Sioux Falls home health owner invents robotic walker to help bridge the growing caregiver shortage

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SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — After years of running his own home health company, a Sioux Falls man now has his own patent as he turns his focus to robotics to help care for the elderly.

During his years as a caregiver and running his company Prosperous Home Health, Mike Bankowski came to a stark realization.

“With the human caregiver shortage that we’re having, at some point, we’re going to need a robot to take care of us,” Bankowski said. 

Bankowski says within five years, the Bureau of Labor expects to have 8,000,000 unfilled caregiving jobs across the country.

“The fact that we already have a caregiver shortage now, we’re only at the tip of the iceberg,” Bankowski said. 

That’s what led him to create Rose, named after his mom, a longtime care giver.

“Rose is a physically and socially assistive robotic walker. It’s intended to be able to holistically care for someone in their home,” Bankowski said. 

From dispensing medication, to calling loved ones and preventing falls, the goal is to have Rose do just about everything an in-home caregiver provides.

“It’s able to navigate around the room and drive around, arms that come up to someone’s waist, maneuver in multiple axes to mimic their movement and aid them as they go from standing to sitting or vice versa,” SDSU Mechanical Engineer senior David Heier said. 

While Bankowski’s experience as a caregiver is the inspiration behind the design…

“When I invented Rose, I knew that I had to find people that could help me build it. I was amazed that those people were right here in South Dakota,” Bankowski said. 

…He’s now working with students at SDSU, DSU and USD to help make Rose a reality.

“It was really interesting opportunity…to be able to work on a project from the first stages of design,” Heier said. 

While the first prototype is rather large, the goal over the next couple years of development is to get all of Roses’ functions into a normal sized walker.

“Ideally rose 7.0, the versions down the road, will be able to go outside, store itself in the vehicle and go wherever the user wants to go,” Bankowski said. 

An invention Bankowski hopes will be the solution to continue providing care.

“Right now we have 46 million people over the age of 65; by 2050, that number is going to be 90 million,” Bankowski said. “We’re running out of people.”

SDSU students began developing Rose just this year while DSU students put together the animation and marketing materials and USD students conducted market research for the project.

The process of further developing Rose will continue through many grants Bankowski’s new company, Prosperous Robotics has already qualified for. His goal is to have a commercial product that’s FDA approved within three years.

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