The SAF-T VEST™
Every year millions of people fall, suffering life-changing consequences ranging from hip fractures to brain injuries to death. In 2016, nearly 30,000 older Americans died from falls. Up to 20% of hip fracture patients die within a year. In short, fall injuries suffered by older adults are a public health crisis.
As the U.S. population continues to age, Jay Davenport, M.D., a board-certified orthopedic surgeon, set out to develop a novel solution to protect seniors from the devastating consequences of falling. Fall injuries are the most common and most costly type of non-fatal injury in seniors. They are also the number one cause of fatal injury.
The SAF-T VEST,™ created by Davenport SAF-T Systems, is designed to help older adults maintain their independence— so critical to quality of life—by reducing injuries, healthcare costs and mortality rates from falls. While it may be impossible to ever completely prevent falls from occurring, the technology to reduce the severity of injury from falls is now within reach.
Growing old at home
“There’s no place like home,” said Dorothy, from the Wizard of Oz. It turns out America’s senior citizens agree with her.
According to the American Association of Retired People (AARP), more than 90% of people aged 65 and over want to stay in their current homes for as long as possible. If aging in place is the goal, what can we do to remain independent for as long as possible? Experts say put on your walking shoes and get moving.
“The key to remaining independent later in life is maintaining the ability to walk,” said Dr. Davenport.
However, a serious fall injury can change a person’s quality of life in an instant. Patients often face expensive medical care, long-term rehabilitation and a permanent loss of independence. Many begin a path of physical decline.
The SAF-T VEST solution
Most strategies to reduce fall injuries focus on prevention. Dr. Davenport took a different approach.
Rather than preventing the fall, the SAF-T Vest anticipates it. This comfortable, lightweight garment monitors the user’s center of gravity with a system of tiny sensors. When the sensors detect an unrecoverable fall in progress, it deploys a system of airbags to reduce the risk and severity of injury.
In fractions of a second, the airbags lining the inside of the garment inflate to absorb the impact of the fall. Injury-prone areas like the head, neck, shoulders, elbows, wrists and hips are protected. The bags then rapidly deflate to prevent a bounce-back effect, known as contrecoup, which can cause concussion. The rapid deflation gently lowers the user to the floor, like a deflating air mattress.
The aging factor
The fact is, as we age our risk of falling increases. Americans increasingly face this reality each day. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more than one in four adults over 65
“The key to remaining independent later in life is maintaining the ability to walk.”
-Jay Davenport, M.D., Founder, Davenport SAF-T Systems™
suffers a fall each year. And, among those who do, 20% suffer a serious injury. According to AARP, 10,000 Baby Boomers turn 65 each day–a trend expected to last into the 2030s. By 2030 Americans 65 and above will make up 20% of the population.1
The direct medical cost of fall injuries is more than $50 billion annually, when adjusted for inflation.2 In the past decade, the death rate from falls in older adults increased 31%.
Preventing falls has proved elusive. Medications can affect our balance. Diminished vision, hearing and reflexes due to age increase the risk. Experts recommend staying physically active, getting regular medical, vision and hearing checks and using assistive devices like canes and grab bars.
Even hospitals struggle to prevent their patients from falling. In 2017 hospitals in Minnesota reported 82 falls resulting in serious injury or death. In 2016 and 2015 there were 72 and 67, respectively.3Walk with confidence
By reducing the risk and severity of injury, the SAF-T VEST helps the user remain active and avoid the physical decline associated with a fall injury. After suffering a fall, people often begin to limit their activities out of a fear of falling again. However, reducing activity can increase frailty and trigger the cycle of falls all over again. Dr. Davenport designed the SAF-T VEST so that seniors could remain active, confident—and independent.
The SAF-T VEST received a U.S. patent (#10,897,938) in January 2021. Our concept has been evaluated by engineers and vetted by clinicians and patient safety experts. There are few systems on the market today that protect a person when a fall occurs. Undershorts with padding may offer some protection from hip fracture, although they are not widely used and their effectiveness is unclear. Other emerging airbag systems protect only the hips or offer protection in high-speed activities like skiing or motorcycling.
Davenport SAF-T Systems begins Phase 2 prototyping with the University of St. Thomas School of Engineering (St. Paul, Minn.) in May. By the end of 2021, we will have a prototype suitable for early-stage testing. We will raise up to $350,000 to cover three phases of development including the industrial and mechanical design, electrical architecture and firmware development. Future modifications, robust performance and safety testing, and commercial launch will be funded through a planned equity round.
Ryan Davenport, Vice President
4148 21st Ave. South Minneapolis, MN 55407
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1 65+ in the United States 2010. Washington: Government Printing Office, 2014. 65. Web.
2 “Important Facts about Falls.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 10 Feb. 2017. Web. 02 Apr. 2017.
3 Health, Minnesota Department Of, comp. “Adverse Health Events in Minnesota.” Feb. 2017 Web. 02 Apr. 2017