Shoe insoles designed at Victoria University to prevent costly and common falls among the elderly have been judged the world’s most innovative new care product at The Globals awards for a second consecutive year.
Dr Hanatsu Nagano, who received his award at a gala dinner in London last week, developed the insoles to address a worldwide concern that one-in-three elderly people suffer injurious falls each year.
The Globals were created in 1998 to recognise the rapid growth in the world’s over 50s age group, and reward the best individual and company performances in seniors’ goods and services.
Dr Nagano is the first person in their 20-year history to be awarded the prize for the most innovative new care product two years in a row.
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, a shock-absorbing contoured heel, and a forefront that helps increase minimum toe clearance – the reason for many trips and falls.
Dr Nagano created the insoles as part of his PhD after two of his grandparents in Japan suffered debilitating falls.
He said receiving a Global award for the second year motivated him to continue his work.
“I met people from all over the world at the ceremony who are interested in the insole and I hope to build solid global partnerships with them,” he said.
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, the proportion is forecast to rise to 25 per cent by 2050, the same as Japan’s.
The insoles cost around $60-70 and can be ordered at iseal-insole.net
Dr Hanatsu Nagano is a postdoctoral research fellow specialising in biomechanics at VU’s Institute for Health & Sport (IHES). He is available for comment.