Optimizing assistive technology operations for aging populations

Authors: Jésica de Armas Adrián, Jessica Rodríguez, Bruno Miguel Soares Vieira and Helena Ramalhinho Lourenço

Sustainability (Switzerland), Vol. 13, No 12, June, 2021

The combination of increasing life spans and low birth rates is accelerating the pace at which the share of older adults in the population worldwide is rising. As people age, their autonomy tends to decrease which leads frequently to the need to use support equipment to perform their daily living activities. Governments, at all levels, are establishing programs to enable this population to live with dignity at home, receive more proper care, and to participate in all life’s activities in a joyful and independent way. Within these programs, we can find the Assistive Technology (AT) organizations that makes available to the population assistive technology equipment as wheelchairs or hospital beds. These organizations collect and store donated products for lend them to needed users. The management of these products’ flow, the location of the access centers, and design of the transportation schemes is not straightforward, due to several complexities, such as a highly uncertain demand and offer, budget limitations, and restricted availability of human resources within the organizations, most of which are volunteers. In this paper, we analyze the AT operations, based on a Circular Economy perspective, and we develop tools that can help the managers of these programs to make better logistics decisions. These tools are based on mathematical models and efficient algorithms that have been developed to solve location, inventory, and routing operational problems in the AT organizations. We have been inspired by the social program of the Barcelona City Council, Banc del Moviment, but the tools can be used and extended to other programs around the world.