Fall Prevention: HaveYourSay Circle

Written by: Jim Schrempp. Posted: Fri, 06/13/2014 - 13:54. 

On June 4th our Aging in Place Technologies Meetup held a HaveYourSay circle on the topic of preventing falls. We had 8 people in our circle. We learned a lot about the problem, and discussed a number of quite interesting solution "ideas".

Avoid, prevent or survive falls

Our problem statement was:  Seniors fall for a variety of reasons and can be seriously hurt. Falls are the leading cause of death by injury in those 65 and older.


We surfaced several causes

  • People won't use a walker or a cane, even though they need one. Vanity perhaps? Having to admit to themselves that they are getting old?
  • Homes are full of trip hazards
  • Bones become brittle and just snap
  • No grab bars in bath or other locations (near the front door, near the stove)
  • Nowhere to sit when a person quickly feels dizzy


We brainstormed a number of possible solutions

Get people to use canes and walkers sooner

  • How do we change a person's mindset about needing assistance?
  • Monitor a person's posture over time and provide a report to them. "You are now at a 90% risk of suffering a serious fall in the next 3 months."
  • Video record people walking through a small course and play it back for them so they can see how well they navigate the course. The course will be designed to have several typical trip hazards and to give a good test of balance skills. Perhaps this course could be inside a motor home (like a mobile blood bank) and travel around giving free evaluations. The key is for a person to see themselves navigating the hazards so they can come to their own conclusion about their need for a cane or walker.
  • There is a professor in Nebraska that is looking at posture detection and automatic detection of near-miss falls.
  • Make canes and walkers in a more fashionable style. Could we create a better looking three footed cane?

Make a home safe by eliminating trip hazards.

  • Hire a professional to review your home because they will point out many safety issues that you are not even aware of.
  • Make your home safer by having many bright lights. As we age our eyesight is reduced in poor light and we have to rely on our inner-ear sense of balance more. Bright lights allow us to continue to rely on our eyes for balance cues.

Reduce the harm caused by a fall.

Stop falls from happening.

  • Augment human form with an exoskeleton that provides balance. Doesn't have to jump walls or walk 10 miles. Just help to keep me from falling.
  • A smart walker that follows you around and is always there to grab onto when you need it would be amazing. Even more, have the walker grab you when you start to fall.
  • Detect subtle shifts in attitude that detect a pending fall and ring an alarm, sound a buzzer, give an electric jolt to the back muscles, scream "sit down now!" "Lumo Back" is a posture measuring device that gives a person gentle feedback when they slouch (http://www.lumobodytech.com). Could something like this be adapted to sense when a person is getting dizzy and about to fall?
  • Posture Support   -- Indiegogo campaign
  • Make walkers taller - say mid chest height - so that they are more supportive and easier to use. Like standing inside a ladder with wheels.
  • Perhaps a pedometer to report not on how long you walk, but on how much you sit.

Listen to the discussion from our Meetup June 4, 2014


Many of my patients and clients over the years do not want to "get old" by taking on a cane or walker. I have often times suggested hiking walking poles with rubber tips that look much more youthful and actually promote a more normal gait pattern. Nice sets are available at REI and other retailers. Also, an attractive wooden cane with interesting carvings can be very easy to sell as well.

We do have walkers that "follow you" and call them posterior gait trainers. These can have a seat behind you and not get in your way of your activities. They also come in neat colors and appear much higher tech. Check them out at www.adaptivemall.com

Have a great day!

Mindy Renfro, PT, PhD


Aging In Place Technologies


San Francisco Senior-focused Design

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