A Mount Maunganui-developed fall protection system for the elderly is a finalist in the New Zealand Best Product Design awards this Friday.
Invented by Mount St John Ambulance officer Sean O’Connor and designed and developed in conjunction with product development company Locus Research, the system was inspired by the number of broken hips Sean found himself coming across in his work.
Mount Maunganui St John Ambulance officer Sean O’Connor developed the new Hip Fit underwear after seeing the number of broken hips suffered by elderly.
It took about 20 broken hips for Sean to start seriously thinking about better hip protection for the elderly.
There are about 3000 broken hips every year in New Zealand with 75 per cent happening at night, leaving elderly people often lying on the floor helpless and in agony until the following day.
Each accident costs on average $26,000, and the injury adds about $83million to New Zealand’s medical bill every year.
Even with a new hip, 60 per cent of fall victims never regain full mobility, and 20 per cent of old people who suffer broken hips, die within 12 months of the fall.
There are hip protection products on the market but Sean discovered people don’t like wearing them.
Too many of the victims Sean attended told him the hip protection was in their drawers. It was uncomfortable to wear, and didn’t look good.
Sean’s realisation that nobody had talked to the end user about what they would consider wearing in the way of hip protection inspired Sean to begin development in his garage.
Sean started designing better hip protection in 2008, building a test rig to duplicate the masses and energies involved in a hip breaking fall, and then methodically testing his way to a solution.
“I’m treating it as a garment, an undergarment,” says Sean.
“No one was taking it seriously enough. I’m creating a product people want to wear.”
He’s produced custom designed under garments for men and women and a system of removable hip protection pads designed to protect the greater trochanter – the sticky out bit of the femur that takes the impact in falls, and smacks it into the hip joint.
He’s now selling them on line at Delloch.com. a name which Sean created by combining his children’s initials.
He took the results to Locus Research, which developed the garments for the market.
They are now looking at distribution in Australia and the Delloch HipFit is also being evaluated in Florida. Sean’s hoping New Zealand hospitals will make Delloch a preferred supplier.
“Hip fractures have reached the point where people think hip injuries are more a condition for old people there’s an acceptance that’s what happens,” says Sean.
“It doesn’t have to be like that. There’s a better way to do it.”