24
November
2021
|
01:00
Asia/Singapore

Bespoke Hip Protector Enhances Safety of Fall-prone Seniors

The lightweight and breathable EXO+ hip protector offers protection for fall-prone residents of Ren Ci Hospital.

The lightweight and breathable EXO+ hip protector offers protection for fall-prone residents of Ren Ci Hospital.

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Associate Professor Soh Chew Beng (right), Programme Leader, Sustainable Infrastructure Engineering (Building Services), SIT and Mr Samuel Lim, former Research Engineer at SIT, displaying the hip protector belts in the characterisation lab at SIT@Dover, where they performed material characterisation.

SIT and G4 Pte Ltd have collaborated with Ren Ci Hospital to develop a customised hip protector that offers good protection and comfort for fall-prone seniors. Ren Ci Hospital is the first facility in the community care sector to trial the EXO+, a lightweight hip protector made with breathable material for the local climate. The patented hip protector features a foam pad made of sandwiched layers of impact-absorbing foam and elastomers to cushion the wearer’s hip in the event of a fall.

Following positive feedback from residents, Ren Ci Hospital will be deploying the hip protector at both its nursing homes to selected residents with fall-risk potential due to gait or lower limb weakness.

“We expect hip fractures among seniors to be on the rise as the population ages. While there are existing hip protectors in the market,  most are not easy to put on. They also trap heat when worn for long hours and cause discomfort for the elderly. Compliance becomes a real issue. In comparison, EXO+ is easy to wear, more breathable, and suitable for our local climate  all the benefits that aid initial acceptance by our elderly residents. This removes problems with compliance, so our seniors, especially those with osteoporosis, can avoid potentially life-threatening hip fractures,” said Ms Tan Tzuu Ling, Assistant Director of Nursing at Ren Ci Hospital.

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Donning the EXO+ hip protector has given Mr Mohamed Hafidz bin Samat, 59, added confidence to walk more and rely less on his wheelchair. Photo credit: Ren Ci Hospital

The team from SIT and G4, which specialises in protective gear for defence and healthcare, drew inspiration from the exoskeleton structure of crustaceans for the design of the hip pads. The EXO+ uses flexible elastomers made of a stretchable material that can return to its original structure after the release of impact. This means that it has self-repair properties unless the impact causes a permanent fracture of the materials. The hip protector also has a porous, breathable protector belt that makes it well-suited for Singapore’s humid, tropical climate. For added comfort, the EXO+ is lightweight, with a single pad weighing between 60g to 70g.

“Based on the impact test result, a peak force reduction of up to 20.4% on the femur can be achieved if the EXO+ is worn in the intended position in the event of a fall,” said Associate Professor Soh Chew Beng, Programme Leader, Sustainable Infrastructure Engineering (Building Services), SIT. “The results show that the EXO+ is more effective at reducing impact forces on the femur during a fall, hence reducing the likelihood of a hip fracture.”

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The porous structure in the elastomers hip pad as viewed through the Scanning Electron Microscope.

Research on the hip protector was funded under the Translational R&D and Innovation Fund (TIF) administered by Singapore’s Ministry of Education. TIF supports applied research and translational projects, which can be developed in partnership with industry to enable new innovations, products, and services. The effectiveness of the impact absorbance of the hip pads has been validated by Cardiff University, with mechanical testing conducted according to the Canadian Standard Association 7325:20 for hip protectors for a simulated fall.

“We now have a better solution at hand. However,  ensuring that the elderly understand and comply with wearing the hip protector at all times is still key. From the initial trial, we note that the hip protector can also enhance the elderly’s confidence to walk about within the household independently. This will also go a long way in ensuring that our elderly can remain ambulant for as long as possible,” commented Ms Tan.