OpenIDEO is an open innovation platform. Join our global community to solve big challenges for social good. Sign Up / Login or Learn more

Fashion-Forward Bubble-Wrap Skirts to Absorb the Impact of Falls

Design, prototype, then distribute cushioned skirts (out of a material like bubble-wrap) so that a fall does not result in a hip fracture.

Photo of Mariah Burton Nelson

Written by

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

Fall prevention programs are not known for their sense of humor. But most old people are women, and women often have a playful approach to fashion. Bubble-wrap skirts, designed in bright, playful colors - could cushion the impact of falls while also serving as a conversation piece about the importance of fall prevention. A variation on this theme could also be designed for men.

Ninety-five percent of hip fractures in the elderly are caused by falls, usually sideways. A wrap-around skirt, worn on top of ordinary clothing and designed so that it's easy to take on and off, could significantly reduce the incidence of falls since it would act like a car's air bag, absorbing the impact. (Alternative idea: An air-bag skirt.) 

Skirts could come in different thicknesses, depending on the fall risk. They could come in different colors, and be fun and fashionable while contributing to a sense of security. We need a different name than "skirt" for men, but the same concept would apply. Many men now enjoy the popular Loudmouth shorts - which gives some indication that men might have fun with this concept as well.

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

I could recruit members of Design Thinking DC to build prototypes. I could ask trainers (young, resilient folks) at a local Gold's Gym to test early designs, deliberately falling in a variety of directions in a controlled way to see how the material reacts -- and how their bodies react. Prototypes would also be tested to see how easy they are to get on and off. Ease of use would be essential, since old people are more likely to have arthritis, which usually makes using the hands difficult.

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

What manufacturer might be willing to work with a group such as AARP, Leading Age, or the National Association for Homecare and Hospice to prototype and test different designs? A bubble-wrap company? How would these skirts be fastened? How thick would they have to be to provide sufficient cushion?

How long has your idea existed?

  • 0-3 months

This idea emerged from

  • An Individual

Tell us about your work experience:

I'm VP for Innovation and Planning at ASAE. Before this I was Executive Director of an association focused on fitness for seniors & kids w. disabilities. I've written 7 books ab. female athletes.
View more

Team (6)

Kate's profile
Kate Rushton

Role added on team:

"Hi Kate, It's been fun working with you on this idea and others, so I thought I'd invite you to join my team. No commitment on your part required; just a gesture, at this point, of appreciation and inclusion. Thank you!"

Spencer's profile
Spencer Yeh

Role added on team:

"Hi Spencer, thanks for thinking about airbags, motorcycle clothing, and bubble-wrap with me. As a gesture of appreciation (not a request for more work :-)), I'm inviting you to be a teammate."

Mariah's profile
Lillian J's profile
Lillian J Warner

Role added on team:

"Hi Lillian, Thanks for contributing to my bubble wrap idea. Shall we be teammates? In any case, I appreciate your joining me on this journey this far!"

Laura Yvonne's profile
Laura Yvonne Bulk

Role added on team:

"Hi Laura, Thanks for entertaining the bubble wrap idea with an open mind - and more ideas. As a gesture of appreciation, I'm inviting you to be a teammate."

Bettina's profile
Bettina Fliegel

Role added on team:

"Hi Bettina, I've learned so much from you already. Thanks for all your contributions to this idea and others. Shall we be teammates? In any case, I appreciate your comments and encouragement."


Join the conversation:

Photo of Spencer Yeh

Kate Rushton Is it too late to enter in a new, separate Idea for this Challenge? I wanted to separate out the idea for a reinforced Spanx product into its own separate Idea since it no longer relates to bubble-wrap.

Photo of Kate Rushton

Hi Spencer! You should be able to edit your existing idea, but we have made a note of your Spanx idea.

View all comments