Advanced wheelchairs, exoskeletons: Businesses cash in big on China’s ageing population

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SHANGHAI: China, the world's second-largest population of 1.4 billion, is ageing fast.

The number of people aged 60 and above is projected to reach 28 per cent by 2040 due to longer life expectancy and declining birth rates.

But the demographic crisis also presents huge opportunities for businesses hoping to plug gaps in the system and make growing old more comfortable.

Trade shows geared towards the silver economy are popping up across the nation, offering products and services specifically catered to this growing market segment.

ELDERLY GADGETS

At one such trade event at the Shanghai New International Expo last weekend, innovative technologies were on full display. Gizmos and gadgets claiming to boost health, mobility and safety were the star features at hundreds of booths. 

Among them was a chair fitted with a mechanism to make it easier for those with weak limbs to get up from a seated position.

Another exhibitor showcased an advanced wheelchair that allows caregivers to manoeuvre it up the stairs while the user is comfortably seated.

Another featured an artificial intelligence alarm system that can alert caregivers for help from sound cues, such as a few knocks on the ground.

Meanwhile, an exoskeleton for the legs – a wearable mechanism wrapped around the knees to the ankles – can support a user and help them to walk with much less effort.

HIGH PRICES

However, many of these products are still relatively expensive.

For example, a single-sized bed that measures users’ biometrics as they slumber sells for over US$9,000 – about four times the price of an ordinary king-sized bed.

The bed, made locally by a Zhejiang company, can also perform a rocking motion which the manufacturer says helps users to sleep better.

According to a 2022 report, nearly one in five elderly in China suffer from insomnia, while almost half report poor sleep due to health problems.

These beds claim to ease at least one common woe – snoring.

They come equipped with a sensor that can detect if the user is snoring. When that happens, the top of the bed rises about 30 degrees, opening up the user’s airways.

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