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Insights from Workshop with the Sponsors and Advisory Panel

Fall prevention is a broad topic and there's room for a range of ideas: incremental to radical, new to developed, and individuals/groups.

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

Before we switch phases in an OpenIDEO Challenge, we have a workshop with the Challenge Sponsors and Advisory Panel, if possible, to gather their expertise on the Challenge topic. We want to share some of the findings with you in order to inspire some wild and crazy ideas and give a bit of insight into what happens behind-the-scenes.

We had two different workshops at the end of our Research phase. One was a call with Challenge Sponsors and our Advisory Panel to gather feedback on the themes that emerged during our Research phase. That call allowed us to refine the themes in order to better shape distinct and impactful Opportunity Areas. 

Next was our workshop with AARP Services, Inc. and UnitedHealthcare, intended to refine the Opportunity Areas for our Ideas phase. Part of that was brainstorming solutions we associated with each Opportunity Area in order to identify areas of overlap and tension. The exercise was hugely helpful, as it pulled out a distinct Opportunity Area of Reimagined Devices and allowed us to create clear language and calls to action for each Area.

Below are some of the ideas that came up during our brainstorm – pull from them for inspiration!

1. Soften the Stigma

  • Initiatives that help perpetuate a positive but realistic view of fall prevention, focusing on the 'cans' as well as the 'can nots', and a mindset of ‘how close to normal can I get?’ which is realistic but includes hope and aspiration

Remember, 'On average, people over 70 feel 13 years younger than they actually are, according to a recent study published in the Journal of Gerontology: Psychological Sciences, which was carried out by researchers from the Max Planck Institute for Human Development and the University of Michigan' Source: Max Planck Institute for Human Development

  • A "screening" tool/app that would tell people they are at risk and offer them options for improving balance, decreasing risk
  • Fall prevention checks as part of general wellness checks by doctors and pharmacists
  • Reframing fall prevention as improving balance
  • Make Fall Prevention Ageless, Intergenerational etc.
  • Change the message through Disruptive Education and Social Campaigns
  • Cane Day, 'Free Beer To The Best' Cane Day etc.
  • Cane Day Google Doodle
  • Videos of Inspiring Stories
  • Solidarity Bands

2. Practice Makes Prevention

  • Sessions where adults can practice falling like a 'Gymboree', maybe inspired by gymnasts or pole vaulters who learn how to fall
  • Training neurotransmitters to "react" more quickly in response to an unexpected imbalanced force
  • An app with mini exercises for people to do throughout the day as a preventative tool that does not affect their day to day life e.g. while you brush your teeth
  • Virtual Reality or Augmented Reality games that allows one to practice quick changes in balance with an intergenerational component to play with grandchildren

3. What Surrounds Us

  • Tools that alter the environment to make it more manageable e.g. add-ons to sidewalks to make them easier to navigate
  • Walkways are color coded dependent on the risk of falling and the movement older adults need to take
  • Seamless sidewalks
  • Padded surfaces (like on playgrounds) in high fall areas
  • Sidewalks to accommodate tree root growth
  • Urban furniture
  • Restaurant interiors designed for multiple older adults with walkers with places to park the walkers
  • Rating systems for restaurants, cities etc. for safe maneuverability
  • Challenge prizes for landscape architects, urban designers, home and commercial architects for creating the most beautiful and effective designs for reducing community falls
  • Lights/sensors in bathrooms
  • Modified Stair Assist
  • Smart Homes
  • Intergenerational homes, group living homes etc. 
  • Voice-Activated Doors and Drawers

4. Reimagined Devices

  • Robot service dogs that can read terrain to warn of risk for tripping,  interact with others, light up when dusk/dark, respond to 'Alexa' requests and pick up the newspaper from the porch
  • Shoe detectors to alert someone when they are not walking in a stable way
  • An alarm or alert when your gait is off or the terrain has changed
  • Apple Watch for Falls
  • Digital personal assistant
  • Devices that are adaptable to different environments in which one lives, works and plays e.g. cane for the beach, mountains etc. 
  • Devices that are decorative and extra functional
  • ‘Pimp my Device’: an option to create bespoke tools tailored for you
  • Partner with fashion designers to customize assistive devices as fashionable accessories
  • Lighted step stools with grab bars built in
  • Handrails, artistically designed for sidewalks
  • Rentable "walking sticks" just like there are rentable bikes
  • Lessons in the correct use of assistive devices
  • 'Scanning apps' that give bespoke fall prevention advice to older adults
  • Modified Hoverboard, Offroad wheels for scooters
  • Exoskeletons
  • Devices to Counteract Gravity
  • Smart Clothing, Clothing with Air Bags etc.
  • Nutrition and meal preparation options
  • Store that sells fall prevention devices, tools etc. 

5. Stronger Together

  • Balancing Act Meetups where friends/neighbors get together for light exercises to improve balance
  • Fitbit Groups, Fitness Groups etc. 
  • Virtual Communities
  • Community Centers
  • Intergenerational Exercises
  • Ways for neighbors to help shovel snow/ice for older adults
  • Pokemon Go along older adult friendly walks
  • Assistive device friendly Pickleball leagues
  • Cane Self Defence, Cane Zumba etc.
  • 'Rent a walker buddy'
  • Digital reminders for older adults and their caregivers to check for balance etc.
  • Tools or tips for talking to someone who has balance issues that remove the stigma from raising a concern when you notice a friend with a clear risk of falling
  • Caregiver training
  • Fall prevention podcasts with community stories and medical advice
  • Shared economy services

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


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


How long has your idea existed?

  • 0-3 months

This idea emerged from

  • A group brainstorm

Tell us about your work experience:

I am the Community Manager for this challenge.


Join the conversation:

Photo of #RG

Can You Please tell me how many challenges are there in which i can take part ???i am looking openIDEO website BUT I am not clear of my questions??Can you Please guide me ????

Photo of Kate Rushton

Please send me an email -

Photo of Heather Gasper

Kate, great article! You should also consider offering some of these great ideas to the accessibility community as well.



I think this is a well written article and provides as inspiration for many ideas, the "Robot service dogs" excited me the most as I see a lot of potential with it. I think it can be coupled with real dogs too, won't it be cool and useful if your family dog cautioned your Grandpa or Grandma by saying "Hey Grandpa or Grandma watch out, It is too slippery near the front gate.

Photo of Kate Rushton

Thanks, Aadithya! Have you seen Dogs! ? It is an idea from Margaret about training large dogs for fall prevention. It would be great if you could check out her post and offer her some feedback.

Photo of Anne-Laure Fayard

Thanks Kate Rushton for summarizing the workshops with the sponsors and panel advisory and providing more inspirations for each of the opportunity areas. I'm excited to see how all these inspire some wild ideas in this phase!

Photo of Kate Rushton

Thanks, Anne-Laure! We wanted to highlight that this challenge is actively embracing both stepwise innovation and radical proposals. We don't want anyone to be reluctant to submit an idea because they think it is too wild or ambitious.