Ideas

Brainiac

Innovation of the Week: Preventing broken hips

EVERETT, MASSACHUSETTS -- 10/21/2012 -- Bikers take the first turn down Revere Beach Parkway wearing costumes as part of the 24th annual Halloween Witch Ride from Everett to Shetland Park in Salem to benefit the Muscular Dystrophy Association. Brian Feulner for the Boston Globe
Brian Feulner for the Boston Globe
Bikers on Revere Beach Parkway during the 24th annual Halloween Witch Ride from Everett to Shetland Park in Salem.

What is it? Airbags for elderly hips

Innovator: Helite, a French motorcycle-safety products firm

What were they thinking? Among elderly people, the leading cause of injury or death is falls. Broken hips in particular are a huge and costly problem, one that will become even more common in the developed world as the popuation ages. So, the idea of creating airbags, worn on a belt, that deploy before a person hits the floor makes a certain amount of sense, and a motorcycle-safety company has the needed expertise.

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Did it work? When the tech geeks at the Consumer Electronics Show tried it out, yes. But the real problem isn’t protection. Hip pads have existed for years. The problem is convincing older people to wear them. And getting anyone to wear $800 airbags around the waist, however novel, looks like an upstairs climb as well.