Wearable airbag designed to protect seniors when they fall

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The ActiveProtective airbag (pictured undeployed) reportedly reduces impact to the hip bones by 90 percent

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For anyone who uses a car, collisions are an ever-present danger – that's why vehicles are equipped with safety features such as airbags. For senior citizens, however, simply falling down can also result in life-changing injuries. With that in mind, Pennsylvania-based company ActiveProtective is developing a wearable airbag that deploys in the event of a fall, to protect seniors' hip bones.

ActiveProtective's Chief Technology Officer, Dr. Robert Buckman, first came up with the idea when working as a trauma surgeon. He noticed how many elderly people were being brought into hospitals with broken hips due to falls, and how they often never entirely recovered from the injuries.

The resulting airbag is designed to be worn like a belt, either on top of or beneath the clothing. When its onboard 3D motion sensors detect atypical motion that's unique to falling, it uses a cold gas inflator (the same type used in seatbelt-mounted airbags) to deploy a slab-like airbag that runs down the sides of the hips. When the wearer hits the ground, the bag reduces impact force to the hip bones by a claimed 90 percent.

Functional testing of the device is taking place at Operative Experience, a Maryland-based business also owned by Buckman that builds human cadaver simulators used for teaching combat casualty and emergency trauma surgery. Testing of the airbag has already begun, using a replica of a 90 year-old woman.

So far, the results have reportedly been very promising. The company tells us that human trials are scheduled to begin this year, with commercialization planned for the end of 2016.

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