Viola, 84, was going down the basement stairs to get the clothes out of the dryer, when the phone rang, startling her. One foot slipped, and down she went, landing in a heap on the basement floor. Her cries for help went unheard because she lived alone. “Viola laid there for nine days, and incredibly lived to tell about her harrowing experience.” explained Rickie Gill a nationally certified senior advisor who attended Senior Community Services’ Independent Living Technology Conference held Oct. 14.
The Conference focused on assistive technologies available to help seniors age safely in place and maintain their independence longer.
“As we grow older, and experience changes in mobility, vision, hearing and memory, we need to adapt and make changes to extend the ability to live independently,” said conference presenter Amy Perron from the Minnesota STAR program (www.starprogram.state.mn.us). She showcased examples of assistive technology to help seniors.
A big safety advancement is development of sensors that can be placed on doors and refridgerators to track movement and daily routines. When the sensor is activated, a text is sent to a caregiving family member, friend or neighbor. One of these placed in Viola’s basement stairwell could have prevented her tragic nine day struggle.
Perron showcased the Clarity telephone which amplifies conversations, and TV Ears, a digital wireless headset to better hear favorite programs without disturbing others.
The Candy 5 lighted handheld magnifier is a perfect take-along to read restaurant menus, food labels or prescription bottles. And the user can change the color of text and background to enhance visual acuity.
Smart pillboxes can text or email a family member when the older adult takes their daily medications. The HandyBar is a simple but beneficial device that slips into the car door latch to provide a support grip for a hand when entering or exiting a car.
A high-tech magnifier makes small print readable for the vision-impaired, and the device can even scan a document and audibly read it to you.
Also available are tracker bracelets and GPS-enabled shoes that help keep track of older adults who may wander from home.
Many STAR program devices are available to use free for 30 days to see if it meets the senior’s needs.
The popular CareNextion.org website was explained and demonstrated to seniors and caregivers. The free, easy-to-use web tool was developed by Senior Community Services to help families manage care and communications about their older loved ones. Deb McKinley shared how she and her eight siblings manage the care for their 93-year-old mother who lives in Ohio. CareNextion enables them to assign tasks and complete them in an orderly fashion.
Conference attendees also toured an example of Drop Housing, often called the “Granny Pod,” a small, handicapped-accessible unit that may be located on a family member’s residential property. The units offer security, convenience and enhanced well-being for seniors and caregivers.
Developer John Louiselle, co-founder of NextDoor Housing, said the small housing units are popular, but local governments are still evaluating the zoning and regulatory needs that should be in place before allowing these in communities.
Assistive technology is one way we help Minnesotans Reimagine Aging to help seniors maintain independence and ease the burden on caregivers.
Deb Taylor is CEO of Senior Community Services (www.seniorcommunity.org) and its Reimagine Aging Institute, a nonprofit that advocates for older adults and helps seniors and caregivers maintain their independence through free or low-cost services.