"Students in the Industrial Design Department at Virginia Tech have historically visited the Warm Hearth Village in Blacksburg. In collaboration with SFCS Architects, students aim to address the ever-evolving challenges of Aging in Place. This year, professors Elham Morshedzadeh and Ben Kirkland were able to continue this project despite the restrictions of a pandemic.

SFCS and Warm Hearth Village worked hard with the students to make sure that the work could continue remotely this year. Seven teams of 4 - 5 students each, alongside seven mentors from SFCS Architects did the work remotely. 
Students were also given support from several expert advisors ranging across multiple industries, and worked in collaboration with residents from Warm Hearth, and other external user volunteers."
@archdesignvt
Graphics Courtesy of Oriana Nordt

As we get older our bodies ability to “snap back” and be mobile starts to decline. 

Starting in the early 30s, muscles start to deteriorate and weaken through a process called atrophy. The cause for atrophy is unknown, but could include a reduction in exercise.

The change in muscle density also affects posture and walking patterns in older adults and contributes to a loss in balance. If not corrected, the change in balance and mobility can lead to falls and other serious injuries.

Graphics Courtesy of Oriana Nordt

Exercise is crucial in aging people, not only because it reduces the risk of falling, but it helps with flexibility maintenance, balance, and basic motor skills.

However, 60% of older adults do not engage in physical activity or strength training.

Falling at an old age is very serious. Starting at 30, organs lose one percent of reserve energy each year. So by the time you’re 65, you have lost 35% of reserve organ energy. This loss in organ function is the issue when it comes to falls. An injury from a fall will take a lot more energy and time in older adults to heal and can end up leading to further health complications.

According to the National Council of Aging Every 11 seconds, an older adult is admitted to an emergency room for a fall-related injury, 

And every 19 minutes, a senior dies from a fall. 

One of the best ways to prevent falls is regular exercise. The National Council of Aging says that regular exercise reduces the likelihood of falling up to 23%.

We were able to talk with Brian Belfield, a Physical Therapist at Belfield PT, about preventative exercises that older adults are doing right now. When asked about the importance of core exercises in older adults, Brian agreed that a stronger core helps to prevent balance and extension issues, that many elderly adults experience.

A special Thank You to the team at...  

It is important to understand that the core is not just the abdominal muscles, but it is the entire torso.

Graphics Courtesy of Oriana Nordt

The Rectus abdominis, or what we all think of when we say abs, is located in the front of the body, beginning at the pubic bone and ending at the sternum.

The main function of this muscle is to flex the trunk, or the central part of the body. This keeps our spines in line and stable. 

The muscle is activated while doing crunches, because it pulls the ribs and the pelvis in, and curves the back.

Graphics Courtesy of Oriana Nordt

The Obliques are located on the lateral sides of the abdominal wall.

The obliques allow for side to side movement as well as twisting. The strength of our obliques determines how much support we have on our lower back and overall posture.

We can workout this muscle group by doing Russian twists.

Graphics Courtesy of Oriana Nordt

The transversus abdominis is located on the front and sides of the abdomen. It is deeper than all the other abdominal muscles

It does many jobs, but most importantly is critical for the body’s overall function and stability.

Common workouts that can be done to strengthen this muscle group are leg pulses and lower leg lifts. 

However, as we get older, the ability to do these core exercises becomes harder, and can actually hurt more than help.

After talking with Community members of Warm Hearth, we found that there are two key  demographics that highlight the issues of doing core workouts. 


Gerald loves being active but finds discomfort in the current exercises he is doing, and is looking for an alternative to his typical high impact workout.


Esther has had back problems for a while and has not implemented a workout routine into her life. She is now looking for a way to introduce low impact core exercises into her routine to improve the quality of her daily life.


Elderly people are now doing core workouts in rocking chairs as a way to modify the previously stated exercises. Because of the back support and movement of the chair, the users are able to engage their core in a safe low impact way and receive a good workout while in their living rooms.
Just by rocking in your chair for 30 minutes, you can burn up to 150 calories.
However there are problems with the rocking chair. The unstable frame makes standing up and sitting down a challenge and they take up a lot of space in a room. So we thought, how can we create an athletic chair that offers the same motion as a rocking chair with a higher focus on the core, while offering more support and user security?

Render Courtesy of Claudia Hasenfang

Graphics Courtesy of Claudia Hasenfang

1. To use Tilt, the user takes a seat on the chair by using the arm rests to stabilize themselves. 

2. Once seated, they use their core and pelvic muscles to push the backrest back and forth against the resistance cord for a duration of 30 minutes or one tv show. 

3. Once finished, the user can safely lock the back rest in place by pulling out two metal bars from under the armrests and securing them behind the chair. They are now free to relax!


To create a low impact core workout, the backrest moves in a reclining or “rocking” motion with the use of resistance cords.

Pushing back against the resistance cord engages the side core and lower back muscles.

Slowly sitting up and not allowing the cords to push your body weight upright engages the front and lower abs.

The resistance mechanism for the chair is made up of a resistance cord that locks into the back legs and runs through the backrest of the chair.

By pushing against the backrest, the resistance cords are activated. The applied pressure creates a low impact core workout as well as keeps the user reclining at a safe and steady pace.

Assisted by the elastic cord, bearings inside the metal housing rotate around a shaft to support the forces on the chair during use.

Keyways inside the hinge limit the range of motion to 15 degrees with soft bump-stops for a smooth motion.

The 15 degree angle of motion allows enough movement for successful exercise without compromising balance and stability.

The form of the backrest and seat have a slight curve that wraps around the user to give them a more secure seat. When you are leaning back in the chair, the curve of the chair keeps your body centered 
The use of the cushions not only offers more comfort for
the user, but the back cushion includes lumbar support. It is
important to stabilize the lower back while performing core
exercises, which the lumbar support offers.
The lip created by the overhang of the armrests creates a hand grip, giving the users more stability.
Also, the overall frame of the chair was designed to be stationary, so although the back of the chair can move, when the user is pushing off the armrests to stand or uses the armrests to sit, the chair is stable and will not move.
To prevent difficulty and to ensure safety for users, this chair is shipped to the user fully assembled except for the backrest.
To achieve a minimalist aesthetic we decided to focus on 3 different components of the chair.
The frame, seat/backrest, and the mechanism.
The frame is natural birch plywood. 
The Mechanism as well as the clips of the resistance cord are brushed steel.
The seat, back rest, and resistance cords will have an application of linen.

For the packaging, we wanted the user to be able to remove the chair with ease. So we designed the box to lift easily off the chair, so no difficult movements  are required. And the cords are packaged in a smaller container with a thick pull tab.

Tilt works to remind older adults that although we age, we can always strive to improve upon ourselves. 

And a final thank you to all the residence of Warm Hearth and SFCS mentors for your participation and help!
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