Singapore student's idea allows elderly to 'glide' more safely

(L) Ms Serene Tan with GlydeSafe, a walking frame she developed which allows users to roll it along, instead of having to lift it up. (R) Ms Tan with an elderly using GlydeSafe.
PHOTO: Singapore student's idea allows elderly to 'glide' more safely

SINGAPORE - The sight of an elderly person having difficulty with a walking frame got Ms Serene Tan thinking. And it culminated in her innovation GlydeSafe being launched last month at a fund-raising dinner for youth charity Heartware Network.

"The frames were too cumbersome for old folk to move easily," said Ms Tan, 20, who hit upon the idea in 2011 and made it her her final-year project at Temasek Polytechnic.

Her GlydeSafe frame includes an attachment with wheels, enabling users to roll the frame, instead of having to lift them up with each step. There is also an automatic break to ensure safety.

The product got a trial run at 24 hospitals, elder care and rehabilitation centres nationwide. Feedback was so good that it became "a responsibility" to take the product to the market.

The GlydeSafe has won Ms Tan several awards, including a silver at the 2011 Tan Kah Kee Young Inventors' Awards.

But there were challenges along the way. She lacked the expertise and funds to mass produce the prototype.

Her break came when Youth Business Singapore, which promotes entrepreneurship among those aged 18 to 35, introduced her to Mr Jie Ye Bing. He is the managing director of China- based Secure Co, a supplier of health-care equipment.

The 40-year-old decided to help Ms Tan manufacture 100 pieces of her frame.

"I was impressed with Serene's entrepreneurial spirit and work ethic," the Chinese entrepreneur said. "Besides, I felt it was a good product that had market potential in the region."

To mark its launch on April 26, 25 GlydeSafe frames which cost $99 each were donated to Salvation Army.

Ms Tan is now looking for local and global distributors.

"Things are still at the discussion stage now so I can't reveal much," she said. "But the next shipment will definitely be more than a hundred pieces, hopefully in the next two months."

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