The Rifton TRAM fills the gap between gait trainer and exoskeleton.

The days where standing frames were a paralyzed person’s only option for getting vertical are long gone. You can’t turn on the television or surf the net nowadays without seeing someone using or hyping an exoskeleton or taking part in standing gait training. But what if there was something in-between, something that combined elements of the standing frame with some of the functionality of an exoskeleton and the benefits of gait training?

That’s the niche the Rifton TRAM appears to be aiming for. The TRAM is “a transfer and mobility device” that offers the added benefit of gait training. You may have seen it recently on the Today Show or Huffington Post, in coverage of the touching story of a father with ALS who used the TRAM to walk his daughter down the aisle.

As the video shows, the TRAM, which won gold at the Medical Design Excellence Awards in 2013, assists people both to stand and to undertake gait training. While the company’s website and marketing seem to target hospitals and care facilities, the well-designed product could be a boon for in-home users looking to help caregivers, maintain bone density and muscle mass or work on gait training — the current rage when it comes to research on relearning to walk.

“Recovering this crucial skill comes through task-specific repetition,” says Karen McCain DPT, an associate professor in physical therapy at the University of Texas Southwestern in Dallas who has used the TRAM in her practice. “The more task-specific repetition people can undertake, the faster their progress. However, even multiple PT sessions weekly don’t always provide an adequate amount practice. The Rifton TRAM allows people to practice more frequently and in some cases, unaided, which can help expedite the recovery process.”

At around $4,000 via the company’s web site, the TRAM isn’t cheap, but it could be a game changer for users tired of Hoyer lifts and bad transfers or for those more focused on health maintenance. For more on the TRAM and other Rifton products, visit http://www.rifton.com/.