The term “assistive technology” (or “adaptive devices”) refers to any equipment, tool, or product that helps a disabled person perform tasks and activities they would otherwise not be able to do, or could only do with greater difficulty. Many seniors in particular find such items invaluable in enabling them to function at a high level and live on their own.
Assistive technology certainly need not be high tech. Even something as simple as a cane, for example, counts as assistive technology insofar as it helps an old or disabled person to maintain their balance and walk.
Then at the opposite end of the spectrum there are adaptive devices that are much more high tech, that most people of past generations never imagined, such as the wheelchair/communication device used by Stephen Hawking.
Let’s consider how such devices of several categories can make for a better, more independent, life:
1. Mobility aids
Besides the aforementioned cane, people who would otherwise have difficulty getting around also make use of walkers, crutches, wheelchairs including motorized wheelchairs and scooters, wheelchair lifts, elevators, and stair elevators.
There are numerous devices available now to assist people who not only struggle to walk unassisted, but even to stand up, including the active stander, the standing frame, and the standing wheelchair.
Broadly speaking, one could also put transportation adaptive devices into this category, as they make a person more mobile than they would otherwise be. These would include modifications to cars, such as adjustable mirrors, seats, and steering wheels, and hand controls for those who are not able to work the pedals on a standard car.
2. Aids for vision and hearing
From glasses to contact lenses, from hearing aids to cochlear implants, there are many devices to assist us in seeing and hearing. Many elderly people use special magnifying devices to be better able to read type that is now too small for them.
Of course there are also Braille books and books on tape for those who cannot see well enough to read. And now the advent of e-books promises higher tech versions of text readers.
A telecaption decoder for a television would be another example of this kind of assistive technology.
3. Orthotic or prosthetic equipment
Adaptive devices can compensate for a missing or disabled body part. Anything from orthopedic shoe inserts to an artificial limb. (And an artificial limb can be anything from a pirate’s wooden leg or hook hand to the most high tech prosthetic arm or leg.)
Even dentures can be considered a prosthetic device.
4. Home modifications
Many items around the home can be altered or augmented to make things easier for seniors and disabled people. These could include a wheelchair ramp, or a bath seat or grab bar for the bathtub. Switches for air conditioners, computers and other devices can be made voice activated.
Of course there are countless other examples of assistive technology. But taken together, all these devices can make a huge difference in a person’s quality of life. An elderly person can be less dependent on others, and live at home longer.
“Assistive Technology.” Eldercare Locator.
“Assistive Technology Devices and Products.” Disabled World.