Older woman with a cellphone pictured as the cover for blog post titledinnovative assistive technology for seniors in 2024 blog post written by Dr. brandy Archie with AskSAMIE

Innovative Assistive Technology For Seniors in 2024

As an occupational therapist, I'm always excited to find the latest advancements in assistive technology and share how it can make a significant difference in the lives of older adults. These technologies not only enhance safety and independence but also provide peace of mind to care partners. As technology evolves, what I love is that some of these items aren't marketed specifically as assistive or medical technology because they're useful for many people. So I'll highlight how it can be impactful for older adults and their families. So let's get started with some definitions so we are on the same page.

Definition of Assistive Technology

Assistive technology is any device or system that enhances the functional capabilities of a person with a disability. This can include a wide range of devices, from low-tech items like magnifiers and grab bars to high-tech devices like robotic arms and powered wheelchairs.

Types of Assistive Technology

1. Mobility Devices: Mobility devices are used to assist people with physical disabilities in moving around. These include wheelchairs, walkers, scooters, and canes.

2. Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) Devices: AAC devices are used to help people with communication disabilities to express themselves. This includes devices like speech-generating devices and computers with specialized software.

3. Computer Access Devices: Computer access devices are used to help people with disabilities access computers and the internet. These include devices like special keyboards and trackballs, as well as speech recognition software.

4. Environmental Control Systems: Environmental control systems are used to help people with physical disabilities control their environment. This includes devices like computerized lighting systems and remote control systems for televisions, lights, and other devices.

5. Hearing Devices: Hearing devices are used to help people with hearing impairments to better hear and understand sound. This includes hearing aids, cochlear implants, and FM systems.

6. Vision Devices: Vision devices are used to help people with vision impairments to better see and understand their environment. This includes magnifiers, closed circuit televisions, and special computer software.

 

So now that we are on the same page let's dive into a roundup of a few interesting products in 2024 that are transforming the daily lives of older adults.

1. Ara - Navigation independence without vision

ara
Ara is a fusion of thoughtful design and cutting-edge innovation to help people with low vision or blindness navigate independently, without a white cane! Crafted as a chest harness with adjustable straps, it's designed to fit most body types comfortably. At its core lies a central plastic case that securely houses an array of advanced sensors providing obstacle detection.

 

This works great for anyone with vision low enough that they limit their movements to familiar areas or require a helper to navigate spaces. Progressive diseases like macular degeneration, retinitis pigmentosa and glaucoma can result in severe low vision or blindness, and using Ara as that process begins can help maintain independence no matter the level of vision.

 

2. DFree Bladder Device - A Revolutionary Way to Manage Bladder Health

dfree

The DFree bladder device is a game-changer for those struggling with incontinence, a common issue that often limits how comfortable people are with getting out and about. This non-invasive sensor tracks the bladder's fullness and sends timely notifications to the user's smartphone, allowing ample time to find a restroom. This technology grants users the freedom to go about their day with confidence, reducing anxiety and improving quality of life.

 

We love this because it's a tech solution that has daily impacts and can have the long-term benefits that come from keeping people engaged in the activities they love. The more we participate in what we love, the more movement our bodies get and the more connection we get with others. Both of which are vital for longevity. Feeling comfortable leaving the house because you know that you've got the bladder in control is a game changer.

 

3. Larry - The Automated Medication Dispenser

larry

Larry is a wellness tracking assistive technology that works with smart sensors and at-home data for people living alone. LARRY sounds alarms during emergency situations without the need to wear any device, even if the user becomes unconscious. LARRY learns routines and notifies you if a routine change means something important, like a health issue. We love this because it allows for independence while also making sure loved ones can stay intune with the person's safety and status without being invasive with cameras and constant calls.

 

4. Amazon Echo Show - A Virtual Companion

amazone echo show

The Amazon Echo Show has evolved into a vital tool for older adults, offering both entertainment and assistance. With its voice-activated assistive technology, seniors can easily make video calls, set reminders, listen to audiobooks, or ask for the news and weather updates. Its screen display enhances the experience, especially for those with hearing impairments, as it can show visual prompts and captions. We love it because it allows friends and family to drop in virtually without the senior needing to follow any complex directions to start the call. That way you can touch base visually without the tech getting in the way like may happen using a video platform like Facetime or Zoom.

 

5. Smart Lock - Enhancing Home Security Effortlessly

smart lock

Smart locks are a must-have for senior safety and independence. These locks can be operated remotely via a smartphone app, ending the need for physical keys. Senior can lock and unlock their doors from anywhere, grant access to caregivers or family members, and receive alerts about who is entering or leaving the home. This technology offers both security and convenience, making it easier for older adults to maintain control over their home environment even if mobility is a limiting factor.

 

Benefits of Assistive Technology for People with Disabilities

Assistive technology significantly enhances the lives of people with disabilities by:

  • improving accessibility and independence
  • expanding educational opportunities
  • increasing workplace productivity

It enables greater personal autonomy in daily activities and living environments, catering to individual needs for enhanced self-reliance. In education, assistive technology provides accessible learning experiences, fostering interactive and inclusive educational environments for students with diverse needs. In the workplace, it facilitates adaptations to workstations and tasks, allowing for more comfortable and efficient work experiences. This not only boosts the productivity of individuals with disabilities but also promotes a culture of inclusivity and diversity, essential in building an equitable society.

 

Challenges of Using Assistive Technology for People with Disabilities

While assistive technology greatly benefits persons with disabilities, it also presents several challenges. Firstly, the high cost and lack of funding can make these technologies inaccessible to many who need them. Additionally, there's often a steep learning curve associated with using advanced assistive devices, which can be daunting, especially without adequate training and support. The rapid pace of technological change also means that devices can quickly become outdated, requiring frequent updates or replacements.

 

Another significant challenge is the lack of standardization and customization; not all devices are suitable for every individual's unique needs, leading to potential mismatches between the technology and the user. Lastly, there can be social barriers, where the use of visible assistive technologies might lead to stigmatization or discrimination in various social settings, including workplaces and educational institutions. These challenges underscore the need for more accessible, user-friendly, and inclusive design in assistive technology development.

 

Support for the Cost of Assistive Technology Devices and Software Programs/Applications

We know funding is a huge issue for getting these types of devices so we've got a couple of resources to help you find programs and funding in your area.

  1. Create a free user account and get access to our search tool to find programs in your area that you may qualify for in order to get help.
  2. Find your local state-led Assistive Technology Program and check out thier services. They often have financial loan programs and device loan trial programs to help.

 

These innovative assistive technologies represent just a glimpse of the advancements that are making a profound impact on the lives of older adults. They not only promote independence and safety but also enhance the overall quality of life. As technology continues to evolve, the future looks bright for senior care and independence. For more information on these and other assistive technologies, visit www.asksamie.com, and don't forget to Sign up for our weekly newsletter for helpful hints and the latest and greatest in adaptive equipment!

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Dr. Brandy Archie, OTR/L, CLIPP

Dr. Archie received her doctorate in occupational therapy from Creighton University. She is certified in both Living in Place and Low Vision Therapy.  Dr. Archie has over 15 years of experience in home health and elder focused practice settings which led her to start AskSAMIE, a curated marketplace to make aging in place possible for anyone, anywhere! Answer some questions about the problems the person is having and then a personalized cart of adaptive equipment and resources is provided.

She's a wife, mother of 3 and a die-hard Kansas City Chiefs fan! Connect with her on Linked In or by email anytime.

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