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Insights from an older adult that is also a supervisor of midwives: A watchful eye is key; safety standards are also needed.

Reflections that were written up from my interview with my aunt about how she sees fall prevention from a dual perspective.

Photo of Sharifah Williams
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I interviewed my aunt. She is currently a supervisor of midwives. She is also an older adult. I figured as a result that her perspective would be unique. It was exactly that. 

Some background information

The aunt interviewed for the challenge is my mom's sister. This aunt is one of the elder sisters. Her age is 68 years old. She does not reside in the U.S. She is currently living in the United Kingdom. Thus, this interview yields a European perspective.

Her current occupation is that of a supervisor for midwives. Her years of medical knowledge are really helpful. Along with my cousin-in-law, my aunt is the go to for ailment advice. I have actually never talked to my aunt and not received a solution. In my 24 years of living, my aunt has always been right with her ailment advice She is very knowledgeable.

Learnings: My aunt as an older adult and a supervisor for midwives provides a dual perspective. To this point, she provides valuable insight as to fall prevention along with a European point-of-view.


A watchful eye is needed for an older adult that is unwell. A watchful eye is required without being overbearing for the older adult. Thus, an old adage comes to mind. Prevention is better than cure. Treatment for an older adult could mean hospitalization and shame as a result or for even needing treatment in the first place for falling. Preventing the fall in the first place helps avoid all of that so it that the issue per say is moot. 


A companion should accompany an older adult about their day. The companion could be family or friends. This is an important part in preventing falls. The thought process being that the companion will be watching. Thus, he or she can catch or preferably prevent an older adult from falling in the first place. That is why a companion is a significant factor.


Culture is an enabling factor. The closeness of family would need consideration because depending on the level of closeness correlates with caring, nurturing, and sensitivity for an older adult's situation.


  • A watchful eye is critical for fall prevention.
  • A companion to prevent/catch falls is also an important factor.
  • Culture enables prevention by correlating the nursing of an older adult's health with how close-knit his or her family is.


The home should have a safety element.  Safety standards are paramount to fall prevention. Safety in the home is also an important priority. For instance if you want the home to have a safety element, you might not want any instruments easily tripped over in the home. Furthermore, there should be a legal requirement for safety standards.

Learning:  Safety standards are paramount to fall prevention.



Older adults should feel secure in their environment. This is necessary so that the older adult will not miss their independence and can go about their daily lives without fear of falling.


  • There are many kinds of barriers in regards to fall prevention. One example is the sidewalk. An uneven sidewalk can aid in causing falls and not preventing them. 

Learnings: Barriers for fall prevention are all around; even those that may not necessarily come to mind right away such as an uneven sidewalk pose a barrier against fall prevention.

... and repercussions

Fall prevention is important not just for older adults to life their best life but for their health. Fall prevention helps to sustain life. Without fall prevention, more older adults would die earlier. For example if an older adult falls and receives no help, the result can be death.

Learnings: Fall prevention aids in the extension of a long, healthy life for older adults. No fall prevention results in an increase of older adults dying.

Overall learnings

  • A watchful eye is crucial. A companion is needed so that there is an extra set of eyes to make sure that an older adult does not fall.
  • Safety standards are also critical and should be implemented as it relates to  fall prevention.
  • Factors such as the environment and barriers should be calculated in when trying to prevent falls.  This is necessary despite the fact that some factors are obvious or are easily missed.
  • Fall prevention is necessary for older adult to live fulfilling lives even in the elderly stage of life for them. Otherwise, an early death is probably in their future.

What is a provocation or insight that might inspire others during this challenge?

Is it feasible to always have a companion with an older person? How can we lessen the stigma of falling for older adults? Do other cultures or countries have better ways to address fall prevention? How do we make sure older adults retain their autonomy regardless of falls?

Tell us about your work experience:

I am currently a student at NYU (Management of Technology) taking Design Thinking as an elective.


Join the conversation:

Photo of Anne-Laure Fayard

Thanks Sharifah Williams for sharing your interview with your aunt. I like your question about learning from other cultures. While I'm not sure an English or European culture is that different from an American culture when it comes to family, social connections and perception of older adults, I wonder if you have any insights you have from other cultures you might know of. Or did you find anything surprising during your conversation with your aunt? I'm curious about the companion: doesn't it risk to lead to a feeling of lack of independence and autonomy? What kind of age range are you thinking of? I'm wondering if we could think of ways to use technology in some cases? For example: or What do you think?

Photo of Kate Rushton

Great post and great insight! Are you able to ask for your aunt's insight during ideation?

Have you seen the post by Lara, Interview with Prof. Dr. Feyyaz Akyildiz ? With regards to older adults being alone or with someone else, Dr Akyildiz mentions 'If they are with their family or with a nurse, the only benefit is they can get help easily after they fall down'.

Photo of Sharifah Williams

Here is to hoping all is well. Thank you! I attempted to. By the time, she got back to me, ideation had ended. I apologize for any inconvenience. I saw the post. I think the post is interesting. That mention is food for thought. I believe that the stubbornness of older adults also plays a role. I have seen this come into play and am always worried for the older adult.

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