Alderman Kavita Parbhudayal (right) from The Hague is being introduced to Wolk by Joyce Dam (left) from the company of the same name, Source: Martijn Beekman

The Hague trials hip-protection airbags for the elderly

The Hague trials hip-protection airbags for the elderly

They are meant to prevent severe damage in case of a sudden fall

Sudden fall is a common source of serious casualties with many elderly people. As we age, we gradually lose control of part of our senses and therefore, might not even realize that we are falling before it is too late. Luckily, there is now a solution to this.

An inventor from The Hague has designed a tool that works just like the airbag in our car, but for people. It is to be placed on the hips and could potentially prevent serious harm. The Dutch municipality is currently testing it on a number of local people, hoping it could one day expand its usage.

A human-centred technology

These “self-thinking” pants can be worn underneath one’s clothes and will inflate in a split of a second, when they detect a threat to fall (see gallery above, image by Mendes Hogesty from Wolk). The Wolk pants are currently being tested independently by 10 elderly people, who present a risk of sudden falls. The trials are conducted at the Eykenburg Foundation, a professional organization for elderly care in The Hague.

Said trial will last for six months and should ultimately help determine to what extent the Wolk hip airbag can prevent painful and sometimes medically complex hip fractures.

Hans Schröder is considered as the inventor of the Wolk hip airbag. He developed the current version of the device together with the University of Technology in Delft. The sensors of the Wolk monitor movements 500 times per second and immediately recognize a fall.

Before the wearer hits the ground, an airbag is deployed around the hip so that the fall is as soft as possible. What is more, a notification is automatically passed on to the contact by text message, stating the location. The wearer can also raise the alarm himself.

Alderman Kavita Parbhudayal, responsible for Care, Youth and Public Health said for the city website that “technology is not an end in itself, but a means to improve the quality of life. That technology must then suit people and not the other way around.

We see enormous opportunities; not only in the technological innovation itself but also in the great change power that entrepreneurs and investors in this sector bring with them. By linking that world to that of the social domain, we expect to be able to organize care and support in a smarter way and, above all, to help the elderly to remain independent for longer and more pleasantly”.

The trial with the hip-protecting airbag is a result of a municipal action program for care and innovation 2019-2022, as one of several pilot projects. The city is thus developing an e-Health Marketplace where residents can find suitable technology for their specific situation and needs and try it out before purchasing it.

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