Aging in Place with Assistive Technology

seniors in gardenEvery year, INDATA hosts four free, full-day training sessions that offer an in-depth look at how assistive technology can help in our everyday lives. This Friday, March 2, INDATA explores how assistive technology can help people as they age.

“Growing older comes with all sorts of obstacles,” said Brian Norton, the director of assistive technology at Easterseals Crossroads. “This training session will shed light on the tools available to help people overcome the challenges of aging and make daily tasks easier to manage.”

Assistive Technology Behind the Wheel
Older drivers can face a number of challenges. Common physical issues that make driving more difficult later in life include arthritis, fatigue and vision impairment from cataracts, to name a few.

Adaptive driving

Mary Follman and Suzanne Pritchard — both occupational therapists and certified driver rehabilitation specialists at Easterseals Crossroads — will deliver a presentation about vehicle modifications for older drivers.

“Being a therapist for 15 years and in the field of driver rehabilitation for more than a decade, I have seen technology and advances in vehicles improve greatly through the years,” Pritchard said. “It’s amazing how much independence people can gain or retain by driving with these advances.”

Common vehicle modifications include left foot accelerators, lifts for wheelchairs and controls that allow individuals to drive and brake by hand. An example of more advanced assistive technology is the blind spot warning system, which helps drivers with limited mobility determine if it’s safe to make a lane change without turning their neck to see oncoming traffic.

A recently-developed safety feature is drowsy driving technology, which detects drowsiness by tracking a driver’s facial gestures and monitoring the vehicle’s movements. If the driver’s eyelids are drooping or they’re swerving on the road, this system wakes them up with an audible warning and a flashing coffee cup icon on the dashboard. Many car manufacturers — including Audi, Mercedes and Volvo — currently offer this system.

Adaptive driving Before drivers seek out or start using this sort of technology, they should meet with a driver rehabilitation specialist like Pritchard.

“The specialist can determine the exact vehicle modifications needed based on the person’s abilities and then offer the appropriate training for the equipment before it is placed in his or her personal vehicle,” Pritchard said.

Another presentation during the training covers the assistive technology we have right at our fingertips — the countless apps on our mobile devices.

Apps for Aging
Anna Leung, an assistive technology specialist at Easterseals Crossroads, will introduce attendees to a vast variety of apps. Here are just a few:

  • Article Reader Offline: This Android app allows users to download articles and easily change the text size, font style and background color to suit their reading needs.
  • iCare Health Monitor Pro: The world’s first blood pressure and heart rate measurement app. It also measures respiratory rate, oxygen levels, vision and hearing ability, emotion and more.
  • Math Training for Seniors: This iOS app helps seniors stay sharp with a series of mathematical and logical problems presented in a clean, clear and high contrast display.
  • SuperVision Mini: This iOS and Android app turns your mobile device into a magnifying glass. Buttons allow users to adjust the brightness, color contrast and magnification level.
  • Yesterday USA: Here’s a fun one. This app allows older folks to take a trip down memory lane and easily access a huge archive of radio shows from the 1920s through the ’70s.

RogerVoice appThroughout her career, Leung has noticed older individuals are often unaware of the assistive technology available to them — and they’re also hesitant to reach out for help.

“Oftentimes, as people age, they tend to isolate themselves from society so they can enjoy the environment they have been comfortable and familiar with, but they lose the ability to adapt when they do this,” Leung said. “When they isolate themselves, they also take the risk of not being able to take care of themselves when their physical and mental health deteriorate. They might not realize they need help.”

INDATA is resource to open people’s eyes to the numerous resources that can help with the challenges they face.

Considerations for Contemplation

accessible kitchenINDATA’s training session will also dive into home modifications for older individuals — such as ramps and bathtub chairs — with John Kelly, home modification services coordinator at Easterseals Crossroads.

Kate Kunk, caregiver options counselor at CICOA Aging & In-Home Solutions will discuss considerations for those who are aging, and Beth Ann Walker, associate professor at University of Indianapolis will present a look at assistive technology for activities of daily living and how to choose the right assistive technology devices to fit their needs.

Click here to register for INDATA’s free full-day training session, Assistive Technology & Aging. If you are unable to attend, you can watch the session at www.eastersealstech.com/live. Individuals with disabilities along with educators, parents, students, vocational rehabilitation counselors, professionals and healthcare providers can benefit from this training content.

If you’re an older individual in need of assistance, check out the INDATA Equipment Lending Library, a collection of roughly 2,500 assistive technology devices for individuals with visual, cognitive, hearing, mobility, learning and other disabilities. You can borrow any item for up to 30 days at no charge.

For additional information about the loan library, please contact Justin Amber, Assistive Technology Equipment Loan Specialist, at jamber@eastersealscrossroads.org or 317-466-2013.