Assistive devices can be invaluable tools for seniors who want to age in place and maintain their independence. Also known as assistive technology or AT, these products are designed to help people with physical or cognitive disabilities, limited mobility, and other challenges perform tasks that might otherwise be difficult, impossible, or unsafe. From simple tools to high-tech solutions, assistive technology enables seniors to overcome many age-related difficulties and continue living safely at home. The best technology for seniors to age in place are assistive devices that allow seniors to maintain their safety and independence in their homes

Below is an overview of some of the main categories of assistive devices to help you determine if any may be beneficial for your needs.

Assistive Technology for Hearing

Age-related hearing loss, often caused by changes to nerve cells in the ears and repeated noise exposure, can significantly impact a senior’s ability to communicate effectively and engage with their surroundings. Feelings of isolation and frustration are common in seniors with hearing loss, and it can be a safety hazard if they aren’t able to hear things like a smoke alarm. Fortunately, there are a range of assistive technology solutions for hearing impairment, such as: 

  • Hearing aids and amplifiers that make sounds and speech more audible
  • Amplified telephones help with clearer phone conversations
  • Captioned phones display real-time text captions to better understand phone calls
  • Doorbells and smoke alarms that use flashing lights in addition to sound alerts
  • Vibrating alarm clocks and watches can help ensure important alerts are never missed

An audiologist can perform a hearing test and recommend appropriate hearing assistive devices based on an individual’s degree of hearing loss and lifestyle needs.

Assistive Technology for Communication

Communication with caregivers and loved ones can be challenging for seniors with speech disabilities. Thankfully, assistive devices are available to provide alternative ways for seniors to express their thoughts and needs, such as:

  • Communication boards with pictures or words that the user can point to
  • Speech-generating devices that speak out messages typed by the user
  • Voice amplification systems for seniors with weakened vocal cords
  • Artificial larynx devices for people who have had their larynx removed

The best communication device will depend on the nature and severity of the individual’s speech impairment and cognitive and physical abilities.

Assistive Technology for Mobility

Limited mobility is a common challenge for older adults. Changes in functional mobility may be caused by conditions like arthritis, muscle weakness, or difficulty balancing. Mobility assistive devices that help seniors move around safer, easier and with increased confidence include:

  • Manual and power wheelchairs can support different levels of strength
  • Walkers, canes, and other mobility aids for improved stability and support
  • Mobility scooters offer greater range and independence for longer distances
  • Vehicle lifts for easy transportation of wheelchairs or scooters
  • Stairlifts and home elevators make multi-story homes safer and more accessible

A doctor or physical therapist can assess an individual’s mobility needs and recommend appropriate mobility aids. Proper fitting is essential for these devices to provide maximum benefit and safety.

Assistive Technology for Activities of Daily Living

Many assistive devices are designed to help seniors with activities of daily living (ADLs) – the basic self-care tasks like dressing, bathing, grooming, and eating. Examples include:

  • Button hooks, zipper pulls, and sock aids can make it easier to manage clothing
  • Long-handled reachers and shoehorns can reduce the need for bending and stretching
  • Shower chairs, tub transfer benches, and grab bars improve stability and safety in the bathroom
  • Adaptive utensils with specialized handles make it easier to grip and control dining utensils

There are also assistive technologies to help with instrumental activities of daily living (IADLs) – the more complex skills needed to live independently, such as cooking, cleaning, and shopping:

  • Jar openers and other adaptive kitchen gadgets for more manageable food preparation
  • Robotic vacuums and mops automate floor-cleaning tasks
  • Meal delivery services and pre-made meal kits ensure access to nutritious food
  • Medication management systems and apps featuring automated reminders and dispensers

An occupational therapist can suggest specific ADL and IADL devices based on the senior’s individual abilities, limitations, and home environment.

Assistive Technology for Home Safety

Seniors who age in place as opposed to a senior living community lack the around-the-clock support those communities provide. As such, it’s important to utilize assistive technology at home that can keep seniors safe in the event of an emergency and help prevent accidents, injuries, and wandering. Some examples include:

  • Medical alert systems with wearable help buttons and fall detection for on-demand assistance in emergencies
  • GPS location tracking devices are handy for those at risk of wandering due to cognitive impairments
  • Smart home systems that can automatically shut off appliances if left unattended
  • Medical alert smartwatches and sensor devices can alert designated contacts or emergency services in the event of a fall
  • Motion-activated lighting to illuminate pathways and reduce the risk of trips and falls
  • Stove guards and induction cooktops can minimize the risk of kitchen fires
  • Walk-in bathtubs and zero-threshold showers so seniors won’t need to step over high tub walls
  • Bed rails and floor mats provide extra support and cushioning to prevent or mitigate fall-related injuries
Continue Reading: Learn more about assistive device options in our Guide to Assistive Technology for Seniors

Get a Home Safety Assessment

A home safety assessment by an occupational therapist, physical therapist, or certified aging-in-place specialist can identify potential hazards and recommend appropriate modifications and safety devices. 

By investing in assistive technology that improves safety and independence, seniors can remain in their homes and enjoy a better quality of life as they age.