So far, the past four weeks we have discussed a large-scale issue of causing an American Renaissance by getting back to manufacturing like we used to be good at.

Today let us switch our subject to issues that we live constantly with. The following is a public presentation I did on March 22nd. The subject was falling down. No, it isn’t the famous 1993 movie acted by Michael Douglas. It is about people falling. Yes, physically.

America is aging. Yes, aging fast. Our population of 65+ group now stands at 50 million, and the number will reach 90 million in 2050, a mere 33 years away. That sector of population, a nation within our nation, shall we call it, is larger than today’s combined population of Germany and Austria together. In the year 2050, the aging 65+ sector of population will occupy fully 20 percent of America.

Are we ready to deal with this demographic sea change? No, not really. America has always stridden to think young and act young. TV media always focused on 18-to-40 market. Although that sector of audience of TV network has drastically declined in the recent two decades, the network TV still focuses on the same demographic sector of the 18-to-40 age group as though nothing has happened.

This nationwide indifference toward the aged group has caused a distinctly myopic view of not paying close attention to the issues and problems the aged group face daily. So, today I will single out and discuss one of the most prominent problems this nation is facing and will continue to face without developing an effective solution.

That is falling. For young people, falling doesn’t constitute a serious health hazard most of the time. They feel pain and grimace, pick themselves up and dust off, and start walking. A few hours later the incident is all but forgotten. However, for the aged those 65+ and older, falling constitutes a very serious threat to their health from just a staggering pain but no damage, to a few hours in the emergency room to a few weeks in the hospital to finally a death.

About one million people fall in a month in America. That is a fall every two-and-a-half seconds. Of roughly 12 million falls per year, 700,000 people are hospitalized at an average cost to Medicare “A” of $37,000 per case. The total expense to Medicare “A” now stands at $26 billion per year. Not so fast. A hospitalized patient with some serious issues would require rehabs and other specialized treatment after being discharged, and this is estimated as an additional $14 billion, making the current total hospitalization economic cost to $40 billion per year.

The people who fall but are not hospitalized would have some medical expenses, yet this figure has not tabulated so far. Just consider the staggering loss of $40 billion per year (yes, this is a per year amount, rising yearly). NASA’s annual budget is $20 billion, and U.S. cancer research spending is a poultry $5 billion a year.

So, readers, the cost to our nation by people falling is $40 billion per year. That is an enormous amount of money. If you compare this amount to the size of economy of some other countries in the world, you’ll find the Philippines and Pakistan rank almost equivalent in national revenue. Now you can have some idea how big the loss by fall in America is. Wow! 

If we could: 1) prevent people from falling, 2) report without fail any people falling instantly, and 3) train people to correctly walk with a certain walking method with a properly-designed slip-resistant footwear, I am convinced the loss could be cut by half easily. That’s what science and technology are for. And we know we are good at them.

So, let’s think about proceeding to develop a system that saves this country some serious money.

First, before we embark such an important project, let’s us examine today’s state of art. The generic name for systems that enable users to report personal emergency is called PERS. It stands for Personal Emergency Reporting System. Most PERS is on subscription basis, and it cost users anywhere $25 to $40 a month with some going up as high as $60. Most systems provide users with a push button on a lanyard, and the user should wear it on his/her neck. In case of emergency, the user presses the bush button, and this signals to the remote PERS station. Most systems allow users to speak to customer service, and the desk person decides the degree of emergency and if dispatching an EMT is necessary.

The main problem with this system is that about 45 percent of people who fall are either passed out and incapable of pressing the activation button, or injured badly as well as his/her body is contorted so it is not possible to press the button.

Other systems use some accelerometers and gyroscope built-in a wrist watch case, and this system is supposed to detect a fall. This system is an indirect measurement method and is likely not 100 percent reliable.

Neither legacy systems are 100 percent reliable. A system which is 100 percent reliable must be developed to reduce this $40 billion waste.

To be continued.

Shintaro "Sam" Asano was named by MIT in 2011 as one of the top 10 most influential inventors of the 20th century. He lives on the seacoast of New Hampshire with his dog Sophie. You can write to Sam at sasano@americaninventioninstitute