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Reenvision hip protector technology by combining materials and designs from motorcycle protective gear and abdomen shaping Spanx shorts.

Photo of Spencer Yeh
22 10

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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?

Older people who don't want want a cane or walker because of aesthetic or other reasons but are willing to don a protective undergarment on a regular basis.

Hip protection clothing exists, but some current versions are

  • unattractive
  • uncomfortable
  • fit outside existing clothing, and so not "invisible"
  • ineffective according to research
  • poorly marketed

My idea would be to combine the wearability and aesthetic design of Spanx-type underwear, which is designed to shape the abdomen, with motorcycle protective gear technology, which is designed to protect body parts at impacts from highway speed crashes.  The goal would be to develop an aesthetic undergarment that provides enough impact resistance to prevent or reduce hip fractures.  A key design criteria for Spanx was to be as visually attractive as normal undergarments.  This was a major factor in its market acceptance.    

A looser fit than Spanx would be better for older people who have arthritis or difficulty gripping.  Other protective clothing such as biking or rowing shorts could also be reviewed for design inspiration.

Prototypes should be evaluated to provide research-based evidence of efficacy.

Research with existing hip protectors is collected at

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

- See if Spanx underwear by itself offers any hip fracture protection.
- Investigate patent literature to see if there are relevant patents around hip protective clothing
- Take Spanx & motorcycle protective shorts around to senior citizen homes to get feedback on the concept.
- Ask senior citizens what sort of price range would be acceptable for this type of undergarment
- Review literature at to identify existing design challenges

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

- Find if anyone has connections to the Spanx company or motorcycle protective gear companies such as Troy Lee Designs to get some subject matter opinions.
- Clothing and synthetic materials product design expertise
- Connections to senior citizen health advocacy groups
- Connections to senior citizen housing groups for tests of wearability

How long has your idea existed?

  • 0-3 months

This idea emerged from

  • A group brainstorm
  • An Individual

Tell us about your work experience:

I have background in software development and interests in innovation and product design.


Join the conversation:

Photo of Bradford

Your idea is solid for seniors who have a risk of hip fractures from falling. For most older people, a hip fracture happens after a fall, usually just a fall from standing. 'Thinning' of the bones (osteoporosis) is the leading cause of hip fracture. If you have osteoporosis you are more likely to fracture your hip when you fall. Osteoporosis means that your bones have become less dense and more honeycombed. This makes them more fragile so that less force is needed to break them.
My concern is that in many cases the hip is so brittle that it fractures from standing-stress and then causes the fall. How will your device help in those situations?

Photo of Spencer

Mariah had also pointed out the case of fractures from standing-stress. I don't think my idea can help in that situation, but I was thinking that some of the other ideas given in the Challenge could be incorporated into the clothing. For example, one could have an accelerometer device that beeps a warning if it exceeds a threshold, or even dials 911 if it detects a fall. Something that would be really cool would be some incorporated device that could detect the degree of existing osteoporosis and show a readout of that. Micro x-ray machine?? :-O. For instance, here is one other idea that could be incorporated: Reducing the incidence of falls through wearable sensor assessment 

Photo of Bradford

The idea of an automated alert upon falling has possibilities if the there is an ability to terminate the alert within a certain number of minutes of the alert being issued. Also, you should consider a sensor the could detect and record any falling and/or unbalanced activities for review by the individual and/or caregiver.

Photo of Spencer

Good thoughts. I am reminded of a documentary on aviation disasters which indicates that often the "big" incident is preceded by similar "near-misses" which could have alerted authorities to a looming problem. I wonder how many broken hips are preceded by "near-misses" vs totally "out of the blue" incidents.

Photo of Bradford

Spencer, that's exactly the point! Just a heart attack, there are often minor episodes or "near misses". Any data or incident activity on an individuals would be invaluable.

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