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Fall Prevention Suspenders [Update 05/30 - Prototype & Feedback]

A pair of active suspenders that detects falls and contracts to counteract the falling.

Photo of Lucas Spreiter
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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?

Our solution is designed for seniors who have previously fallen. After falling, many of them are afraid to fall again. Therefore, individuals decrease their physical activity which increases their risk of falling; a vicious cycle. The fall prevention suspenders prevent falls actively and dispel the patients fear to fall. These suspenders are a perfect solution to break this cycle, create confidence and give seniors their independence back.


Description

Our solution prevents falls by contraction of trouser suspenders. The suspenders are worn over the shoulders and fixed on the hips with a belt. Motors are integrated in the front and the back of the belt. If a person begins to fall, sensors located at the chest detect the fall and start a feedback control, which controls the motors to pull the suspenders in the front and the back. The user becomes stabilized and the fall can be prevented.  The powering battery is only used when a fall happens and therefore only needs to be charged after a prevented fall. 

The solution is lightweight and can easily be worn under a t-shirt or dress. Seniors do not want to show their need for a medical device, therefore the Prevenders are discreet and invisible. A visible sign of needing help, like a big red button for emergency calls, can be a trigger for seniors to reduce social interaction. Our invisible solution enables seniors, which have already fallen, to live their life as before, without the fear of falling and the social stigma of a visible supporting device. Furthermore, it offers maximum comfort and perfectly integrates into a person's life, since many already wear a belt or even suspenders.

Due to the use of cheap components (suspender belts, small motors) the solution comes with a low price tag. 

Overall, our solution prevents falls by an active mechanism of pulling suspenders and stabilizing the upper body of seniors. It offers maximum comfort through invisibility and integration in an everyday object. No special training or knowledge is required. 

User Story



Market and Competition

Our solution is made especially for seniors living on their own who have previously fallen and are afraid of falling again. Currently, there are 2.6 million seniors in need of care in Germany and this number is expected to rise up to 3.4 million in 2050. While the number of seniors in need rises, the number of nursing staff stays the same. Due to high demand of patient care, there is an increasing need for technology that supports seniors to prolong their independence. A lot of companies already offer solutions for seniors to wear and call for help when they're in need, e.g. SOS buttons. However, there currently isn't any technical solution to actually prevent falls. The only solutions on market are physical training for seniors to help reduce the risk to fall. There are not currently wearable devices that work day to day.

Team & Current Work

Our team consists of a mechatronics engineer, a electronics engineer, and a designer. We have been working on falling detection hardware for seniors for over 2 years and are highly motivated to finally prevent falls at all. We are currently building our first working prototype as a proof of concept and intend to test this on seniors by the end of 2017.


Progression of the Idea:


Updates

05/30 - Prototype testing

We attached a small motor of an RC-car to the prototype, which is supposed to pull the belts and therefore create forces to stop people from falling. However, the motor was too weak to show any effect on the wearer of the belt. Having a second person to pull on the belts, showed that the belts are able to put forces on the body to put someone in an upright position. To do so a very strong electric motor needs to be used.

05/29 - First Prototype try on

We built the first version of our prototype, where the printed belt connection is attached to all belts from our first design. The belts go over the shoulders, around the chest and around the waist. The length of the belts can be adapted individually to fit every person. Our first findings are:

  • Plain belt slips over shoulders and is unable to transfer forces -> improved it by using adhesive type, silicon prints could improve the grip for a production version
  • Belts around the chest should be elastic to not impede on breathing  
  • Other belts can be rigid but need to be comfortable


05/28 - Design Mock Up

  

The Prevenders would be made to be worn under clothing. This mock up is a version of what the Prevenders could look like. The fabric is breathable, with a stretchable chest waistband for breathing. The aim of the mock-up is to show others that wearing a device to help with falling does not have to necessarily look like a "medical tool". The Prevenders should not be noticed under clothing, but make the user feel confident and good in it. Different designs would be made for females and males and possibly different skin tones.

05/25 - Printed belt connection

The first part of our prototype is ready: the belt connection. This will be located at the chest and will connect all the belts, that wrap around the body. The belt on the lower end will be connected to a motor, while the other belts have the purpose of transferring the forces to the body. 

05/25 - Feedback

We proposed the system to Ellen, a 82-year old, very active lady, already wearing a bracelet with a SOS-button to call for help since she has already fallen three times. She told us about her experience with the bracelet, which she is wearing most of the time, but sometimes she forgets to put it on or doesn't want to wear it in public. This fits our previous experience, where many seniors told us, they sometimes forget to wear it or put it on their bedside stand. Nonetheless, she told us the bracelet gives her a feeling of security since she knows she can get help if something happens. She reported that many seniors are not willing to wear a SOS-bracelet, since they don't admit that they are in need of it. Regarding the suspenders, she was skeptical, if it is too complex to put these on an everyday basis. She also told as about seniors, which are afraid of electronics worn on the body and that we should consider the negative impact on pacemakers. If she would wear the suspenders, she would expect them to prevent all falls regarding the time-consuming process of putting them on. Based on this first feedback we conclude:

- The suspenders must be designed to be as comfortable as possible to wear and to put on

- The early adopters are probably people, which have serious trouble with falling and are willing to try out this advanced solution

- The suspenders must be able to prevent most of the falls to get accepted

If you have a relative that could need the suspenders, someone who could use it or just want to say something about it please give us feedback via our Google Survey:

https://goo.gl/forms/UgwC0U9E7gDL0uBX2


05/22 - Prototype Creation

CAD Design of the belt connection is done! It now needs to be 3D-printed and connected to the belts and the motor, so we can start the first tests!

Current steps: build prototype, get feedback from seniors and orthopedists



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

Based on the first idea prototype in the picture, we made a first feasibility observation and it seems to work. As next we will build a conceptual prototype out of bought suspenders and perform further tests. Furthermore we will talk to seniors to find out if a solution like this is desirable or not.

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

As engineers we mostly come up with practical solutions, which aren't beautifully designed. Therefore we could need help in developing a appealing design, which is ergonomic and comfortable to wear. Furthermore we would be thankful for any feedback about the viability, desirability and feasibility of the idea. Also the OpenIDEO network can connect us to experts and people passionate about social technologies.

How long has your idea existed?

  • 0-3 months

This idea emerged from

  • A student collaboration

Tell us about your work experience:

We are a group of students, that developed a falling recognition shoe sole during a makeathon two years ago. Ever since we have been active in further developing this idea. Therefore, we have been working with seniors and relatives and one of us is currently pursuing his master thesis on this topic.

How would you describe this idea while in an elevator with someone?

One out of three people over 60 falls at least once a year. A fall does not only cause physical harm but also has strong psychological effects. To prevent seniors from that we are developing the first technological solution to prevent falls. Equipped with an intelligent falling recognition and a dual-actuator technology our suspenders will put a tripping person back into an upright position.

How does your idea demonstrate our Criteria of Affordability?

Since there is a high percentage of seniors falling each year, through insurance etc. it is costing both the individual and taxpayer (2.8 billion euro annual costs for broken hips in Germany). Our suspenders could cut these costs down to zero, since they prevent falls at all. We suggest, that if a patient purchases our suspenders, health insurances cut down the costs of the insurance for an applicable amount. We also cut down the costs of production by using only a few components.

How does your idea demonstrate or plan to demonstrate scalability?

We plan to offer our suspenders to nursing services, nursing homes and also hospitals. Nursing services, like the red cross, already provide help to a lot of elderly living at home. These services could act as a reseller or people could rent the suspenders from them. Providing the seniors with such a technology enables the seniors to be more independent and less in need of the nursing service, therefore the service could reduce costs. This also applies to nursing homes.

How do you plan to measure the impact of your idea?

We want to gather qualitative feedback from first test users to measure how big the impact of the suspenders on improving the life of an individual is. Is s/he able to live more independently? Does s/he feel more secure? Did her/his social interaction improve by wearing the solution? Quantitatively we plan to measure the amount of falls that have been prevented. This number can then be converted into a value for saving money and therefore the savings for the society.

What are your immediate next steps after the challenge?

After the challenge, we want to build a full-scale proof of concept prototype, which includes all actuators and sensors, which are necessary for the product. With this prototype, we will go to seniors and let them try it out for several days to gather more feedback. As soon as the proof of concept is done, we want to find partners, which help us make the suspenders a reality. This will be first customers as well as manufacturers.

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Photo of Srijay
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Hi Lucas,

I wonder if the analysis can be used to for posture correction or even discovery worsening posture.

- Srijay

curbd: https://challenges.openideo.com/challenge/fall-prevention/finalfeedback/an-assistive-device-for-curb-elevation-detection

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