Involvement of the end user: exploration of older people's needs and preferences for a wearable fall detection device - a qualitative descriptive study

Friederike J. S. Thilo*, Selina Bilger, Ruud J. G. Halfens, Jos M. G. A. Schols, Sabine Hahn

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Purpose: To explore the needs and preferences of community-dwelling older people, by involving them in the device design and mock-up development stage of a fall detection device, consisting of a body-worn sensor linked to a smartphone application.

Patients and methods: A total of 22 community-dwelling persons 75 years of age and older were involved in the development of a fall detection device. Three semistructured focus group interviews were conducted. The interview data were analyzed using qualitative descriptive analysis with deductive coding.

Results: The mock-up of a waterproof, body-worn, automatic and manual alerting device, which served both as a day-time wearable sensor and a night-time wearable sensor, was welcomed. Changes should be considered regarding shape, color and size along with alternate ways of integrating the sensor with items already in use in daily life, such as jewelry and personal watches. The reliability of the sensor is key for the participants. Issues important to the alerting process were discussed, for instance, who should be contacted and why. Several participants were concerned with the mandatory use of the smartphone and assumed that it would be difficult to use. They criticized the limited distance between the sensor and the smartphone for reliable fall detection, as it might restrict activity and negatively influence their degree of independence in daily life.

Conclusion: This study supports that involving end users in the design and mock-up development stage is welcomed by older people and allows their needs and preferences concerning the fall detection device to be explored. Based on these findings, the development of a "need-driven" prototype is possible. As participants are doubtful regarding smartphone usage, careful training and support of community-dwelling older people during real field testing will be crucial.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)11-22
Number of pages12
JournalPatient Preference and Adherence
Issue number11
Publication statusPublished - 2017


  • focus group interview
  • coding
  • wearable device
  • sensor
  • mock-up
  • smartphone

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