Are dogs the future of frail care?

Design Academy Eindhoven student Archibald Godts considers the future of frail care where dogs become helpers to those too frail to care for themselves.

The more economically developed world is aging at an accelerated pace. Countries such as Japan stand out, with 26 per cent of the population aged 65 and older versus South Africa, for example, where only 6 per cent of the population is in that age bracket.

Design Academy Eindhoven student Archibald Godts took a good look at the demographics profile in the Netherlands and Belgium, where the population over 65 constitutes 18 and 19 per cent respectively, and created Man’s Best Friend, a model to respond to aging populations and their need for frail care.

Man’s Best Friend, Godts’ final year project, uses the existing relationship between man and canine, and investigates contemporary possibilities for the dog as a helping friend to the elderly.

“Our oldest companions, dogs have shown their ability to complement our weaknesses and can do more than sit with you or join you for a walk,” says Godts.

Considering the needs of the elderly, such as the need for personal mobility, medical memory, and assistance carrying packages, Godts has conceptualized four separate products: the chariot, the pillbox and the messenger bag and treasury. Godts designed the products to be ergonomically friendly to canines and assist the elderly.

“In the age where taking pills is recurrent but forgetting as recurrent, where carrying the groceries becomes a major burden, or being mobile is absolutely problematic,” says Godts. “The symbioses between dog and human shows potential for the purpose.”

Godts conducted extensive research on the various aspects of canines, such as their anatomic properties and intelligence as well as their role in human health. Dogs have been known to detect cancer, and guide dogs are already widely used in the visually impaired community. The projects may initially be worrisome to those concerned that dogs may be exploited for the needs of the elderly, but considering that dogs appreciate being useful, the project may just be mutually beneficial.

Man’s Best Friend is nominated for the Keep an Eye Grant 2015


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