Did you know that in 1985 there were more than 18,000 devices to aid seniors in need of additional care (source)? The number of available devices, apps, tools, and other aides- now defined as assistive technology- has increased exponentially since that time. Find out more below about what assistive technology is, and the advantages of and concerns related to utilizing assistive technology.
What is Assistive Technology?
Assistive technology is any service or tool that helps older adults or persons with disabilities perform activities that might otherwise be difficult or impossible. For seniors, assistive technology may be a walker to improve mobility or an amplification device to make sounds easier to hear. Assistive technology can offer these individuals more independence by making it easier for them to get around on their own, perform simple activities of daily living, and age in place.
Today, the assistive technology market has expanded into even more sophisticated products that range from medication management tools to GPS trackers and home-alert systems, as well as many other tools tailored to meet specific needs.
What You Should Know about Assistive Technology
The growth in assistive tools and resources is primarily a good thing. However, with the many available options, you need to be aware of several important advantages and concerns to ensure your aging loved one receives the best care possible.
Advantages of Assistive Technology
Assistive technology offers a number of advantages to those appropriately positioned to benefit from using this type of technology. These advantages include:
- Cost Savings: Depending on the device, you can see money savings through preventative methods (i.e. tracking an aging adult’s blood pressure or if they fall), as well as lower costs tools that reduce the need for human intervention.
- Improved quality of life: Aging adults can have a healthier and safer experience with nutrition apps, home alert tools, diabetes devices, etc. The use of these can improve the quality of care given and received.
- Helping seniors remain functionally independent: With walkers, GPS trackers, and many other assistive technologies, aging adults are able to live more independently and move around with autonomy.
- Benefits for caregivers: Caregivers can use assistive technology to gain peace of mind by knowing their aging loved one is safe and monitored. It also will let them have more independence since they can do more remotely by being able to check-in from mobile apps, receive emergency notifications, and get additional information from real-time communication tools.
Concerns Related Assistive Technology
When using assistive technology, make sure you are aware of:
- Mismatching needs with technology: We can easily assume the latest technology is just what we need but that can be a mismatch. If your aging loved one has limited mobility and getting a mobile scooter seems like the solution – have you considered how easy the scooter is to use? How long the battery lasts? If the house is designed to support the device? These are just a few questions to consider as you explore assistive technologies.
- Accommodating aging adults with multiple disabilities. If your aging loved one has multiple disabilities you need to ensure that all of the assistive technologies they adopt do not conflict with one another.
- Negative perceptions and adoption: Adoption can take time, especially if someone is nervous or unwilling. Some seniors may require some time to get used to using the device and to see it’s benefits. Don’t just leave it at home without any instructions or support!
Overall, you should do your homework, talk with your family, and loved ones, as well as any physicians and insurance providers. Don’t jump on the latest trend without doing your due diligence, but also don’t be afraid to try something new.