Independent Living As We Age
In honor of National Falls Prevention day this Friday, Sept. 23rd, the National Council on Aging posted an article debunking the commonly held belief that the older we get the more likely we are to fall. They've responded to 10 popular myths such as "4. As long as I stay home I can avoid falling or 5. Muscle strength and flexibility can't be regained".
At the Accessible Technology Coalition we are all about how technology can promote and support living independently. There are many types of devices that can help to keep people active and strong as we age.
Regarding falls, technology may not be preventing them just yet but new fall detectors, with gyroscopes, mean that a fall can be reported even if the person can't press a button. One product and service from Phillips never needs charging and is waterproof.
Access to a computer can help to encourage independence in the aging - shopping online; managing prescriptions, lab results, and doctor appointments; and staying connected to others through social networking. Research by Dr. Sheila Cotten out of the University of Alabama reveals that internet use was associated with a 30 percent decrease in depressive symptoms among seniors.
New programs, such as Seniorama-Pointer, allow for seniors to easily Skype, use email and even play interactive games with little fuss.
Accessibility features build into computers (see resources below) are making it easier to use the computer (and stay employed as we age). Features available include enlarging the text on websites, in documents, and applications; using speech recognition and keyboard/mouse modifications for those who struggle with arthritis or other physical impairments; and choosing a high contrast color scheme.
For seniors working to build up their strength and balance, or for families promoting an activity plan for their aging parents FitBit offers a device to track activity levels during the day and how well the wearer sleeps at night. It slips into a pocket so it's discreet. The device tracks steps taken, distance traveled, and even how active the user is throughout the day. It automatically syncs the data to a computer so the user and family members can review. Another similar device that hangs from the neck is offered at DirectLife.
There are even free and low cost communication apps for people who suffer from a stroke or Alzheimer's. The iPad is a popular choice as a flexible and affordable communication device. check out iPad communication apps in the iTunes Store (iTunes/App Store/Quick Links/Education/Special Education).
Android cell phones and the iPhone are another good technology to promote independence. One of the most useful features is built-in GPS Navigation with auditory directions making it easy to find the way home wherever we are.
Another valuable cell phone app is a mobile personal safety service like Guardly, BuddyGuard, VSOS, or GreatCall. In the event of an emergency, with one tap seniors can be connected with friends, family, and authorities.