Assistive Technology Products Raise the Quality of Life for Seniors By John M. Williams
As we approach senior citizen status, our strength, vision, mobility, hearing, speech, cognitive faculties and other abilities decline. As our abilities decline, so does our quality of life. In the past there was little that could be done to compensate for these losses. Magnifying glasses, hearing aids, walkers and other aids were available, but they provided limited benefits.
Assistive technologies are changing the status quo and are enriching the quality of life of senior citizens. Assistive technology devices are mechanical aids which substitute for or enhance the function of some physical or mental ability that is impaired. Assistive technology can be anything homemade, purchased off the shelf, modified, or commercially available which is used to help an individual perform some task of daily living. The term assistive technology encompasses a broad range of devices from "low tech" (e.g., pencil grips, splints, paper stabilizers) to "high tech" (e.g., computers, voice synthesizers, Braille readers). These devices include the entire range of supportive tools and equipment from adapted spoons to wheelchairs and computer systems for environmental control.
Let’s listen to some vignettes. For example, low vision products can enhance vision prospects for people who are legally blind.
“I can see thanks to my low vision product,” 72-year-old Emily Kandifer says. A retired nurse, she loves reading magazines and torrid romance novels.
For individuals with cognitive challenges, speech recognition software can control their home and office environments. By voice command, word-processing functions can be performed, lights can be turned on, telephone calls made, room temperatures can be raised and other duties can be performed.
“Speech recognition adds to my quality of life. It keeps me in-touch with my family,” said Henry Canelli. He is 75. When he is lonely, he says a name into a microphone attached to a computer, and the person’s number is dialed.
Also, computers can be programmed to make telephone calls at specific times, to remind individuals to take medication and to play games.
Eighty-two year old Frank Morris says, “Every day at 1:00 p.m., my computer reminds me to take my medicine. Thirty minutes later, my chess board is ready.” Morris plays chess on the Internet four days a week.
“Because of the Cochlear implant, I can hear,” says 67-year-old Larry Fielder. Deaf for 35 years, he loves hearing voices, music, birds chirping.
A blind, sixty-nine-year-old Terri Myers speaks proudly when she says, “My confidence and mobility have improved since I acquired this laser cane.”
Mildred Cameron lost some of her voice to cancer last year. She compensates by using her voice amplifier and text-to-speech software. “I could not live without the right to express my opinions, and these technologies give me that opportunity,” Cameron says using her text-to-speech software. She is 64.
There are benefits to family members who know their parents have these products.
“I have peace of mind knowing that my mother can easily communicate to us,” Thomas Cameron says.