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Dogs!

Train large dogs to come alongside older people as they start to fall and block the fall.

Photo of Margaret Hill
19 11

Written by

Who is your idea designed for and how does it enable older adults to live their best possible life by preventing falls?

This would be suitable for older people who are liable to fall and who like dogs! The dogs would have to be trained. This would have the added advantage of providing companionship. There would have to be provision for someone to walk the dog, or maybe they could run alongside a mobility scooter? This would be a fun way of preventing falls and would have no stigma attached.

What early, lightweight experiment might you try out in your own community to find out if the idea will meet your expectations?

See if the people who train dogs to help in various situations would be willing to train a couple of dogs for this as an experiment.

What skills, input, or guidance from the OpenIDEO community would be most helpful in building out or refining your idea?

Does anyone have experience in training dogs for specific tasks?

How long has your idea existed?

  • 0-3 months

This idea emerged from

  • An Individual

Tell us about your work experience:

I work in Africa in training.

19 comments

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Photo of Christel Tardif
Team

Hi Margaret
In last IDEO U course From Ideas to Action, I read someone's assignment and it was in a very similar subject with a lot of ideas. I don't know if he participates in this challenge.
Kate, i don't know how you can connect ideas? 

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Photo of Joanna Spoth
Team

Hi Christel Tardif ! :) We're hoping jeremy medford publishes his idea about Awareness Animals soon. Thanks for the reminder. There's another idea called Raderie, a Motivational App for Seniors that might be interesting for you to check out, Margaret Hill 

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Photo of Nicole
Team

Hi Margaret Hill fantastic idea! As a dog lover myself, I would certainly be open to and interested in this idea. I know some folks who are allergic to dogs, or who don't live in environments that allow dogs, or who can't afford to have a dog in their life. Thus, they wouldn't necessarily be able to implement this solution in their lives. These are certainly fringe cases, but just some food for thought. Any thoughts on other similar options for these types of people? Perhaps some sort of dog-sharing program for elderly folks might also be something to consider for people who can't necessarily have a dog of their own for whatever reason.

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Photo of Susan Jackewicz
Team

Margaret - I had a neighbor with a very unruly golden retriever who tangled up his 78-year old mistress in his leash, she fell, broke a leg, and in the resulting treatments discovered she had bone cancer. It's a sad story, but with pertinent lessons I feel applicable to your idea. I knew a dog trainer who always held there were no unruly dogs - just masters who weren't able or willing to work with the dogs to train proper behavior! The neighbor had gotten this dog for the companionship - her husband died and she was living in their house alone...which meshes with Kate's comment about companionship. So far as training types of dogs to recognize risks and prevent falls, I know they're now training to recognize epileptic seizures, cancer, and low blood sugars for Type 1 diabetics. I really like your idea though, and with training and a good relationship with the owner, it would seem a certain amount of falls prevention could be achievable. Here's a trainer in California who has some additional ideas: http://servicedogtutor.com/using-the-family-dog-to-prevent-falls/

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Photo of Margaret Hill
Team

Ah, so someone has thought of this already! Well, maybe it could be more widely used?

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Photo of Susan Jackewicz
Team

You're right, there hasn't been widespread use of dogs to help prevent falls at all! A great opportunity, especially to raise awareness and lessen the stigma. Keep at it!

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Photo of Bettina Fliegel
Team

Hi Margaret and Susan.
Lots of enthusiasm here on the role that dogs might play in preventing falls! Thanks for the post Margaret. The idea to use dogs as companions and for fall prevention came up in a conversation on a post during the Research phase. Sanjana Gupta suggested it and searched to see if this is already happening. She found that there are "Mobility Dogs" that are trained to prevent falls for people with mobility issues. Here is the link that she shared. http://www.servicedogcentral.org/content/node/507

You can check the conversation we were having during the Research phase here: https://challenges.openideo.com/challenge/fall-prevention/research/addressing-a-national-health-priority-using-mobile-technology-text4baby/comments#comments-section

It would be great to learn about the experience of someone who has a mobility dog.

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Photo of Susan Jackewicz
Team

Bettina, thank you for sharing these links. Margaret, maybe one of the opportunities is to find a way to have more dogs trained. What if there was a way to train them in less than the 18-24 months cited in the service dog link? Could there be a new design for the training harness, maybe even incorporating technology?

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Photo of Margaret Hill
Team

Right. It seems to me that this needs to be turned over to someone who works in a center where they train dogs. I see here in the UK there is an organisation called Dogs AID which trains dogs for people with disabilities. I agree 18-24 months sounds a very long training! Interesting idea to use technology in the training process - what were you thinking of exactly?

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Photo of Susan Jackewicz
Team

Margaret, I agree, experts like the people at Dogs AID might have insights on training and reducing the time. So far as technology, maybe some of the types of sensing device ideas proposed in the Challenge could be used to interpret/warn against risk, and the dogs could be taught to respond to a signal from the devices.....rather than each be taught how to interpret individuals' different symptoms?

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Photo of Alkisti
Team

I love this idea! :)

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Photo of Ken Thomas
Team

Hi Margaret, except for when walking aside a person, is a dog able to identify that a fall might occur, and react in time so that he could assist? Also, should there be any concern about the lives of the dogs if people are falling on them?

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Photo of Margaret Hill
Team

For the first point, I'm not sure until someone tries to train a couple of dogs. For the second, that is why I said BIG dogs! I would hope they could block the person so that they didn't in fact fall all over the dog.

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Photo of Margaret Hill
Team

I've seen robts used on the internet for old people in Japan. I would prefer dogs personally!

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Photo of Kate Rushton
Team

Hi Margaret!

This is a really interesting idea! It combines fall prevention with companionship in a way that is potentially unobtrusive. Are you able to contact an association or centre that trains guide dogs, sniffer dogs etc. to find out about their training programs? Is it possible to retrain a 'normal' dog to be a fall prevention dog and what training would be required (duration, expected costs etc.)? How big would the dog need to be? Are there alternatives to dogs?

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Photo of Margaret Hill
Team

No, sorry, no contacts - just an idea! Maybe someone on this website might have contacts? And yes, I'm sure they could be trained to do other useful things. I can't think of any other animal that is big enough that is also widely available and trainable. Pet lions? :-)

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Photo of Kate Rushton
Team

Pet lions are something I would like to see. I wonder if a robotic equivalent is viable.

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Photo of Margaret Hill
Team

Yes, I can see some disadvantages and I'm sure it would only work for certain people. I'm thinking of big dogs, so I don't think they would be underfoot. Just thinking, a dog can be trained to know someone is going to have an epileptic seizure some minutes before it happens. Could they have be trained to know that certain actions make falling more likely?

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Photo of Kate Rushton
Team

Could they be trained to recognise certain situations and environments where there is a high risk of falls and alert the owners e.g. slippery sidewalks? Could they be trained to open drawers, pick up objects from the floor, get the mail etc. reducing the need for the owner to bend over and fall?