ˈtɛks taɪl / (n.) – cloth or fabric
Example: Their family owns a textile company that produces different types of fabric.

4. rehabilitate / ˌri həˈbɪl ɪˌteɪt / (v.) – to restore to good condition
Example: The project’s main goal is to rehabilitate the buildings.

5. paralysis / pəˈræl ə sɪs / (n.) – the inability to move
Example: Extreme damage to the nerves results in paralysis.


Read the text below.
A California-based startup is designing a high-tech suit meant to make life easier for people who have mobility problems.

Superflex, which is based in Menlo Park, is planning to create a sensor-equipped and computer-controlled suit. The purpose of the suit is to assist people who have difficulty moving, such as the elderly and people with disabilities. According to Superflex, the sensors can track the posture and movements of the wearer and send signals to the suit if the wearer needs assistance. Once the suit receives these signals, it will help the wearer walk, lean, stand up, or sit.

According to Superflex’s co-founder Rich Mahoney, the suit is being designed by experts from the fields of robotics, technology, textile, and fashion design. The suit was originally intended to keep soldiers who carry heavy loads from getting injured. Currently, the suit is still under development. Mahoney said that the product may not be available before 2018.

Superflex is targeting the US market, which is expected to have 48 to 88 million people aged 65 and above in the next 30 years. Aside from America, the company is also targeting Japan as a major market, since the elderly make up almost a quarter of the country’s population.

Aside from Superflex’s suit, another innovation that was designed to aid mobility is the Indego Exoskeleton. The Indego aims to help rehabilitate those who are suffering from an injury or paralysis from the waist down. The device was developed by engineers from the Vanderbilt University /ˈvæn dər bɪlt ˌyu nəˈvɜr sɪ ti / under the leadership of Michael Goldfarb. It was licensed by Parker Hannifin Corporation in 2012. The Indego received approval from the US Food and Drug Administration last year.

Viewpoint Discussion

Enjoy a discussion with your tutor.  

Discussion A

·         Do you think that the Superflex suit is a good innovation? Why or why not?
·         Aside from suits that aid in mobility, what other innovations may benefit the elderly? Give examples.

Discussion B

·         How is human care different from machine assistance?
·         Do you think that technological innovations can replace human healthcare? Why or why not?

February 22, 2017