Walking sticks are part and parcel of our lives when we grow old – these are important, yet essential tools which we need to help with our mobility. Perhaps you might know of an elderly in your life who is also dependent on such walking sticks too! However, did you know that only around 10% of the population relies on walking sticks, as the majority of the elderly population carries around a stigma for such items? Well, this was what led to the useful innovation of Smart Walking Sticks created by Mr Tan Lee Tuan, the founder of AgeGracefully.
In his pursuit of a purpose driven life, Mr Tan Lee Tuan set up Bekind Solutions to inject vibrancy into the life of the elderly. He had experience working with people and cultures from more than 40 countries, as later in his career, he got the chance to work overseas when he was working in the furniture design field. Given his vast exposure, he wants to harness his global experience and integrate his Design, Engineering and Marketing know-how to develop innovative products to improve the quality of life for the elderly. He also wishes to impact other elderly’s lives by letting them live comfortably.
What is your company's mission and vision? How did you start out with the idea of making such versatile walking sticks?
My calling is to help the elderly and because of the fact that my personal background is more skewed towards developing and selling products, I feel that I have more experience and knowledge in this area. So I thought, maybe I could help the elderly in the area of product development, which was one of the main reasons why I set up AgeGracefully.
I personally also feel that there are a lot of ways to help the elderly, so personally as I do not have a lot of money, I thought that it would be a good idea to develop something relatively small and inexpensive, so that I can start off with something more realistic. Furthermore, I feel that walking sticks are good products to work on as it is something that the elderly people would need.
Were there any challenges that you faced when you first started out with selling your walking sticks?
As I was not in this industry of eldercare and healthcare prior to setting up AgeGracefully, I did not have much knowledge about the bolts and nuts in this industry, where I had to start from scratch. In the past, I was mainly working in the marine engineering sector. Thus, I had to set out to look for people who could be of aid in my understanding of this industry, which was the main setback for me initially. I also went to volunteer at St. Luke’s Elder Care, where I could investigate and find out more about the concerns that the elderly face everyday.
What do you wish for users to feel/do when they receive the walking stick?
I feel that most elders view the idea of a walking stick as something that is only for the handicapped or elderly, where they would usually not want to be associated with this stigma too. However, the use of a walking stick is not just limited to a few uses, where the elderly can also be using the walking stick to stabilise themselves, especially if their common medication may cause their judgement to be affected, so they must end up relying on the walking stick to help them get around.
Walking sticks are also great for providing support to users with physical injuries that may impair their walking. But because of the common stigma of being associated as “handicapped” and “old”, most elderly choose to stay at home instead of going out, which severely limits their social interaction and lifestyle.
Thus, with AgeGracefully, I want to help them overcome this stigma by being confident while using a walking stick – so that they can have increased mobility and be able to continue to have social interactions in their life while maintaining a healthy lifestyle through exercising. Staying at home for too long will also result in social isolation, which may lead to potential mental issues that are detrimental to the elderly’s health.
How do you think the stigma of using walking sticks can be further reduced with the concept of agegracefully's walking sticks?
Our walking sticks are quite unique as we have additional features to “hype” the product up to make it more appealing. Which is why I focus a lot on the design, and the addition of important safety features which will increase the rate of the users using the walking sticks, instead of using options such as umbrellas which are not proper support aids. The walking sticks include MP3 players, and an automatic fall alarm which will alert others if the user has fallen and require help.
How would you imagine your cause/company to be like in the near future?
I hope that we can have more control over our development direction, where we can develop more eldercare products that focus on their lifestyle over daily necessities – to inject vibrancy in their lives while improving the quality of life. Even with simple designs and functionality, it can help to bring joy to their lives when they experience using the product.
How would you want to further encourage our readers to consider getting these walking sticks to the elderly/people who need it in their lives?
Usually, we would want to encourage our buyers to buy the walking sticks as a gift – where the younger adult can buy the walking stick for the older adult. Even if the elderly person already has a walking stick, they can consider the new walking stick as a sort of “upgrade” with additional features. I also think that it would be a thoughtful gift for the seniors, so that they can use it while spending their time in the last days of their lives.
Know of someone who might need a special gift of mobility? Why not take some time to talk to them and give them a walking stick by AgeGracefully, to allow them to live their life to the fullest – to be able to walk through the joyful journey of life and their memorable days with you.