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Fall prevention footwear for elderly people

Optimising footwear and monitoring movement to prevent falls from occurring and provide an appropriate data-based diagnosis to users

Photo of Richard Judge
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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?

My idea is designed for any elderly person that has previously experienced a fall or is at significant risk of experiencing a fall. It would enable older adults by preventing falls as it is a low stigma product which elderly people could use where falls occur most often (i.e. their own homes)

Falls have been identified as a potentially detrimental event to a vast amount of peoples' health when they occur. My aim is to help reduce the number of falls in the elderly demographic, primarily in the home environment in a comercially available manner. 

My idea is research based. While exploring different ideas extensively and continuing to conduct research, the use of existing sensor technology as a means of reducing falls began to emerge as a very likely area I would focus on. It surprised me at this point of the project was that there was “currently no commercially available method for quantitative assessment of falls risk” — this would become a critical guide throughout the remainder of the project. I discovered a sensor (Shimmer sensor) which could record user movement, however it had not yet been incorporated into footwear. This seemed ideal as I learned that if user movement could be recorded accurately, it may help medical professionals to determine factors which are likely to cause falls (medication, walking patterns etc.) and prevent falls before they actually happen — this became the basis of my project.

the main insights from my research were as follows:

 - The number one mobility problem that older people experience is falls

- Falls are the dominant cause of injuries in older people

- Slippers were the most common type of improper footwear worn when falls occurred

- Falls mainly happen in elderly peoples' own homes

Based on my research, I attempted to redesign footwear that elderly people could use in their own homes in order to reduce the chance of a fall occurring. My idea addresses the problem in the following ways

- It makes use of the physical characteristics outlined in the medical journal 'Optimizing footwear for older people at risk of falls' (e.g. sole material, angles of grooves etc.)

- Low stigma, comfortable approach. Style is inspired by a traditional slipper but has elastic laces so that the feet are not too loose in the footwear 

- It uses existing sensor technology but in a commercially available shoe so that appropriate diagnoses can be made by a qualified professional before the fall actually happens

Please see my full design process here (2nd project in portfolio): Fall Prevention Footwear for Elderly People

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

Surveys in local nursing homes to conduct further research into the problem and current solutions

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

- Technical feasibility - I did not have the resources to produce a functional model when I worked on this project - Manufacturing guidance - how to incorporate the sensor into the footwear and gather data from it - Commercial viability - how much would units like this cost if mass produced?

How long has your idea existed?

  • Over 1 year

This idea emerged from

  • An Individual

Tell us about your work experience:

2012: Product Design Intern - Futura Design (Dublin) 2014 - 2015: Graphic Design and Print Quality Specialist - (San Francisco) 2015 - 2016: UI/UX Designer - fast paced startup (Dublin) 2016 - 2017: UX Designer - global employee recogniton solution providers - Globoforce (Dublin)


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Photo of Betty Mbithi

A good idea,

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