Health New insoles reduce trips and falls in elderly and could save lives

New insoles reduce trips and falls in elderly and could save lives

Each year, worldwide, one in three elderly people have a fall. Often, they never recover full mobility and many die.

New shoe insoles developed by a Victoria University researcher are set to turn that around.

Developed by Dr Hanatsu Nagano, the shoe insoles have been designed to prevent costly and common stumbles among the elderly, and will soon be available in Australia.

Dr Nagano spent nearly a decade developing the insoles after two of his grandparents in Japan suffered debilitating falls.

“I wanted to make a social contribution to this very big problem by offering a product that is affordable, and can be easily made and used,” Dr Nagano says.

The insoles are designed with a series of raised bumps that follow a foot’s ideal centre of pressure to help with side-to-side balance.

They also have a shock-absorbing contoured heel, and a forefront that helps increase minimum toe clearance – the reason for many trips and falls.

Human trials with partner institution the University of Tsukuba in Japan have proved the insoles dramatically reduce falls among the elderly, as well as with trip-prone hospital patients suffering from conditions such as dementia, osteoarthritis, or knee surgery.

Dr Nagano estimates that his invention could save 36.5 billion Yen (or close to AUD$500 million) in direct medical costs in Japan for every one per cent decrease in incidents of trips and falls.

While only 15 per cent of Australians or about 3.5 million people are currently aged 65 or older, that proportion is forecast to rise to 25 per cent by 2050, the same as Japan.

Victoria University has an international patent on the injury-reduction insoles. Dr Nagano’s company, Global Bridge, is now working with Japanese fashion manufacturer and retailer, Caitac Family, to commercialise them.

The insoles will sell in Australia in pharmacies and speciality shoe stores as part of an integrated shoe made partly from traditional Japanese textiles.

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