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Several years ago, I worked on a project involving hip protectors for the elderly. The research and concept generation exercise lasted one week. It was significant to me because it addressed a topic I previously doubted about – the emotional impact products can have on people. But is it possible to talk about emotions in relation to products? How important is it? Do we even need to think about it?But I was familiar with the concept of emotional quotient in design. Three things came to mind: It is possible to communicate ideas or stories relating to a product through forms, shapes, and colors. We’ve talked about this a lot in class. Material type can evoke emotions as well. Automotive design is a common application of form design. Businesses and consumers alike value aesthetics as a chief asset.

Apple, Muji, Chumbak are examples of products that stand out from competitors by paying attention to emotional, meta, and ideological aspects.

I, for one, am more likely to pick a product that I like the look of, or one that feels right to me, among multiple products with the same functionality. Whether it’s a big investment or a small one. I know that’s the case for many of us. Prior to working on this project, I had only been involved in design projects that addressed objective issues – functionality, material, digital interaction – without an emotional angle. The project focused on how the functionality of a product can result in a person’s emotional reaction to it, in addition to how other people might perceive them if they used it. This was an interesting study for me, so I am documenting my understandings and learnings below from the short time I spent on this problem space. 

Here is the brief

    Design a hip protector that is both aesthetic and appealing to the elderly.

How is a hip protector used- How and why does it work, what are the consequences of a fall, and what are some solutions that already exist to solve this problem?

Fractures of the hip

The elderly are at risk of hip fractures from falls – these are severe injuries & can leave them bed-bound for life. Growing older makes it more difficult to balance, walk, turn, etc. Conditions like osteoporosis can make this worse. If you fall, your hips will be vulnerable, and fracturing your hips is more dangerous than injury to your elbows or arms. From 1990 to 2050, the incidence of hip fractures is expected to rise from 1.66 million to 6.26 million. – NCBI

A hip protector is a shield that protects the hips from injury in the event of a fall. A hip protector can be padded, air bagged, hidden, or sleek.

 Time and time again, hip protectors have proven effective. Consequently, they reduce the impact force on hip bones and joints, preventing fractures.

Especially for the elderly, a fall can occur in a split second and without warning, leaving the individual little time to react to it or think about it. By using a product intervention, can a hip fracture caused by a fall be prevented?

  1. Protect your hips- If you protect the hip area during a fall, your bones will not be impacted, resulting in minimal, or no injury.

 

  1. You can also prevent a hip fracture by somehow preventing a fall.

 

Assistive Technology

Hip Protectors have the main problem of low compliance, even though they exist in excellent, functional forms. The reasons and insights behind this issue were explored in various sources. The above issue has been examined in depth in numerous articles and research papers, including studies on the relationship between assistive technology and the elderly- social, emotional, and psychological. My initial efforts were focused on improving hip protectors materially – by adding protection, using padding technology, exploring form. Nevertheless, feeling uncomfortable with the product was a major obstacle to compliance. Although all of the other aspects mentioned above are interconnected and affect each other, it is important to acknowledge their existence in their context.

The majority of assistive technology and medical products created for personal use address weak points in the body. This product makes users hyperaware of their weakness, making them feel self-conscious, anxious, and at risk. Users are unknowingly exposed to negative emotions when using this product. People who are elderly might not believe that they are at risk of fractures, even if they are, because they don’t want to believe they need a hip protector. Users must feel emotionally good when interacting with a product in order to like and adopt it.

However, in this case, the way the product functioned itself was what triggered a negative emotional response. Let’s talk about it! The problem could be solved by merely altering how something looks if it were solely a matter of appearance.

Researchers suggest ways to design assistive medical technology to evoke a positive emotional experience –

  1. The product should have universal appeal and be suitable for a wide range of people. Assists in reducing feelings of isolation and needing ‘special care’.
  2. An aesthetic that is neutral, pleasant, and resembles everyday consumer goods is superior.
  3. Minimize the perception that the product is medical or assistive.
  4. The design guidelines for assistive technology by Aimeé K. Bright and Lynn Coventry emphasize transformative potential rather than mechanical features.

Taking into account everyday experiences of hip protectors- for instance, going to the washroom, fitting onto different body types, and sleeping with them on- could be a basis for further development. The use of a product can also be affected by other factors, including past experiences and doctor recommendations. When a doctor recommends the product, or if the user has fallen or tripped in the past, they are more likely to adapt to it.

On the other hand, would the product be considered safe or protected if a doctor recommends it? Would it evoke a distaste even if it were recommended? Is it possible? Users should be consulted, tested, and given feedback to answer these questions. The information in this article is taken from resources that I found online. Although I had ideas for solutions, I chose not to share them online and expose myself to the entire internet. Due to two factors: first, they are quite raw, not based on primary research, and second, I am shy. However, I am open to sharing it if asked. 

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