Usability of a wearable fall detection prototype from the perspective of older people–A real field testing approach

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Aims and objectives

Community-dwelling older people were involved in the testing of a fall detection device to improve its utilisation and acceptance in everyday life.


The usability of alerting devices remains unsatisfactory, as they are scarcely utilised by older people, despite wide recognition of the importance of rapid assistance after a fall. Moreover, the time a person remains on the floor negatively impacts the severity of fall consequences. However, it is unclear how to increase alerting device utilisation in everyday life. Therefore, older people were involved in this research to consider their perspective during prototype development.


A qualitative focus group study was conducted, following a real field testing approach, underpinned by the theoretical framework “Medical Device Technology Development Process.”


Fifteen community-dwelling older people tested the prototype in daily living over a period of nine days. Different means of involvement were exploited such as “user seminars” or “discussion with users.” On day 9, data were collected using focus groups and analysed with qualitative content analysis.


The participants’ perspectives yielded positive aspects of the prototype along with aspects requiring improvement. They indicated that technical requirements are essential. They also revealed that a minimal change in daily routines, support for physical activity and independent living and the inclusion of trusted contact persons could lead to wider use of the alerting device.


Involving users is crucial in gaining a deeper understanding of aspects influencing utilisation of an alerting device. The study revealed that usability is influenced both by technical requirements as well as habits and personal preferences. This finding is vital, as habits and personal preferences can only be identified through the involvement of target users.

Relevance to clinical practice

The study provides key insights for health practitioners interested in promoting the use of an alerting device in community-dwelling older people.

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