Wearable Air Bags Could Safeguard Seniors’ Hips From Harm


Research has found that slips and falls are the number one cause of accidents in public buildings, restaurants, and hotels. For senior citizens, these incidents aren’t merely embarrassing; they can present a real danger to their health. But now, there might be an easy — and inflatable — solution to prevent serious injuries sustained from slip and fall accidents: a wearable air bag called the Hip’Air.

Every year, nearly 37.2 million injury-related ER visits occur. According to the CDC, more than 300,000 people over the age of 65 are hospitalized every year due to hip fractures, and around 95% of those injuries can be attributed to falls. Even if an injured senior makes it through the lengthy recovery process, research shows that their risk of death nearly triples during the first year following a hip fracture. Even eight years after the injury, these patients have a death risk twice that of a typical senior citizen.

Considering that long-term care for seniors is already expected enough — one study found that 83% of primary caregivers contributed an average of $8,800 for out-of-pocket care expenses — and that the risks are so high, prevention seems to be the best option. That’s where Helite’s invention comes in.

While the Hip’Air may look like a fanny pack, it’s actually an incredibly sophisticated piece of technology. Sensors powered by algorithms within the device monitor the wearer’s movement at rates of more than 1,000 times per second. When and if a person falls, the Hip’Air knows immediately. It instantly and automatically deploys its built-in airbags within 0.3 seconds — creating a virtually foolproof cushion that inflates before the wearer can hit the ground.

Alexandre Quarrey, the senior engineer Helite — the French company that created Hip’Air — explained in a statement: “People are used to seeing airbag in cars, but now we are able to integrate airbags almost everywhere, the opportunities are really important… Every week we have people asking us if it’s possible to create an airbag for a new application.”

According to Helite, which originally designed this technology for thrill-seekers and adventurers, the device reduces the impact of falls by a staggering 90%. Plus, they’re reusable; unlike your car’s airbags, they can be deployed repeatedly without having to keep buying replacements. That’s good news, considering the Hip’Air will set you back around $800. Still, when you weigh that against the costs of emergency care, recovery, and long-term care, it seems like a bargain.

The lightweight, easy-to-use device should be available on the market by March 2018. After more than a decade of development, many seniors and their families may be glad to get some peace of mind with a device such as this. It’s being currently tested in some nursing homes, which could provide valuable data for the future. While the price tag may be a bit steep for some, the belt’s comfort and high level of performance may be enough to convince consumers that it could be a worthwhile investment in one’s health.

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