Dec 18, 2018

Could A Belt With Airbags Protect The Elderly When The Fall?

Falls prevention is a cause of concern for both aged care providers and the elderly alike. As a person ages, many things begin to deteriorate physically, resulting in a heightened risk of fall and a likelihood of injuries that can be severe.

Diseases, muscle weakness, hazards, and sensory problems, are all factors that can increase an elderly person’s risk of falling, and these issues have sparked a variety of methods and risk reduction strategies that usually tie in together with the use of fall prevention devices and fall detection alarms.

Items like bedside fall mat’s, gripped fall-management socks, and strategically placed grab bars can all play a part within a holistic approach to tackling fall prevention. But no matter how many items you have in place, unfortunately, some elderly people will still fall.

Hip Injuries can be brutal and extremely debilitating for an elderly person, and falls are responsible for a large number of hip injuries including fractures and breaks.

One current day solution that is being utilised in many households and aged care facilities are hip protectors, but many elderly people find them extremely uncomfortable and some refuse to wear them because of this reason.

The quest for solutions has taken many forms over the years, but now a company named Helite that also makes motorcycle airbag vests has thrown its hat in the ring to offer the elderly a fall protection device that will always be by their side.

The Hip’Air from Helite, is an oversized belt that boasts fall detection sensors. These sensors can allegedly detect a fall within 0.2 of a second, the Hip Air belt then use the remaining time to deploy two airbags from both sides that inflate above each hip and absorb fall impact.

Hip’Air believes that their inflatable belt actually absorbs 90 percent of the impact endured during a regular fall, and claims that regular hip protectors only absorb around 10 percent of an impact.

The Hip’Air is said to be surprisingly light when uninflated, and arrows on the belt instruct the owner on how to wear the belt. The Hip’Air also beeps to warn the owner if it has been put on in the wrong way.

Airbag belts are definitely a new technology within the realms of aged care and fall prevention, and this level of innovation also comes with a hefty price tag.

Hip’Air costs close to $800 in the US and that price would be significantly higher here in Australia, and according to some research within the US, fall protectors in general may not be all that useful at protecting from bad injuries.

A study from the US that was published in the June 25 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association, is claiming that average hip protectors can’t prevent fractures in the elderly because a large number of the fractures occur prior to impact from the unnatural rotation of the hip.

Although this study did not take inflatable hip protection belts into account, given the fact that this device does not prevent unnatural hip rotation, these findings may also be applicable to this new device.

While there may never be a foolproof fall prevention device or system in place that has the ability to end elderly falls, it is important to look at all of the available options and find something that works well for you, your loved one or a resident.

Options like hip protectors, fall mat’s and inflatable airbag wielding belts should merely play a part in your fall prevention strategy, alongside the basic foundations of good nutrition, hydration and exercise.

And at over $800 US per belt, the Hip’Air might currently hurt the hip-pocket more than anything.



The Image in this article does not depict or represent anyone or anything from within the article itself.

The Video above was taken from an article entitled ‘This $800 belt has airbags to protect your hips’ and published by The Verge.

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  1. Even if this device reduces the re-occurrence of a serious fall (as I have just had), that surely will interest governments like mine in Australia to consider some type of subsidy.

    At $1000+ per belt and $50,000 hospital bill and/or the loss of a citizen, the belt doesn’t have to be 100% to make good sense. Can’t wait for some objective evidence on its effectiveness from its wide-spread use.


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