How can we prevent older people from falling in their homes?
Teignbridge District Council spends £890,000 per year on house adaptations for people with poor mobility. With insufficient finances to meet the growing demand for housing services and adaptations, we helped Teignbridge District Council and the Design Council to test new ways of reducing falls and making homes safer.
Taking a user-centred design-led approach, we explored a number of issues in more depth and ultimately developed new ideas for service and system changes. The process of mapping out experiences of people who have fallen identified significant gaps in the system; from people who are not placed at risk of falling despite multiple falls at home to older people rarely engaging with health and social services through embarrassment (even after a severe fall). Our process helped the Council to quickly recognise that a number of stakeholders from different organisations could make the difference.
Our design methods
Interviews were conducted with older people who had experienced falls. We mapped their experiences and captured their ideas for falls prevention. A series of short videos gave partners a snap shot of key findings and challenges.
Mapping the ‘Falls Pathways’
We ran a series of “falls pathway” mapping workshops with representatives from health, housing and social care services. The information gathered helped everyone associated with the project to understand the various service “touch points” that a person may come into contact with. We mapped out available support services, identified gaps and opportunities for improvements in the system.
Having decided that the previous method of leafleting was largely being ignored, a number of people who had suffered from falls helped us to come up with more striking, fun and interactive awareness campaigns. These were trialled in GP surgeries across the area:
Sound Advice – Using popular records from the 1960’s, we designed a vintage record installation to engage our target audience about falls through music and memories.
Fall Victim – We recreated a chalk line crime scene to emphasise some hard-hitting statistics about falls. This shock technique worked well.
Fall Proof – We created a fun campaign suggesting that people apply bubble wrap to make their homes “fall proof”, which linked to a free ‘Fall Proof’ home check service.
We then prototyped service ideas under the name Fall Proof. Three areas were identified, including an online photo submission service which identifies hazards in users’ homes, and a physical home assessment package which can recommend how to make homes safer.
Online photo submission: Engage family members so that they can diagnose hazards in the home and receive advice on how to make necessary changes to their loved ones homes.
Home assessment service: Offer home assessments and tailored reports to identify potential hazards in the home and ways to reduce the risk of trips and falls.
Volunteer support pack: Distribute an information pack with advice about how to avoid trips and falls in the home; including a home assessment checklist and training with the NHS falls prevention team.
What was the impact?
Teignbridge Council’s Amanda Pujol explained the success the project has had: “Staff members now apply the design principles learned to other processes and areas in the department. For example, we now acknowledge that people understand and remember things best when they are told as part of a story.
The relationships we have with the various health agencies had resulted in much greater collaborative working and we have put in bids for funding to carry on the work we started with Made Open and the Design Council.”
Please connect with Kathryn or [client name] for more information.