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Someone You Should Know: Helping the aging population

Published: Sep. 29, 2021 at 5:18 PM CDT
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SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (Dakota News Now) - A Sioux Falls man has invented a device that will one day help the elderly and people with Parkinson’s disease.

Sioux Falls native Mike Bankowski learned a lot about health care growing up.

“I grew up in a single-parent household. My mom was a nurse. She actually went to night school to finish her RN degree when I was like six or seven. She worked for 35 years at the VA. So I was always around the aging population, elderly people. I used to hang around the vets. Heard stories about World War II. Probably some stories my mom didn’t want me to listen to,” said Mike.

While he would start his professional career in financial planning, Mike decided to make a career change after two tragic events in his life.

“My mom passed away in 2009 after a drawn-out illness, and I was only 27 years old when she passed away. And it had a huge effect on me. And then August of 2011, my brother Jason, died in a car accident. And that’s when I was all in on making the change,” said Mike.

So he went into health care full-time. First as a nursing home administrator, then later starting his own home health care business.

“Helping those clients specifically, is what helped invent Rose,” said Mike.

Rose, named after his mom Rosalie, but was always called Rose. Mike drew it up on a piece of paper, a robotic walker with a video screen, that would help the elderly. Specifically those with Parkinson’s.

“You have a robot. A robot that doesn’t get sick. That can be there 24/7. That can learn your schedule and learn how you operate. I knew that I needed to create something that could physically assist them, but could also be a big part of fall prevention. Physically assisting Parkinson’s patients. Medication administration for Parkinson’s patients is really the two big functions on Rose that are going to have the biggest impact,” said Mike.

He got a patent, and SDSU’s robotics program is helping build it.

“Over the past ten weeks in the summer, we built a Rose XL prototype that is about two and a half times bigger than what Rose will be. But we built it to test capabilities, to test stability and balance, and so now we are moving to our next version of the prototype,” said Mike.

For Diane Lien, who has Parkinson’s, and worked with Mike’s brother, Jason, at Avera, Rose will be a big help in her life.

“I just can’t believe it, it’s just like a miracle, I’m getting my life back. I think Jason is looking down on me because he was so important in my life. And just knowing that somebody out there like Michael is truly caring and he’s trying to help make the version of myself that I can be. Keep going as long as I can go,” said Diane.

After FDA approval, Rose should be ready to go in three years.

“The fact of having a robotic walker that could help millions of people. It’s something that, makes it difficult to fall asleep at night,” said Mike.

Bankowski hopes Rose will really help in a time of a shortage of caregivers.

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