Smart textiles to help older people deal with long-term pain

In a new Smart Textiles project at Science Park Borås, the University of Borås, and Karolinska University Hospital, in Sweden, prototypes based on therapeutic electrostimulating smart textiles will be developed and tested in the field of geriatric technology.

Associate Professor Nils-Krister Persson, who is responsible for research within the Smart Textiles Technology Lab, explained, “Pain is a cause of many fall accidents among older people. The focus of the project is therefore on fall prevention by counteracting pain in older people. The intention is to make its usage easy for the patients themselves, relatives, and caregivers through the advantage of textile’s being naturally present in everyday life, and as textiles are intimately associated with well-being.”

The goal is for the older people to want to use the technology, because as with any instructions from a doctor or other prescribing healthcare staff, compliance is central. But there are many reasons why a patient will not follow doctor’s orders; for example, something is too cumbersome, there are side effects, or the costs are too high. In this project, a type of geriatric technology based on textiles will be investigated and proposed. Textiles are familiar to everyone, are easy to use, and have a low cost, which thus increases compliance.

Pain is a very complex area, and therefore the researchers in the project will develop three different prototypes to define which type of pain can best be counteracted. This is done through clinical studies on patients with the developed smart textiles. The goal during the project is to produce sufficient knowledge that there is a firm foundation for further commercialisation.

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The project “Lisa – Everyday Geriatric Technology “ is carried out in collaboration between Smart Textiles, where the prototypes will be developed, and Karolinska University Hospital, where clinical studies will be carried out. The project is funded through the Kamprad Family Foundation and runs for two years through August 2023.

Smart Textiles and the Swedish School of Textiles at the University of Borås are northern Europe's largest environment for research and development of advanced textiles, materials, products, and processes with a strong focus on the field of Health and Medicine.

Smart Textiles gathers projects and platforms connected to the textile area. With the vision of "A better world through textile innovations," textile innovations are developed, made available, and actualised, and they can be used in innovative commercial products in unexpected ways. The mission of Smart Textiles is to continue developing towards becoming the internationally leading innovation partner in textile renewal in order to strengthen Sweden's competitiveness.

The Smart Textiles Technology Lab and the Smart Textiles Design Lab are responsible for the experimental research within Smart Textiles and enable close collaboration between research and companies. The purpose of the lab is to create a bridge between research and companies through which projects and ideas from research will inspire and create the necessary conditions for moving closer to both prototype and product development.