When it's closed, a new side table looks like a typical piece of furniture. But with a couple of pulls, it unfolds into a workout station designed for elderly people who might not otherwise go to the gym.
"We did a lot of user research and figured out that the number one reason elderly people weren't going to work out was they couldn't transport themselves ... and they just had a lack of motivation to go far away," says Adam Bujnowski, part of a team of industrial design students at Virginia Tech who created the transforming table.
The designers also realized that most gym equipment isn't tailored for older people, and home equipment often doesn't fit in smaller homes. The design, called Veevo, squeezes three types of exercise into a box-like shape.
"We focused on different kind of exercises that would target different muscle groups," says designer Emily Cowell. A drawer pulls out to turn into a chair for seated exercises, and under the seat is space for yoga mats and weights. At the bottom, a step stool pulls out for step aerobics, and a handrail on the side offers balance.
All of the exercises help reduce the risk of falls, one of the most common reasons for injury in the elderly; around a third of people over 65 fall at least once in a year. "The reason we decided to do a workout station was we realized that there were a lot of things that helped elderly people when they already fell—like alert systems and things of that sort—but we kind of wanted to be proactive and attack the problem before it actually happened," says Sarah Ahart. "A big reason why they fall is lack of mobility and lack of strength and balance."
The table is one of the finalists in the Stanford Center on Longevity's 2016 design challenge, which asked students to create practical solutions for healthier, longer lives. Though it's only a concept now, the students are hoping to make some final tweaks and try to bring it to market.