A Smart Fall Prevention Wearable for Older Adults
Research + Prototyping
Research Proposal + Synthesis
Metal Fabrication Methods + Arduino + Custom Electrical Components
Rabia Razzaq + Syracuse University Biomedical & Chemical Engineering + Syracuse Human Performance Laboratory + The Aging Institute



The primary co-designer and research partner was a man in his 90s who has been diagnosed with idiopathic peripheral neuropathy. This condition affects the sensory and motor nerves of the peripheral nervous system without any obvious underlying cause.

For the Serious Researcher *
Fall prevention is a massive public health risk for older adults, especially those with neuropathy. How can design begin to address this issue?

The insight this collaborating potential end user provided was essential to the development of amble and a core methodology of the research process. From semi-structured interviews we discovered that our co-designer undergoes a significant treatment regiment but utilizes 4 different walkers. The research team then elected to target the area of increased mobility for our co-designer as the primary research arch of amble.



To start, we had to test early ideas and insights with both our users and experts in the medical field.

Develop a smart wearable device for fall prevention to reduce the risk of falls in older adults with neuropathy.

This involved conducting an audit of existing balance products, materials, and medical procedures. This step was crucial as it enabled us, as designers, to generate ideas while also ensuring that any product or design aligns with the best medical practices.


Prototyping & testing

One proposed design for fall prevention would be a wearable that could alter the users body positioning when a fall condition was apparent. This would bypass the users control temporarily to abate a fall. This was particularly relevant to our co-designer as a warning system alone would not suffice for users with neurological degradation.

The amble research team utilized arrested leg motion as a working, low fidelity prototype for body positioning control. This was done utilizing a leg immobilizer, Arduino, and solenoid. We developed two contexts to test for the process: Transitory Arrested Motion (A momentary arrest of leg while it is in motion) and Sustained Arrested Motion (A static arrest of leg while it is in motion—results in a fall). Static balance supports were explored as an option alternate to dynamic body positioning. In this case, the wearable would “deploy” and stop a person from falling via external limbs. This was prototyped from an experiential design standpoint by utilizing a weightlifting belt, PVC pipe connectors, and heavy duty extension rods.


Design Output

Amble was progressed by the bioengineering research team later in 2022.

However, the design research teams contributions were a report across stakeholders and functional prototype for a very complex project.



Amble is a multi-year exploration into healthcare possibilities. Designing for a context beyond current technology was incredibly challenging, but it was also rewarding from a design research perspective to prototype complex conditions and possibilities within a healthcare context.

Read the recent article on Design Led No Code recently published in the Design Management Institute Review.

Article (PDF)
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