Aging is something we will all experience in our lifetime; however, how we age will be different for each one of us. During the aging process, many older adults may find themselves needing some type of assistance to perform activities that might otherwise be difficult or near impossible to accomplish. I believe this is where assistive technologies might be the miracle that will enhance the capabilities of older adults to maintain their independence and dignity as they age.
It has been noted that older adults do not want to be a burden to their families or friends by having to ask for assistance with their activities of daily living (ADL’s). Often they express fears of dependency and loss of control. Older adults might say, “I’d rather die than go into a nursing home” (CSA, 2005). These concerns are valid and must be addressed. The goal to addressing these concerns are to always remember to meet the needs of the individual person’s lifestyle and preferences, then support it with technology, not the other way around (Homecare). Technological assistance might be used to supplement personal assistance or used only for certain tasks and can vary over time, depending on the needs of the individual.
There are a myriad of technological products and services available to help older adults preserve their dignity and freedom in the aging process. It is important to understand all the options that are available to older adults locally, and through state and federal programs. Family caregivers need to be trained and educated in using the correct technological device that is appropriate to the needs of the older adult. In times past, technology was limited to canes, grab bars and fall-alert buttons worn around the neck or wrist. Now the technology ranges from medication dispensers that can report to a family member when their loved one forgets to take a pill, to shoes embedded with GPS trackers to find cognitively impaired wanderers. There are motion sensor systems that rely on floor mats and bed mats wired to pick up changes in the persons normal activity, enhanced telephones that display photographs of contacts on speed dial and enhanced sound help for those with hearing loss to remote health monitoring and door monitors to name just a few (Homecare).
The Assistive Technology Act of 1988 (ATA) affirmed the federal role of promoting access to assistive technology devices and services for individuals who desire to purchase them. Often finances will play a large role in whether an individual can purchase such devices or use a particular service. According to the AOA (Administration on Aging), “right now, no single private insurance plan or public program will pay for all types of assistive technology under any circumstances” (aoa.gov). Medicare will cover up to 80% of the cost of assistive technology if the items being purchased meet the definition of “durable medical equipment” (aoa.gov). Local Senior Centers are a great source of information for older adults, as are local Agencies on Aging. Older adults who are eligible for veterans’ benefits may be able to receive financial assistance from the Department of Veterans Affairs (DVA) and they will also train the person in how to use the assistive device. The Rehabilitation Engineering and Assistive Technology Society of North America (RESNA) is a valuable source of information for loan programs under Title II of ATA (resna.org). Used assistive devices, after being thoroughly cleaned and inspected, can help with lowering the cost of such devices. Often after a loved one has passed on, families are willing to donate assistive devices to others whom might benefit from them.
Different organizations around the country are conducting research on how technology can support and train older adults in its use to improve their quality of life, social and civic engagement. One such organization is OATS (Older Adults Technology Services). Senior Net is a nationwide computer network and offers hands-on classes in computer use (Hooyman and Kiyak, p 477). It’s important that older adults are given the opportunity to be involved in the implementation, development and distribution of assistive technology for the elderly since they are the ones most likely to be using it.
While assistive technology will never replace the loving touch of a human hand, many older adults may consider assistive technology to be the miracle they are looking for to assist them with keeping their independence while aging. This is especially important when the personal, human touch is not available.
http://www.AOA.Gov Administration on Aging.” Administration on Aging. N.p., n.d. Web. 30 Jan. 2014.
http://homecaremag.com/top-10-technology-devices-seniors: Home Care Mag n.d.: n. pag. Web.
Hooyman, Nancy R., and H. Asuman Kiyak. Social Gerontology. Boston, MA: Pearson, 2011. N.pag. Print.
http://www.Medicare.gov: The Official U.S. Government Site for Medicare. N.p., n.d. Web. 31
“RESNA – Rehabilitation Engineering & Assistive Technology Society of North America.” RESNA – Rehabilitation Engineering & Assistive Technology Society of North America. N.p., n.d. Web. 31 Jan. 2014.
Working with Seniors: Health, Financial, and Social Issues. Denver, CO: Certified Senior
Advisor (CSA), 2005. Print.