The factors that may influence compliance with wearing of external hip protectors by potential users living in the community were investigated. Elderly women (median age 83 years) who were hospitalised after fracture, joint replacement or falls and were expected to return to community living participated. Five focus groups were conducted. Most participants said they would not use the hip protector demonstrated. The main objections were a perceived lack of comfort in wearing the appliance, particularly in bed, coupled with the belief that they were not at high risk. Other lesser issues were the extra effort needed to wear the device, appearance, accuracy of fit, cost and unfamiliarity with the protectors. These findings suggest that, in general, high risk elderly women living in the community will be unlikely to use external hip protectors unless there is considerable encouragement from family members and/or health professionals. Educational programmes could reduce some misconceptions about hip fracture, and reinforce the benefits of wearing a protective appliance. They may also increase awareness of personal risk. An introductory period of supervised wearing of the hip protectors, while in hospital or respite care, may enhance compliance.