Exploring the Future of Mobility and Gait in China

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NICA: Horizoning™ Report 2022 Exploring the Future of Mobility and Gait in China

Image Credit: © IM Motors x Heatherwick Studio

© Newcastle University


NICA | Exploring the Future of Mobility and Gait in China

Confidentiality Statement Please note the information contained in this document is confidential, privileged and only for the intended recipient. Ageing Intelligence®, Horizoning™ and VOICE® are registered trademarks of their respective owners.

Copyright Disclaimer No part of this document may be reproduced or passed on by any means electronic, mechanical, photocopier, recording or otherwise to any third party other than the client without the prior written consent of the copyright holder. Each image contained within is copyright protected and remains the property of the originator.

Promotional Disclaimer NICA is in no way affiliated with or financially invested in any of the products mentioned throughout this document. Instances where products or brands are mentioned are done so for research purposes and serve only as examples of possible market direction and investment.

Copy Disclaimer NICA does not endorse the use of language which may be construed as ageist or derogatory. However, in instances where product/service names use language such as ‘elderly mode’ we have kept the names as stated by the company to remain factually accurate.

This report was prepared by: UK National Innovation Centre for Ageing at The Catalyst, Newcastle upon Tyne Date: February 2022 Version 1.0 Author Owen Wright Reviewer: Patrick Bonnett


NICA | Exploring the Future of Mobility and Gait in China

Contents Introducing Macro and Micro Trends ............... 1

Trend 2: Invisible Inclusivity................................ 16

Sound Solutions............................................................................ 42

Foreword............................................................. 2

Essentialist Approach.................................................................... 22

Key Considerations....................................................................... 45

Global Population Ageing................................... 3

All In The Details............................................................................ 25

Conclusion.......................................................... 46

Ageing China At A Glance................................... 4

Functional Forms........................................................................... 29

What’s Next?....................................................... 47

Trend 1: Intrinsic Independence......................... 5

Key Considerations....................................................................... 33

About Us.............................................................. 48

Walking Well.................................................................................. 9

Trend 3: Health Positive Adaptations................. 34

References.......................................................... 49

Assistive Autonomy....................................................................... 12

Health Positive Adaptations........................................................... 35

Key Considerations....................................................................... 15

Breathe Better............................................................................... 38


NICA | Exploring the Future of Mobility and Gait in China

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Introducing Macro and Micro Trends Trend research is about detecting signs of change happening right now and directions these indicate to possible futures. This document focuses on consumer trends which explore how consumers behave, what they want and how they observe the world. To understand consumer trends, you must first understand that there are various types of trends; political, demographic, economic, technology, industry, new product categories etc. A consumer trend is a brand new manifestation among people in behaviour, attitude, or expectation-of a fundamental human need, want or desire. In the analysis of consumer trends, the other types of trends are leveraged as evidence and data points. For example, robot vacuums are an example of a new product category trend, not a consumer trend, because they are not new behaviours, attitudes, or expectations. However, the use of robot vacuums by consumers is likely to heighten expectations of ultraconvenience, hygiene, and automation within the home. An ageing population is not a consumer trend. But look at the products and services a healthier, more

active, demanding, design-conscious set of older adults are embracing, and you may uncover something new. At NICA we structure our consumer trends into three main layers: At the base, we have micro-trends. These granular level trends take hundreds of forms that address specific needs, wants and desires. They can be activity, product, or service-related and are more tangible developments. Next, we have the macro layer. These are made up of clusters of micro-trends, forming a long-term directional shift that affects a large population, often on a global scale. Finally, we have mega-trends. Whether internally or externally focused, these are big, slow-moving currents that remain broadly stable year on year (generally lasting decades) and can be applied across industries, demographics, and geographical regions.

© Leon


NICA | Exploring the Future of Mobility and Gait in China

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Foreword To cope with the complex social, economic and healthcare challenges presented by ageing societies worldwide and to harness global intelligence, UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) is collaborating with the National Natural Science Foundation of China (NSFC) to develop the UK-China Healthy Ageing Innovation Stream (HAIS). As part of this programme, which forms part of the Fund for International Collaboration’s Healthy Ageing Flagship Challenge, the UK’s National Innovation Centre for Ageing will deliver a series of activities to drive innovation that supports older adults in both the UK and China, helping them to live fulfilling, healthy and comfortable lives for longer. These activities are funded through the UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) Fund for International Collaboration (FIC), delivered by Innovate UK, part of UKRI. This Horizoning™ report looks to identify and present some of the opportunities arising from trends within the space of Mobility and Gait - one area of focus for this project. The purpose of Horizoning™ is to look beyond currently entrenched ideas concerning ageing and longevity. It suggests a range of possible options and new narratives for real, meaningful, and visible commercial and societal impact - locally, nationally and globally. The report is intended as a thought-provocation piece to inform the development of innovative mobility solutions and is intended to inspire and catalyse new approaches to healthy longevity and contribute to economic growth.

© Maud Beauregard


NICA | Exploring the Future of Mobility and Gait in China

Global Population Ageing WHY ACT NOW?

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77.1 YEARS

life expectancy at birth in 2050

16%

will be over the age of 65 in 2050 up from 1 in 11 in 2019

© Charles Deluvio

Changing demographics worldwide pose both issues and opportunities for organisations across the globe, creating a whole new market The Longevity Economy

© Ravi Patel

$15 TRILLION

9.7 BILLION people worldwide by 2050

the annual spending power of people aged 60 and over © Martin Adams

© Viktor Forgacs


NICA | Exploring the Future of Mobility and Gait in China

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Ageing China At A Glance By 2050, in China there will be... a life expectancy of 81.5 YEARS 130 MILLION people aged 80 and above 380 MILLION people over the age of 65 China has one of the world’s largest populations at 1.4 billion and one of the fastest ageing populations in human history. Its over-65-year-old population has reached 190.6 million (13.5%) according to the 2020 China Population Census and is expected to reach 380 million by 2050. As a result, 1 in 3 people will be over the age of 65. Its advanced aged group with people 80 years old and above is projected to reach 53 million in 2030 and 130 million in 2050. Life expectancy is set to reach 81.5 years by 2050, accompanied by a falling mortality rate. At the same time, China is experiencing a continuously falling birth rate, registering only 10 million newborns in 2020, 15% lower than in 2019. The fertility rate (which measures the number of births per 1,000 women between the ages of 15-44 in a calendar year) in China has decreased annually to 1.05% in 2019, the lowest since 2000. This enormous demographic change creates a bonanza of long-term investment opportunities in a range of innovation areas, including mobility, automation and robotics, the service industry, MedTech, housing, financial services, and many other sectors that help to support ageing and longevity. The aged care industry in China reached RMB 6.9 trillion (US$ 1trillion) in 2019 and is expected to hit 10 trillion (US$1.5 trillion) in 2022. Since 2019, the Chinese government has started to ease its policies to prepare for global participants. It issued a plan to open the domestic elderly care market to overseas investors, and it continues to relax market access restrictions on foreign insurance companies entering the Chinese market.

© Zhang Kaiyv

$1.5 TRILLION

the expected size of the aged care industry in China by 2022

10 MILLION

registered newborns in 2020 - 15% lower than 2019

...Industries related to services for elderly people are big sunrise industries as there is diverse demand among the senior population. The Chinese market is multi-tiered with diverse consumer demand. This big, open market represents great opportunities for products, services and investments from foreign companies. - Chinese Premier, Li Keqiang

© Rui Xu


MACRO TREND

Trend 1: Intrinsic Independence Maintaining independence to improve longevity Walking Well Assistive Autonomy


NICA | Exploring the Future of Mobility and Gait in China

MACRO TREND

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Intrinsic Independence In the next decade, mobility solutions will adapt to empower older adults, helping them to retain their autonomy. Faced with the challenges of an ageing population, governments and citizens across the globe are embracing solutions that prevent the decline of older adults’ autonomy, helping us to lead independent, fulfilling and healthy lives. As a result, brands in and around the mobility sector are moving towards enabling solutions, where designs promote the prevention of mobility decline. The need and want for independence is embedded in basic human fundamental needs. Trying to retain our independence can become increasingly difficult as we age, whether through illness, a disability, the anxieties of relatives looking to protect us, or our own safety concerns. Successfully getting from point A to point B independently is incredibly important, as it allows an individual to access healthcare, human contact and nutrients etc. For China and its growing number of older adults, the need for innovative mobility solutions is being driven by this potential loss of independence, due to: inadequate design solutions, a lack of care provision, the introduction of new policies, and an increasing number of people living with chronic illness. Alongside this, new technological advancements across tracking, automation, and form are catalysing innovative approaches toward products and services. The convergence of these developments creates a vast array of opportunities for companies to meet the expectations and desires of this underserved group of consumers.

© Zhang Kaiyv


NICA | Exploring the Future of Mobility and Gait in China

Intrinsic Independence

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So What’s Driving This Trend? 1. The Care Chasm China is experiencing highly imbalanced caregiving capabilities in both professional and informal capacities. For many older adults, a lack of adequate mobility solutions means requiring the support of relatives or professional caregivers to access healthcare, groceries or engage in social activities. The deficit of informal care has chiefly been driven by China’s one-child policy1, shifting demographics (children moving to larger cities to seek work), rapid urbanisation and an increasing number of older adults living alone2. As for professional caregivers, recent studies estimate that the current demand is as much as 6 million3. However, there are only 500,000 service personnel engaged in older adult care, highlighting a severe deficit. Difficulties in accessing affordable care facilities and qualified caregivers4 have resulted in many hiring low-skilled domestic workers instead, putting many citizens in detrimental situations. Without access to care in either an informal or professional capacity, many older adults may be forced to go without access to the provisions and services needed to live a fulfilling and healthy life. Expect to see an increased appetite for mobility solutions that allow older adults to maintain independence for longer.

© Zhou Quan, People Visual


NICA | Exploring the Future of Mobility and Gait in China

2. Regulatory Hurdles Over the past decade, four-wheeled low-speed electric vehicles (LSEVs) have become intensely popular in China - especially amongst older adults5 - because of their low cost, loose regulations, and their compact forms. In total, the output of four-wheeled LSEVs in China across 2018-19 was 2.61 million6. However, the popularity of LSEVs now faces challenges, as quality and safety concerns emerge, along with concerns regarding a lack of appropriate infrastructure. According to 2018 statistics from the Traffic Administration of the Ministry of Public Security of

China, 830,000 low-speed electric vehicle traffic accidents7 occurred across the country in the previous five years, resulting in 18,000 deaths and 186,000 injuries. Beijing officials have responded to these concerns by implementing new policies to reduce the number of illegal three and four-wheeled LSEVs on the road, banning illegal electric three-and fourwheelers from January 20248. The “Notice on Strengthening the Management of Violating Electric Three- and Four-Wheel Vehicles.” will only allow the manufacturing of LSEVs by companies with the correct permissions from the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology. After the transition period (from January 1, 2024),

Intrinsic Independence

illegal electric three- and four-wheelers will not be permitted to drive on the road and are not allowed to park in public places such as roads, squares, and parking lots. Those who drive or park illegally will be investigated and punished by law enforcement agencies in accordance with the law. This change is likely to have a significant impact on older adults, with many facing the possibility of having their vehicles confiscated. For those who cannot afford to replace or upgrade their vehicles, other mobility options will become a priority.

© Rutger Van Der Maar

3. Later Retirement Shifting demographics and the ensuing economic challenges have resulted in the Chinese government increasing the retirement age in China. Therefore, older adults will now likely work for longer - many of whom occupy physically demanding manual labour roles. China’s current average age of retirement is around 549, one of the lowest in the world. Alongside this, average life expectancy has increased, while the availability of working adults has begun to shrink10. The result of this imbalance has led to a forecast that predicts the country’s main pension fund may run out of money by 203511.

© Max Van Den Oetelaar

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Chinese officials have responded to the challenge by opening up its economy to private pension funds12 and increasing the retirement age13. Under these new plans ,the retirement age of both men and women is expected to be increased to 65 by 2025.

Of the 293 million older workers14 (aged 45 to 64), the majority work in low skilled jobs in sectors such as manufacturing, construction, warehousing, delivery, wholesale, retail, transport hotels and restaurants, and community services. Sustaining their ability to work in these roles is important as re-skilling can be expensive or difficult. As a result, expect to see a more preventative approach be adopted by older adults regarding their health. Mobility solutions that help older adults to maintain their health and reduce the strains of their job will become increasingly popular in the coming years.


NICA | Exploring the Future of Mobility and Gait in China

Intrinsic Independence

Walking Well

MICRO TREND

Improving older adults’ ability to ambulate After decades confined to specialist research centres, devices and services that help older adults maintain and improve their walking ability are moving into the mainstream. Data-centric consumers and a wave of new devices are setting the landscape for a new era of walking in China. Walking remains the primary form of mobility in China, with 55% of citizens walking daily15 as opposed to taking another form of transport. According to a 2013 study, walking is favoured by all age groups over 60 years old in China16, indicating an opportunity to support this preference. A growing body of research has also highlighted the positive health benefits of walking and its impact on longevity. A study led by researchers at the American Cancer Society17 found that even low levels of walking are linked with lower mortality, which means walking may help people live longer. These findings have been further supported by a study published in the November 2019 edition of the British Journal of Sports Medicine18. It showed that runners who turn out more often, and who run faster in longer sessions, do not reduce their risk of dying early any more than those who run gently once a week. For older adults, protecting their ability to walk will become a priority, ensuring a low cost and effective method of exercise and wellbeing. As well as for exercise, maintaining an ability to ambulate reduces the potential of short or long-term adverse health

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implications caused by falling. Over 40 million older Chinese adults experience a fall at least once annually19, with 20% of falls resulting in serious injuries, which can lead to long-term health issues. With insufficient care resources and delayed retirement, older adults and their families are motivated to find ways to maintain the ability to walk. Family members have already shown an interest in smart home technologies20 that allow them to monitor if their parents to see if they have fallen. Offered the opportunity, expect to see investment into preventative solutions gain popularity. The increasing popularity of health monitoring devices can be seen in the growth of the wearable technology space. In China, 36% of citizens own a smart wearable fitness device21, and many more have access to fitness/health data through their smartphones. Becoming more literate in the use and interpretation of health and fitness data, an appetite for more detailed data is likely to emerge. Affordable ‘at-home’ personal solutions are likely to gain further appeal as older adults looking to maintain a high-quality gait to reduce falls, injury, long-term health issues and maintain their independence.

© Zhang Kaiyv


NICA | Exploring the Future of Mobility and Gait in China

Intrinsic Independence

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CASE STUDY

Apple brings gait tracking to the masses At their 2021 World Wide Developer Conference (WWDC), Apple announced a new walking steadiness feature22 available to any iPhone user running the company’s latest iOS 15 software. The popularity of Apple’s iPhone remains strong in China, with the company achieving a record 23% market share23 in the fourth quarter of 2021, equating to a total of 42.9 million devices sold in 2021. Using the iPhone’s built-in motion sensors, the device will monitor walking speed, step length, and the time both feet are in contact with the ground to monitor stability. Through the Apple Health app walking stability is captured daily, giving users a stability score of “OK”, “Low”, and “Very Low”. Using this data, users can take active measures to reduce their risk of falling. The system can give users notifications and guidance when their score is “low or “very low”, providing them with visual training programs to improve strength and balance.

© Apple

This new feature continues off the back of Apple’s fall detection system24 launched in 2019, prompting users to call emergency services or automatically make a call if the user is immobile for around a minute. The feature has been credited in the news for saving several older adults’ lives25, and Apple has recently launched a marketing campaign26 that features three real-life emergency calls to illustrate how the Apple Watch can save an individual’s life. These emotional stories are helping to build the brand’s reputation amongst the users and their families. Expect to see the walking steadiness feature become increasingly popular as older adults and their families opt for a preventative approach to their health and longevity in the years to come.

“We put people back together again if they fall and get hurt, but we don’t really do much to stop the fall. It would be exciting if we can.” © Apple

‪Jacob Sosnoff‬, Professor, Physical Therapy, Rehabilitation Science, and Athletic Training University of Kansas Medical Center


NICA | Exploring the Future of Mobility and Gait in China

Intrinsic Independence

CASE STUDY

Smart shoes give users detailed gait data According to the report published by Allied Market Research, the global smart shoe market accounted for $115.3 million in 2018 and is projected to be $223.4 million by 202627, growing at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 9.1% from 2019 to 2026. The use of smart shoes and insoles has captured the attention of Chinese consumers. Looking to improve their athletic performance, health and fitnessfocused citizens (of all ages) have taken to the connected devices that give them better running data. Alongside this, location tracking footwear for children and older adults has become popular amongst citizens looking for peace of mind. Both domestic and foreign brands in China have invested in this space, Si.Nokia (Guangzhou Tangyuan Technology Co., Ltd)28 launched their location tracking footwear in autumn 2018, with more than RMB 1 million ($147,00) sales volume in the first six months. The modern-looking footwear has GPS sensors embedded in the left shoe, allowing families to track the location of their relatives. The company has noted plans to add more functionality to the product, including health monitoring and walking data. Sportswear brand Li Ning filed a patent in August 202029 for smart shoes for older adults. The patent describes a smart shoe device that conveniently records the user’s exercise data and body parameters, helping the user understand and adjust their exercise activities and volume. The popularity of Li Ning - which has recently recorded a market valuation of $27.72 billion30 - is likely to draw further attention to the market for gait tracking smart shoes.

© Si.Nokia

$223.4 Million The projected smart shoe market value by 2026 [Allied Market Research] © Li Ning

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NICA | Exploring the Future of Mobility and Gait in China

Intrinsic Independence

Assistive Autonomy

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MICRO TREND

Leveraging assistive technologies to aid independence Technology related services and products are no longer exclusively for younger audiences. Digital-first models have become the default across finance, healthcare, and retail sectors, forcing older adults to adopt newer technology, so they can continue to engage with society. This shift has been accelerated by the Covid-19 pandemic, with older adults moving online to shop safely, find social connections, and seek out entertainment. In rural areas, older adults are utilising live streaming and faster logistics to sell products. This willingness to adopt new and emerging technologies is also growing in the mobility space. As the Chinese government looks to meet the challenges of an ageing population, secure further economic growth and tackle climate change, investment into cutting edge mobility technology has boomed. As a result, the use of emerging technologies such as AI and robotics have emerged within consumer spheres faster, exposing Chinese citizens to the opportunities of these technologies more swiftly than western countries. The growth of China’s domestic semiconductor (microchips used in technology products) market is also likely to accelerate innovation in the region. There were 18,800 new semiconductor companies in the first half of 2021, according to the research firm Qichacha31, up 170% from the previous year. For older adults seeking to remain independent, autonomous systems present an opportunity to outsource tasks, helping to reduce risk, improving their access to basic amenities, and contributing to a longer, healthier life.

© Angela Roma


NICA | Exploring the Future of Mobility and Gait in China

Intrinsic Independence

CASE STUDY

Active for Longer Advancements in robotics are being leveraged to offer older adults a way to reduce stress on their bodies, allowing them to remain active for longer. In China, exoskeletons - a wearable external robotic frame that supports the body - are increasingly used in commercial settings to aid workers. For example, ULS Robotics32 has partnered with several businesses including, a car manufacturer, an airport and a food delivery company, to help reduce work-related injuries and fatigue associated with manual jobs. In a similar vein, in Japan, where 28.4%33 of the population is over the age of 65, exoskeletons are being adopted by older adults to help them work for longer as the retirement age increases to deal with labour shortages. With the exoskeleton market projected to reach $3.34 billion by 202734 (growing at a CAGR of 46.2% from 2021 to 2027), attention has turned toward developing products for a consumer market. For example, Hong Kong and Shenzhen based firm Enhanced Robotics35 has created the Sportsmate 5. The company developed the exoskeleton to be a lightweight and aesthetically pleasing solution to the current market offerings. The Sportmate 5 - targeted at athletes and casual fitness enthusiasts - attaches around the user’s waist and thighs, using actuators to create assistive push or pulling forces to the legs. The assistance mode helps the user run faster or longer, using gait analysis to adjust the assistance accordingly, whereas the resistance mode enhances stability on rough terrain.

© ULS Robotics

The device also features an indoor fitness mode featuring two functions: extension and flexion. These modes give users a way to increase their strength or burn more calories, providing resistance during exercise. For example, actively working against the exoskeletons actuators to bend your legs during a squat. As the market continues to evolve, there is an opportunity to position a consumer exoskeleton device for older adults - even those without serious mobility issues.

© Enhanced Robotics

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NICA | Exploring the Future of Mobility and Gait in China

Intrinsic Independence

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CASE STUDY

AI Powered Mobility Takes the Wheel A growing number of established and fledgling Chinese companies are exploring the application of AI-powered self-driving mobility solutions to improve safety and convenience. Self-driving cars have been the focus of automakers and tech giants globally for the past decade, with the likes of Google, Uber, Didi and Baidu all vying for a portion of a market projected to reach a value of $64.88 Billion by 202636, growing at a CAGR of 22.7% during the forecast period 2021 to 2026”. China has emerged as a leader in the autonomous vehicle sector, with more than 27 cities having awarded permits to over 70 companies37 operating around 600 AVs since March 2018. Tier 1 cities38 Beijing and Shanghai have seen over 2.5 million kilometres of AV testing to date, accumulating 10% more than U.S companies completed in California in the same amount of time. China will be the largest market for autonomous vehicles by 2040, with an estimated 66% of all cars on the road automated. The success of such trials has seen Beijing authorities approve the first fee-charging autonomous taxi service39, run by technology firm Baidu. The service of 67 vehicles will operate in Yizhuang, a suburban district of the city. Exploring the applications of self-driving technology beyond larger vehicles, Jin Ruiqi Technology40 (formerly Golden Ridge Robotics) has created a Smart Rover and Scooter that leverage AI technologies to bring autonomous driving capabilities to ‘last mile’ mobility solutions. The Smart Rover41 - a golf buggy sized vehicle - is being tested in tourist spots, including Jiangtan Internet Red Park, Beihu Ecological Park, and Dongjiao Memory Creative Park. The company envisions that the low-speed vehicle will be used in settings such as; commercial centres, tourist attractions, urban parks, and resorts, offering users a way to navigate around large areas where cars cannot go. The company has also produced a more individual transport solution, the Smart Scooter 2. Leveraging AI, the mobility scooter navigates to a user on its own when requested via an app. The device can also follow its user, accompanying older adults who desire to walk short distances. AI-driven autonomous vehicles have the potential to revolutionise mobility for older adults in China. With those over 65 set to make up over 26% of the population by 2050, any company looking to enter the Chinese market would be wise to design their products with older adults as key users.

© Jin Ruiqi Technology


NICA | Exploring the Future of Mobility and Gait in China

Intrinsic Independence

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Intrinsic Independence Key Considerations Walking Well

Assistive Autonomy

With the likes of Apple and other large tech companies able to leverage their ubiquitous devices, how might you differentiate your gait or walking technology to meet the needs of older adults?

How might you adapt such a solution to make it easier for older adults to wear and apply the device?

Analysing a user’s gait is only one element to improving their walking steadiness. What new products or service offerings could your company create to complement these new tracking innovations? Or can you reposition your current offering to fill this gap? Does your company develop gait analysis technology? Consider partnering with a domestic Chinese shoe brand such as Li Ning to help. Developing and establishing a data set reflective of gait traits within China will be crucial to ensuring your products meet the needs of Chinese citizens. Don’t rely on data you have collected in western markets.

A key consideration here is going to be the styling. Older Chinese adults are as style conscious as the rest of society. So how might you improve the aesthetics of your product? How might you adapt exoskeletal products to elevate the experience of exercising for all? Could you help to individuals perform strengthening exercises to keep their bodies healthier for longer? How might you design user interfaces to make interacting with autonomous vehicles easier? How might you leverage AI technology to go beyond the historical forms of transport solutions bringing accessibility and value to older adults? Think about designing marketing campaigns that reflect the growing number of techliterate older adults. Be wary of falling into traditional tropes associated with growing older.


MACRO TREND

Trend 2: Invisible Inclusivity Designing mobility solutions which cater to all Essentialist Approach All In The Details Functional Forms


NICA | Exploring the Future of Mobility and Gait in China

MACRO TREND

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Invisible Inclusivity The future of mobility will be created with a greater focus on equality and accessibility across all walks of life. There is a growing awareness of how design needs to be more inclusive rather than catering for a select few, driving demand for change globally. Current estimates from the World Health Organisation indicate that there are 1 billion people42 in the world living with some form of disability. According to data from the United Nations, more than 46% of older adults have disabilities and more than 250 million older people43 experience moderate to severe disability. Although estimates indicate that the disability market controls over $13 trillion in disposable income globally44, individuals still express frustration with the inadequacy of current solutions or the exclusionary aesthetics and price of disabilityfocused products. As a result, a growing number of individuals are calling for collective action to make the design of products and services more inclusive. This attitude and approach are seen increasingly across China. With such a vast population and an evergrowing older demographic, the demand for products and services that meet the requirements of everyone is surging.

© Zhang Kaiyv


NICA | Exploring the Future of Mobility and Gait in China

Invisible Inclusivity

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So What’s Driving This Trend? 1. CHINA’S INCREASING DISABLED POPULATION The number of citizens with some form of disability is increasing across China. According to statistics from Peking University, there was an estimated 108 million people with a disability in China in 202045, with this figure expected to reach 136 million by 2030. This increase has in part been fuelled by an ageing demographic, with Peking University estimating there to be a total of 77 million disabled older adults in China by 2030, increasing from 52.71 million in 2020. This rapid increase will have significant implications for the labour market as well as individual welfare and health. As a result, expect to see the demand for equitable mobility solutions increase rapidly.

© Zhang Kaiyv


NICA | Exploring the Future of Mobility and Gait in China

2. BRANDS DRIVING CHANGE The drive for better representation and accessibility in design is being driven by the fashion and beauty market, with a growing number of Chinese designers and luxury fashion brands creating signature pieces that accommodate the needs of those with disabilities. Fashion brand Private Policy partnered with artist Chella Man in 202146, launching capsule jewellery earrings that can be styled with hearing aids or cochlear implants. Similarly, Beijingbased YVMIN partnered with fashion blogger Xiao Yang47 to create “Xiao Yang’s prosthesis”. These custom prosthetics are designed to reflect pieces of jewellery, going beyond their traditional medical aesthetics. Rejoice - a haircare brand owned by global FMCG company P&G - recently released a campaign highlighting48 the

Invisible Inclusivity

lives of those with blindness in China. The campaign looks to tackle the stereotypes surrounding blind people by drawing on their stories to redefine what beauty and a fulfilling life can be. As these brands help to empower disabled individuals, by setting new standards, people will come to expect the same from other areas of their lives. Whether that be the architecture of their homes or the technology with which they interact.

© P&G Rejoice

3. COMMON PROSPERITY Set to make a significant impact across all areas of China, both economically and culturally, “Common Prosperity” is a new political initiative adopted by the Chinese government, designed to reduce inequality through wealth redistribution and improved welfare policies. After first being mentioned by President Xi Jinping in late 2020, the government has launched several policy initiatives. For example, Xi has called for the development of a property tax49, intending to make the wealthy pay more for holding valuable property assets. © CGTN

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The initiative has already begun to

impact how businesses operate in the country, with some of China’s largest tech firms investing heavily in “Common Prosperity” - Alibaba and Tencent have both pledged 100 million yuan ($15.5 billion)50. How this new initiative may impact the lives of disabled persons has been seen most recently in the release of the “Special Action Plan for Promoting Common Wealth of Disabled Persons (2021-2025)”51 issued by the Zhejiang Provincial Government. This plan draws on the common prosperity initiative, with the implementation of policies and measures that look to “comprehensively promote the co-construction, sharing and common prosperity of disabled persons in the province, ensure that the

majority of disabled persons ‘never fall behind’” Expected to be one of the country’s most salient objectives over the next decade, the impact of these changes are only just beginning. As common prosperity firmly plants itself into the mindset of Chinese citizens, companies that offer products that support older adults and those with disabilities to live healthier, longer lives will thrive in the coming years.


NICA | Exploring the Future of Mobility and Gait in China

Invisible Inclusivity

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4. VISIBILITY A growing movement of charities and individuals are calling for a collective change in attitudes towards those with disabilities. Presently, discrimination and ableism in China have obscured meaningful business opportunities the disability and longevity markets. The China Disabled Persons’ Federation (CDPF) is one such organisation working to improve the lives of disabled persons. Since being set up by the government in 1988 the CDPF has helped to; secure China’s first law on protecting disabled people52, campaigned against the use of the word ‘canfei’ (残废) to mean disabled (its two characters mean “disabled” and “useless”). It promoted the less derogatory term, ‘canji’ (ji denotes a medical condition). More recently, the CDPF has drawn attention to disabled key opinion leaders (KOLs) such as Ma Yinqing53, a visuallyimpaired 26-year-old from Shanghai who has set up a business that employs blind people to record audiobooks. This year she plans to start a podcast where blind guests talk about their lives. In a similar vein, Sun Chenlu54, who is paraplegic, has garnered a large following on Xiaohongshu55, with 90,000 fans watching her short-form fashion videos. These individuals are helping to bring awareness to the disabled community, helping to change attitudes and expectations.

© Reuters

© CGTN

© Handout

The continued success of Chinese Paralympians at the Beijing 2020 Olympics - topping the medal table for a fifth consecutive year - is also contributing to this change. This dominance has sparked conversation amongst Chinese citizens about the treatment and welfare of those with disabilities.


NICA | Exploring the Future of Mobility and Gait in China

Chapter Name

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In a survey conducted by the Social Survey Center of China Youth Daily after the Tokyo Paralympic games, 95.1% of the respondents said that after watching the Paralympics56, they paid more attention to the lives of disabled people around them. Furthermore, 67.0% of the interviewees suggested strengthening social welfare protections for disabled persons. Further to this, the recent deaths of two disabled-rights activists have also sparked debate amongst citizens for better provisions for the disabled community. In 2019, Wen Jun, a disabled activist, died while inspecting barrier-free facilities in Dali57 (a city in China’s south-western Yunnan province), after his wheelchair fell into an underground car park. Chen Xiaoping58, another campaigner, died in January while manoeuvring her wheelchair by a pedestrian crossing in Shenzhen. Throughout the 2021 Double Ninth Festival - a holiday when Chinese traditionally pay their respects to ancestors and older adults - tech platforms and fashion brands leaned into content calling for more respect and care towards older adults.

© Station B

Station B, Guangming Daily All Media, China Aging, and the Lilac Doctor APP released a short video called “Invisible Old Man”59, calling on citizens to pay attention to the current situation of older adults living alone. The video highlights how seemingly minor inconveniences, such as inadvertently falling at home or being unable to use smartphones, can severely harm older adults physical and mental wellbeing. For its video, Douyin enlisted 88-year-old actor You Benchang, famous for playing the legendary monk Ji Gong in a classic Chinese TV series of the same name. The actor spoke about several scenarios in which older adults may struggle60. He then encouraged to use Douyin, which makes it easy to learn digital skills with clips that show older adults how to master their smartphones and smart appliances.

Neilg Grey, Tesla wMega Factory

© Douyin


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MICRO TREND

Designing products with a ‘less is more’ approach This trend is all about elevating the features that matter. Increasingly ableism discrimination in favour of able-bodied people - in design is being scruitinised. This is reflected in a recent move by the Chinese government to prioritise accessible design features for older adults. As the number of people living with a disability increases in China, there will be a greater need for mobility solutions that address these issues with innovative designs, helping people of all abilities to achieve greater quality of life and wellbeing. As a result, designers and brands are beginning to take a different approach, designing products and services. Excess is stripped away and key functionalities are brought to the fore, making their use better for everyone.

© Kumpan Electric


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CASE STUDY

One Touch Solutions Identifying the potential market opportunity of the longevity economy, innovative companies in China such as Taobao61 launched simplified app interfaces for older adults as early as 2018. In November of 2020, the Chinese government accelerated this change, announcing a set of design guidelines62 that tech companies must follow to make it easier for older adults to use websites and apps. As a result, 43 mobile apps and 115 websites63 have launched simplified older adult-focused solutions that feature simplified interfaces. DiDi, a Chinese ride-hailing platform, launched its ‘older-adult’ mode in May 202164. When users switch to this mode, they are presented with a simplified interface featuring larger fonts and the ability to hail a car with a single click. By June of 2021, 4 million trips had been made using this simplified mode, significantly increasing trips made by older adults, according to Didi. Similarly, Alibaba Group has launched versions of its Taobao65 and Alipay66 services, allowing users to toggle between the traditional interface and a secondary mode targeted at older adults. Named “senior mode” and “elder mode” both platforms feature enlarged text and icons, simplified navigation and voice-assisted technologies that allow older adults to search products and make payments using voice commands.

© Didi

Although these developments have been welcomed, some media sources67 have criticised several of these apps for only making surface-level changes. For example, simply changing the primary interface on a landing page but not adjusting the secondary pages with the same accessible adaptations. The adoption and development of simplified interfaces by the countries leading technology platforms is likely to create a new level of expectation amongst Chinese older adults and their families.

© Alipay, © Taobao


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CASE STUDY

A Softer Approach Designed by Japanese designer Mikiya Kobayashi68, in collaboration with Aisin Seiki69, an automotive company (who operates in China), and Karimoku70, a woodfurniture manufacturer in Japan, ILY-Ai is an electric scooter with a body constructed from wood - specifically chestnut. The scooter’s organic form is made from an aluminium frame cased in a warm wood outer shell. Kobayashi chose to use wood for its proven positive, psychological, emotional, and health effects71, such as stress relief. Designed specifically for individuals with mobility issues, the scooter positions riders in a straddled, upright position upon a padded leather seat, helping to ensure rider stability alongside the vehicles tricycle wheelbase. Furthermore, the design implements additional accessibility features, using the contrast of solid black against the warm wood tones to clearly define points of user contact, i.e. the seat and handlebars. This approach can aid those with cognitive and visual impairments, making the product easier to use. The vehicle is programmed to travel at four kilometres per hour (around 2.5 miles per hour), similar to walking speed. Sensors embedded in the front of the scooter provide extra safety precautions, stopping the rider if it detects any obstacles. By removing excess componentry associated with current mobility scooters, Kobayashi has given the device a pleasing aesthetic and presented something more intuitive, making the product easier to use the first time around.

© Aisin Seiki, Mikiya Kobayashi, Karimoku


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All In The Details

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MICRO TREND

Addressing smaller details to elevate the whole experience This trend is about designing for optimisation, creating a whole new experience that is more equitable and inclusive. Looking at the elements likely considered as less important and flipping it on its head, is the approach adopted here. Driven by a demand for a more inclusive approach to design, innovators in the mobility space are looking at how the finer details of their products or services can be designed to elevate the whole experience for all. In many cases innovation concentrates on the overhaul or invention of a new product. What if you looked at the smaller details with a fresh perspective, what value can you add to those interactions?

© James Lee


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CASE STUDY

Supportive Sound China is leading in the manufacturing and adoption of electric vehicles. Total EV sales in the country were 1.3 million in 202072, an increase of 8% compared to 2019 and 41% of all EVs sold worldwide. China has also set a target to transition to fully electric or hybrid cars by 203573, an effort reflected in the $60 Billion invested74 into EV’s thus far by the government. This rate of adoption coupled with China’s rapidly ageing population will make the region a hotbed for longevity led innovations in electric vehicles. One significant difference between EV’s and traditional combustion engine vehicles is that the former is much quieter. In the early development of consumer electric vehicles, the absence of sound made pedestrian safety a top concern. Charities such as Guide Dogs highlighted that pedestrians are 40% more likely75 to be hit by a hybrid or electric car than by one with a petrol or diesel engine in the UK. As a result, countries including China have introduced laws76 requiring EV’s to produce a sound as a safety feature. For this reason, car manufacturers such as BMW have recruited the services of sound designers and composers such as Hans Zimmer77 to create unique audio profiles for their vehicles. However, looking beyond safety, innovators are now exploring how composed vehicle sounds can elevate the driving experience further. Yuri Suzuki, a partner at global design consultancy Pentagram, has developed a family of sounds for electric vehicles78 - to heighten safety and practicality. As part of the research project, Suzuki created two new artificial engine hums that change pitch depending on the vehicle’s speed. The first is a skeuomorphic design engine with similar sound properties to a conventional engine. Second is a multi sine wave engine maximised for safety and sound recognition, designed with frequencies higher than a traditional engine, allowing for clear hearing. Each engine sound incorporates a variety of frequencies to ensure that it remains audible to those affected by hearing loss across one of these frequency ranges.

© Yuri Suzuki x Pentagram

“Having variable sounds within a car allows the user to have a more positive driving experience, too, allowing for each journey to feel important and for the bond between vehicle and user to develop over time.” Yuri Suzuki, Partner, Experience and Sound Designer, Pentagram

Suzuki also produced a range of in-car sounds for everything from indicating to starting the ignition. These sounds are adaptive and change based on the location, time and activity, generating an immersive and adaptive experience that the designer says can help create a sense of routine, structure and adaptiveness for the user. As sound design in electric vehicles becomes ever more ubiquitous, there is an opportunity to design these systems with features that support older adults.


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Invisible Inclusivity

CASE STUDY

ŠKODA lights the way Czech automobile firm, ŠKODA (which operates in China), has patented an illuminating seat belt buckle79 which makes finding and engaging a car belt buckle easier. The new ŠKODA ‘Smart Buckles’ feature a clear transparent button replacing the traditional red eject button. The buckle features a pair of multicolour RGB LEDs that allows for the following scenarios; with nobody in the seat, the LEDs glow white to show the passenger the location of the buckle at night. When a passenger sits in the seat, a weight sensor in the seat base recognises the presence of a person and the LED changes to red indicating that the occupant should put their seat belt on. A pattern on the clear plastic button spreads the light to make the whole button glow. The buckles can also be programmed to have an animated welcome sequence to make them more noticeable in dark environments. Adapting these standard pieces of safety equipment, ŠKODA, have elevated the experience for everyone, but especially those who may have visual impairments.

© ŠKODA

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CASE STUDY

Style and Substance The design of older adult-focused mobility solutions has traditionally favoured an aesthetic reflective of medical devices. While these products may work perfectly fine, a reluctance to adopt them has been linked to the stigma experienced80 while using these unappealing designs Japanese mobility company, GLM, has tried to address this barrier with their electric scooter concept81. Focusing on “aesthetic issues” as one of the barriers to promoting the shift from passenger cars to alternative mobility solutions, the company looked to design a mobility scooter that embodies a more contemporary aesthetic. Ryuhei Ishimaru sculptured the design to give the vehicle the appearance that it has been carved from a sold sphere to create a softer and approachable form. Using this approach, GLM and Ishimaru have created a vehicle with a design aesthetic more reflective of a luxury car than a medical device. While this design is just one of many possible approaches, GLM has demonstrated that older adult-focused mobility solutions can hold the same aesthetic standards that younger audiences enjoy.

© GLM


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Functional Forms

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MICRO TREND

Creating new innovative forms to make transport more accessible This trend is all about democratising good design. There is a growing desire to address the exclusionary nature of design for those with disabilities. Furthermore, the pressures of a population with increasing numbers of people living with dementia and other chronic conditions are forcing a range of sectors and industries to enact change to ensure people live healthier for longer. Moving beyond current standards, companies are leveraging innovations in material design, manufacturing techniques and technology to create new forms which enable greater accessibility for all.

© Anne Nygard


NICA | Exploring the Future of Mobility and Gait in China

Invisible Inclusivity

‘After a month of wearing the shoes, mostly around my flat and the local park because of the UK’s lockdown, I have been converted. They’re comfortable, feel stable, and the hinge has worked seamlessly pretty much every time.’

CASE STUDY

Matt Burgess, Senior Writer, Wired

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Stepping Into Change How shoes are put on and secured has experienced little change in the past century. Still dominated by lacing systems and straps, users without the dexterity or flexibility demanded by such systems have had to experience exclusionary alternatives or inconvenient workarounds. Nike has recently challenged this standard with their Go FlyEase shoe, launched globally in 2021. The shoe features an innovative bi-stable hinge design which means the user can put on the shoe without using their hands82. When bent in half, a wide opening allows the user to step into the shoe, which envelopes their foot. To take them off, the wearer steps on the heel of the shoe and lifts out their foot. All of this, accompanied by an aesthetic that is in keeping with Nike’s design identity, gives people access to their popular style.

© Nike


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Invisible Inclusivity

CASE STUDY

ASIT brings flexibility to public transport As China experiences further growth of people with disabilities, current accessibility issues will exacerbate. Chinese officials have made moves to improve the accessibility of public transport, with nearly eight in ten buses serving urban areas in Beijing having been upgraded into “barrierfree vehicles” as of April 2021. Beijing Public Transport Corporation (BPTC) operates a total of 23,800 buses and trams, of which 12,265 are equipped with wheelchair ramps83, accounting for 78.12% of all buses serving urban areas of Beijing. However, the design of the buses - although more accessible than before - fail to address the needs of an increasing number of disabled citizens. Product design student Hang Tat Henry Hui of Hong Kong Polytechnic University has created a concept that addresses this challenge. The Asit bus concept 84 includes a wider door, an extendable ramp, inside facing seats and a fully autonomous driving system. Interior space is maximised by placing the stairs close to the door, allowing for swifter movement of passengers on and off the bus. Electronic seats on the bus serve two functions; firstly, providing older adults and disabled individuals with an assistive feature that helps them sit down and stand up. Secondly, the system gives the bus flexibility, allowing different mobility solutions to board the bus, meaning multiple wheelchair users can be on the bus at one time. This approach helps make capacity more flexible, ensuring accessible buses can operate at all times.

© Hang Tat Henry Hui

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CASE STUDY

Shared Mobility Made Inclusive ‘Last mile’ mobility solutions such as bike shares are prevalent across Chinese cities. In early 2018, there were an estimated 23 million shared bicycles across China85, and although new rules86 have been introduced to regulate oversupply and artificial growth, the market remains popular. Shared bikes were used 690 million times in Beijing during 2020, with the daily average number of bike-share trips reaching approximately 1.89 million, an increase of 13.4% compared with 2019. Further to this, electric bicycles have proven just as popular. According to data collected by Hellobike, a bike-sharing company, nearly 300 million rides per day were completed on conventional bikes across China in 2019. More than twice as many journeys were on electric bicycles and electric scooters that year - 700 million rides a day87. Additionally, in the past two years, the number of cyclists over 60 years old in Shanghai has increased by more than 40%88. The popularity of shared mobility services in urban China is clear, but many do not accommodate the needs of older adults. Stria is a concept shared mobility solution89 designed by Hong Kong-based product and industrial designer Cathy Wong, which looks to meet the needs of an ageing population. The electric vehicle is configurable, with four modes available; Sport, Commute, Support, and Companion. The Sport mode positions the device in a skateboard style form allowing users to engage maximum speed and control while riding on the streets. Commute mode forms a more casual scooter like stance for improved stability. The Support mode is designed for older adults, featuring thigh-leaning support to help reduce body fatigue amongst older adults and those with disabilities. Finally, the companion mode acts as a prop while walking.

$690 Million The number of times shared bikes were used in Beijing during 2020 [Beijing Municipal Commission of Transportation]

© Cathy Wong


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Invisible Inclusivity Key Considerations One-Touch Solutions

All In The Details

Functional Forms

Thinking beyond apps and digital interfaces, how might you simplify interactions with the physical products and services you provide to make them more inclusive for older adults?

Consider adopting a design approach which prioritises simplification in both form and function.

Challenge your team’s currently held assumptions/ stereotypes in relation to what older adults can and can’t do.

Ensure any product adaptations you make with older adults in mind go beyond surface level changes.

Are there any smaller components of your product or service that you have overlooked in the design process? Could you improve on a locking mechanism or material texture which enhances overall usability?

Consider developing techniques to monitor the use of features in your product or service, to help you prioritise functionality.

How might you leverage sound to deliver more than warning sounds or alerts? Could you design a portfolio of healthy sounds for your product or service?

Be mindful that accessibility adaptations don’t alienate older adults. Try to minimise the ‘their mode’ ‘your mode’ model currently adopted.

Consider opting for more natural materials for your mobility solution, woods, fabrics etc.

Could you flip the current accessibility model for digital technology on its head? Making standard modes a toggle to switch on instead of the accessibility mode?

Remember that older adults can be as style and quality focused as younger adults

Question the current form of your product and whether it’s optimal for delivering a better mobility experience. How might you leverage new material innovations to achieve new form factors? Can you take inspiration from other industries such as fashion?


MACRO TREND

Trend 3: Health Positive Adaptations Reducing the impact mobility solutions have on overall health and wellbeing Breathe Better Sound Solutions


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Health Positive Adaptations Driven by the desire for healthier longer lives, attitudes towards mobility solutions are changing Countries across the globe are facing the same poignant challenges posed by unsustainable practices, which have introduced multiple forms of pollution and environmental damage, impacting the health of all. As the global agenda shifts to climate change mitigation, global leaders, including China, focus on policies that address the impact different sources of pollution have on the planet. For China, a country that has experienced rapid industrialisation and population growth, the challenges are now clearly visible. Transport solutions that move people and goods have grown exponentially to help fuel this economic growth at the cost of public health and wellbeing. With transport being one of the most substantial contributors to pollution, focus of citizens and the government is now on reducing its impact on the health and wellbeing of everyone.

© Javier Quiroga


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So What’s Driving This Trend? 1. Environmental Health Crisis Rapid industrialisation90 and population growth have resulted in China becoming one of the most polluted countries globally. The country currently generates around 30% of all global emissions, double that of the US - the secondlargest contributor - with an estimated 13%. As a result, air, noise, water, and soil pollution are widespread, impacting citizens’ health and longevity. Increasingly Chinese citizens are calling for more to be done as pollutions levels impact their health. This not only impacts everyone’s longevity but disproportionally affects older adults.

©Xianyu Hao


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2. Sustainability Drive As the world faces the looming threat of irreversible climate change, pressure is mounting on the world’s largest carbon emitters. China, currently the largest of them all, due to its 1.4 billion population and explosive economic growth, is facing pressure from other countries to curb its output. In 2020, President Xi Jinping said China would aim for emissions to reach their highest point before 2030 and carbon neutrality before 206091. To achieve this, China is introducing a wash of initiatives including, “phasing down” coal use from 202692, switching to green energy solutions93, increasing greenery94 and investing heavily in electric vehicles95. This introduction of policy and initiatives to help curb climate change is likely to continue into the coming decade as the country looks to control its emissions. © Vista Wei

3. Health and Fitness Focused Citizens

have begun to target older adults with new fitness offerings tailored to their needs.

Increasingly older adults in China are focusing more heavily on their health and wellbeing, with many taking up fitnessoriented products and services.

Fitness data released by Leke99 in October 2021 shows the number of users on the platforms over the age of 60 has grown significantly in the past two years, with an average annual growth rate of nearly 30%.

According to a survey conducted96 by Tencent, the most widely participated social activities amongst the middleaged and older adults are sports and fitness and tourism, with 70.1% and 67.4% of middle-aged and older adults participating.

© AgeClub

Seeing the potential of this ageing demographic several Chinese fitness brands, including Keep97 and Leke98,

Keep, which recently completed an $80 million Series E round of financing100, has publicly stated that it will develop tailored services for older adults, launching customized content such as rehabilitation, cardiovascular and cerebrovascular courses. Key Opinion Leaders101 on short-form

video platforms such as Douyin and Kuaishou are also helping to fuel the growing interest in fitness amongst older adults. This heightened focus on fitness will likely draw attention to the external factors impacting fitness and health, such as pollution levels. As a result, polluting mobility solutions that adversely impact the health of older adults will fall out of favour for less polluting solutions.


NICA | Exploring the Future of Mobility and Gait in China

Health Positive Adaptations

Breathe Better

MICRO TREND

Mobility solutions will be designed to improve air quality Air pollution levels have been of great concern to Chinese citizens for several years. However, while improvements have occurred102, demand for further action comes as research uncovers the long-term effects of air pollution on older adults.

doing what they can to reduce their exposure to these pollutants. The Chinese Air Purifiers Market stood at USD 1,489.84 Million in 2019 and is projected to grow at a CAGR of 5.12% to surpass USD 1,767.81 Million by 2025113.

Recent research has linked high levels of air pollution with increased incidences of dementia103, heart disease, hypertension104, sleep disturbances105, and cognitive impairment106.

A recent catalyst driving awareness of air pollution is that of the COVID-19 pandemic. Significant reductions in air pollution across many countries, including China, were visualised by institutions such as NASA114 and mainstream media115 outlets during nationwide lockdowns.

The transport sector is one of the leading causes of air pollution in China, and it is estimated that between 20-50%107 of local fine particulate matter (PM2.5) emissions in Chinese cities -. Shenzhen 52%, Beijing 45%, Guangzhou 22% are produced by transport. Nationwide, nitrogen oxides from transport solutions such as motor vehicles have accounted for about 60%108 of the total emissions, and volatile organic compounds account for about 23%109.

For older adults who are more likely to experience adverse reactions116 to high pollution levels, increased expectations emerge for mobility companies to do more to improve air quality both in and around their vehicles.

While China has set a date of 2035 for banning the sale of fossil-fuelled vehicles110, the country is expected to sell 80 million internal combustion engines annually111 by 2026. This means transport-related pollution levels will continue to increase, with the Chinese government estimating that carbon emissions will peak in 2028112, dropping to 20% of peak levels by 2035. As a result, Chinese citizens are already

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© Photoholgic


NICA | Exploring the Future of Mobility and Gait in China

Health Positive Adaptations

CASE STUDY

Managing Micro-Climates Auto-makers across China are launching innovative features for their vehicles that aim to improve the air quality inside of their cars. Citizens are becoming increasingly aware of studies showing that air pollution concentrations inside a car are higher117 than those outside. Parallel studies have also found that concentration levels can also affect driver concentration118, increasing the likelihood of traffic accident-related deaths119. Geely Auto’s new ICON model has an intelligent air purification system (IAPS)120 with “in-vehicle virus isolation and prevention functions”. The system isolates harmful substances from external air whilst purifying air inside the car, eliminating harmful airborne substances, including bacteria and viruses. Volvo’s new ‘Advanced Air Cleaner’121 technology cleans fine particulate matters from the cabin of the car. Sensors measure PM 2.5 levels inside the car, whilst synthetic fibre-based filters and an ioniser remove up to 95% of all PM 2.5 particles from the air entering the vehicle. Drivers can also use an app to clean the cabin air before their journey, ensuring pollution levels are kept to a minimum. Volvo customers in China - where PM 2.5 measurements and information services are widely available - can also compare air quality inside the cabin to that outside the car.

© Geely

© Volvo

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Tanji Motor’s Skyline ME7 SUV122 (the companys first luxury electric SUV) has been fitted with vehicle-grade CN95 air filtration and ultraviolet disinfection features. The air quality control system monitors the air quality inside and outside of the car in realtime - through dual-channel PM2.5 sensors - and automatically switches the internal and external circulation of the air conditioner. These systems remove potentially harmful particles, including PM2.5, bacteria and viruses. For older adults who are more likely to experience age-related driving impairments123, air filtration systems are likely to become increasingly popular as they seek to increase their safety and protect their independence.

© Tianjin FAW


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CASE STUDY

Actively Cleaning The Air Designed for Chinese car brand IM Motors, Heatherwick Studio unveiled its Airo electric car concept124 at Shanghai Motor Show 2021. While all-electric cars produce no engine pollution, Heatherwick has designed the vehicle to go one step further, actively removing particles from the air with a HEPA (high-efficiency particulate air) filtering system. The car, set to go into production in 2023, taps into the mindset of older adults looking to reduce their exposure to air pollution. As citizen mindset increasingly shifts to one of carbon-negative as opposed to carbon-neutral, solutions such as this will grow more favourable. © IM Motors x Heatherwick Studio

© IM Motors x Heatherwick Studio

© IM Motors x Heatherwick Studio


NICA | Exploring the Future of Mobility and Gait in China

Health Positive Adaptations

CASE STUDY

Microplastic Mitigation The switch to EV’s may stop the production of harmful pollutants from internal combustion engines, but air pollution created by microplastics released from tyres remains an unsolved issue. UK startup ENSO125 looks to address this issue with their new tyre design. The company claims its tyres are made from advanced raw materials that are environmentally friendly, which greatly reduce the quantity and toxicity of harmful particulate matter (PM) emissions that current tyres release. The company also looks to flip the current revenue model applied to tyres, opting to supply directly to customers on a payper-mile basis, opposed to tyres that wear out faster and need replacing. Enso will instead profit from durability and fewer customer service visits. Another UK startup, The Tyre Collective126, looks to address the issue by applying a different approach. The prototype device, which suspends from each wheel’s steering knuckle, just above where the tyre meets the road, is designed to capture microplastic fragments released through friction every time the car brakes, accelerates or turns a corner. It achieves this by leveraging the positive electrostatic charge of the tyre particles - created by the friction through which they are released - and a series of copper plates that attract the rubber particles, capturing them in a cartridge inside the device.

© Enso

© The Tyre Collective

© The Tyre Collective

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Health Positive Adaptations

Sound Solutions

MICRO TREND

Designing quieter experiences in and around transport solutions As the impact of noise pollution becomes more widely understood, citizens are calling for governments and companies to address excessive noise produced by industrial practices and transport. Nearly 2.5 billion people worldwide127 - or 1 in 4 people - will be living with some degree of hearing loss by 2050. Agerelated hearing loss was the third-largest source of global years lived with disability in 2019 and the leading source for adults older than 70128 years of age. In China, the number of people aged 65 and above who experience hearing difficulty is expected to have exceeded 50 million129 in 2021. Studies have shown that hearing loss can lead to social isolation and loneliness130 at all ages due to decreased participation in activities and reduced social circles. This can occur due to increased avoidance of potentially embarrassing social situations that arise from an impaired ability to comprehend auditory information131. Social isolation can significantly impact the psychosocial and cognitive health of older adults. A lack of interaction and loneliness can lead to cognitive decline as well as worsening mental health132, facilitating a gateway to depression. Noise pollution can also lead to several other health

effects including, a greater risk of ischaemic heart disease, hypertension133, sleep disturbances134, annoyance and cognitive impairments135. The impact of the Covid-19 pandemic in increasing collective awareness of noise pollution cannot be understated. As the world went into lockdown, people, transport and industry all stopped, bringing with it a new quiet landscape136. As a result, people reported that bird songs had gotten louder137 when, in fact, the bird song had gotten quieter. Road traffic noise is now one of the leading causes of noise pollution globally. The European Environment Agency estimates that 100 million people in EU states are exposed to road traffic noise above 55dB138 (the EU’s daily exposure threshold), and of these, 32 million experience very high noise levels (above 65 dB). Noise data collected from 322 cities across China in 2016 showed the average day-time sound level of urban road traffic is 66.8dB139, accounting for 21.7% of noise sources. Mobility solutions that help prevent hearing damage and make it easier for those with hearing impairments to lead comfortable, healthier lives will become highly sought after.

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© Pawel Czerwinski


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CASE STUDY

Noise Cancelling Technology Brought To Cars In an attempt to escape the din of modern day noise pollution, headphones have become a common feature of citizens daily lives140. In recent years, Active Noise Cancelling (ANC) technology has become an increasingly popular audio feature, with the likes of Apple, Xiaomi, Huawei all releasing audio devices with this function. As citizens’ look for an escape from noise, companies are exploring how noise cancelling technology can be used to reduce noise inside of cars. WEY a Chinese car brand produced by Great Wall Motor141, launched their VV7 model in 2017. As of 2020, the VV7142 has been equipped with a Harman highperformance engine noise reduction controller equipped with active noise reduction technology.

© Molex

Molex, an electronics solutions provider, has recently announced an accelerometer-based Road Noise Cancelling (RNC) sensor143. These sensors are aimed at combating unwanted road, wind and HVAC car noise while reducing low-frequency sounds that increase driver fatigue. Silentium144, a company that specialises in the development of noise reduction products and solutions, has recently announced its partnership with Hyundai Mobis as its preferred Active Road Noise Cancellation145 (ARNC) technology supplier, following its successful partnership with Jaguar Land Rover146. © Silentium

© WEY


NICA | Exploring the Future of Mobility and Gait in China

CASE STUDY

Aerodynamic Acoustics Transport solutions, especially those powered by combustion engines, create a lot of noise pollution. Electric vehicles, although better, still create noise pollution from wheel friction and aerodynamic turbulence147. Reducing drag has become a key focus area for automakers looking to increase the range of electric vehicles. Unveiled at CES 2022, the Vision EQXX148 is Mercedes-Benz latest solar-powered concept car, capable of exceeding 1,000 kilometres (648 miles) on a single charge. The car’s slender teardrop shape has been designed to reduce aerodynamic drag, and Mercedes have a “benchmark” drag coefficient of 0.17 based on a 140km/h wind tunnel test — an improvement over the EQS’ recordsetting 0.20 drag coefficient. The car has also been designed with narrower rear wheel tracks to allow the air to flow more efficiently and transparent external covers on the wheel to prevent air turbulence. In similar efforts to reduce aerodynamic drag, Audi and Honda introduced camera side mirrors to their Audi e-tron and Honda E vehicles. Instead of using large reflective panels, the cars are equipped with smaller aerodynamic cameras, streaming video to in-vehicle displays. While not intentionally designed to reduce outward noise pollution, by improving the aerodynamic qualities of their car, these companies are reducing external noise pollution, thus helping to reduce the impact on citizens’ health and longevity.

Health Positive Adaptations

Numerous studies have shown that exposure to aircraft noise can have adverse effects on the health of people living near airports including, annoyance, sleep disturbance, cardiovascular disease including hypertension, altered cognitive performance in children, and disruption in hormonal rhythm. Increasingly, Chinese citizens will face exposure to aircraft noise as the country ramps up its domestic and international aviation market. As part of its 14th FiveYear Plan 1, China aims to have 400 civilian transport airports by the end of 2035149, an increase of 150 compared with the number at the end of 2020, meaning that China will average around ten new airports each year by 2035. Researchers in China are exploring how to reduce aviation noise in the future. In a recent study150, researchers from Xi’an Jiaotong University in China used noise calculation and analysis software to study airfoils with characteristics reminiscent of owl wings.

© Mercedes-Benz

In a statement study author, Xiaomin Liu said, “Nocturnal owls produce about 18 decibels less noise than other birds at similar flight speeds due to their unique wing configuration”. Using this point of reference, the researchers designed aerofoils with asymmetric serrations, capable of reducing noise more than symmetric variations. The conflict which arises from a growing desire and necessity to travel, with growing evidence of adverse impacts that noise pollution has on longevity, presents companies with an opportunity to innovate. Those seen to be addressing this issue earlier will be the ones to capture citizen attention. © Honda

© Pete Nuji

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Health Positive Adaptations Key Considerations Breathe Better

Sound Solutions

If your mobility product uses tyres, consider partnering with suppliers that proprieties low micro-plastic solutions

Consider the sound implications related your mobility solutions form. How might you be able to adapt its shape to reduce wind noise and turbulence.

Can you adapt your mobility solution to extract air pollution from the environment? If not could you invest in solutions or projects which do? Think sea grass or peat bog conservation.

If you cannot reduce the noise produced by your mobility solution, how might you invest in other areas that can help mitigate noise pollution? Think infrastructure materials, geo fencing technology to reduce speed in residential areas.

Ensure your business strategy prioritises the reduction of air pollution from material sourcing to final delivery

Consider investing in material technologies with better sound isolation properties. Can you invest in newer sustainable materials which are also better sound insulators?

How might you design the delivery of air pollution information to help older adults make informed decisions to reduce its impact on their health?

Remember it is not just large transport solutions which can contribute to noise pollution. Large numbers of e-scooters and other last mile solutions can contribute to the noise of a town or city.

Can you use your mobility solution to monitor local air quality levels, helping local authorities and government to address poor air quality?


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Conclusion Many of the mobility challenges facing older adults in China are reflective of those elsewhere in the world, with poor accessibility, quality issues and limited choice creating barriers to leading healthier longer lives. However, with the largest global population of older adults, a different political system to western countries, and its own cultural approaches, trends in the region are unfolding quite differently from those in the west. The Governments ‘Common Prosperity’ initiative, which looks to address inequalities will become the foundation for all policy, economic, and innovation activities in years to come. The design and development of China’s next generation of mobility solutions will be based on what different people need, want, desire and aspire to have at different stages in their life. as the government looks to ensure that people can be more resilient and have options, wherever they live, whatever their circumstances. Underpinning this is the changing expectations of Chinese older adults. Leading, longer more prosperous lives than previous generations, a new wave of older adults brings with them new expectations and mindsets about how they want to live. This change will mean that providers of mobility and gait solutions will need to adapt to meet more active lifestyles, health-conscious mindsets and a thirst for retaining the independence they have enjoyed throughout their lives. China will continue to be a front-runner in the testing and deployment of technology lead mobility solutions such as autonomous vehicles, exoskeletons and flying taxi’s, with all offering an opportunity to revolutionise the lives of older adults. However, as this report has outlined, digital technology cannot be relied on alone if the country is to meet the needs of its growing population of older adults. Innovations in materials, form, service design and application are also needed to address health issues, improve accessibility, reduce inequality, and empower independence, so should not be overlooked. As we look to the years to come, the creation of mobility solutions that provide greater longevity should be viewed as an opportunity to improve the lives of all. An holistic approach will be key and companies should consider their direct and indirect impact on health and wellbeing. For example, vehicles that can help you attend social events to improve your mental health, whilst also cleaning the air you breathe. Identifying and acting on the key trends which have been highlighted within this report and are related to your mobility product or service will help your company to flourish in the Chinese market in the years to come. At NICA we can help you take this further with our unique branded approach, Ageing Intelligence® combining research expertise in understanding the correlation between market demands, industry dynamics and people’s needs, applying to that the latest in artificial intelligence and evidence from big data, alongside what is arguably the key intelligence: human experience. By harnessing the immense wisdom, insights and experience of citizens and their stakeholders – their human capital – we rapidly translate this intelligence to co-create, design, develop and bring to the market products and services that are urgently needed across the world to help people have choices to live healthier, better and longer lives.

© Ave Calvar


NICA | Exploring the Future of Mobility and Gait in China

What’s Next? In the coming months we will continue to explore the landscape of Mobility and Gait across China, with deep dives and innovation updates looking at the trends covered in this report and more. All of these will help inform your approach to marketing, product development and strategy for longevity focused mobility solutions. Expect to see expert interviews, product highlights and primary research all focused on helping you navigate the longevity economy in China. Also, keep a look out for our next trend report which will explore the trends impacting urban adaptations, uncovering further insights into infrastructure, city design and more.

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About Us We are the UK’s National Innovation Centre for Ageing – a world leading organisation supported by an initial investment from UK Government and Newcastle University – to help co-develop and bring to market products and services which create a world in which we all live better, for longer. We bring together cross-competence professionals and researchers, commercialisation experts, scientists, innovators and technologists working closely together with the public in a seamless way, exchanging their intelligence and backgrounds. Our sister organisation VOICE® - Valuing Our Intellectual Capital & Experience - is an international network of thousands of “innovation ready citizens”. Through their engagement we want to inspire new thinking, build connections and empower people. Together with VOICE® we have developed a novel approach - named Ageing Intelligence® - leveraging the experience, skills and expertise of older adults, alongside people of all ages and backgrounds, together with their stakeholders, while harnessing big data. Our role as a Global Observatory allows us to be uniquely positioned to help enterprises to capitalise their return-on-society and return-on-business in the longevity economies, generating new thinking and actions.

harnessing the business opportunities related to the longevity economies through human experience, ethics, data, collaboration, emerging technologies & innovative business models.


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Chapter Name

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Author: Owen Wright | Innovation Associate Reviewer: Patrick Bonnett | Director of Development Contact: Sarah Nolan | Project Manager Sarah.Nolan@newcastle.ac.uk Date: February 2022 | Version 1.0 | www.uknica.co.uk | info@uknica.co.uk | The Catalyst | 3 Science Square | Newcastle Helix | Newcastle upon Tyne | NE4 5TG