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Senior Living Aids and Assistive Technology Devices

Ken Teegardin Written by Ken Teegardin
SeniorLiving.Org Expert on Chief Editor | Caregiver

Seniors have thousands of products to choose from that make home life easier. These products—that go the names assistive technology devices (ATDs), senior living aids, enabling devices, and adaptive devices—are designed to help you perform tasks and activities if you are unable to.

Assistive Technology Devices

These tools or services help you get around, see, eat, open things, communicate, get out of bed, get off the couch, get dressed, turn your car's ignition, and many more daily activities.

The benefits these products provide could make the difference between living independently at home and assisted living.

Some Areas of Assistive Technology
Here's a list of ATDs. See if one of these fits your needs.

Maintaining Mobility. This equipment helps you get around more easily from the simplest items to the most sophisticated. These items include walking cane, walkers, raised toilet seats, automatic seat assists, power wheelchair, and stair elevators.

Communication. These items enable you to send and receive (hear and see) messages and include hearing aids, large button phones, extra loud phones, intercoms, personal pagers, simple cell phones (the Jitterbug), TV telecaption decoders, and other like devices.

Computer Access. Anything that makes computing easier such as easy access to the Internet, modified keyboards, computer screen magnifiers, etc.

Adaptive switches. These switches make operating electronic devices easier (e.g. voice activation). These are devices such as computers, telephones, power wheelchairs, air conditioning units.

Personal Care. Anything that makes dressing, washing, and grooming easier. These tools include bathtub transfer benches, hair dryer holder, bedrails, etc.

Home modifications. These include modifications to your home such as a wheelchair ramp.

Orthotic or prosthetic equipment. These devices compensate for a disabled or missing body part. Some are as basic as an orthopedic shoe insert and as complex as a titanium prosthetic arm with hundreds of parts. 

Other Tools. Anything that makes life more independent such as shower grab bars, key levers, door knob grips, etc.

Determining Your Needs
When determining what you may need to assist you, talk to professionals (e.g. an audiologist for hearing devices), family and friends, especially those people who are familiar with your home life and potential needs.

Additionally, the Administration on Aging (AOA) recommends that seniors "plan ahead and think about how their needs might change over time." For example, can that computer you're buying be updated or expanded in the future with newer hardware. The AOA says to consider these questions before buying an assistive device or service:

  • Does a more advanced device meet more than one of my needs?
  • Does the manufacturer of the assistive technology have a preview policy that will let me try out a device and return it for credit if it does not work as expected?
  • How are my needs likely to change over the next six months? How about over the next six years or longer?
  • How up-to-date is this piece of assistive equipment? Is it likely to become obsolete in the immediate future?
  • What are the tasks that I need help with, and how often do I need help with these tasks?
  • What types of assistive technology are available to meet my needs?
  • What, if any, types of assistive technology have I used before, and how did that equipment work?
  • What type of assistive technology will give me the greatest personal independence?
  • Will I always need help with this task? If so, can I adjust this device and continue to use it as my condition changes?

Paying for Assistive Technology Devices
Medicare Part B pays up to 80% of assistive technology devices or as Medicare says, "durable medical equipment".

This, according to Medicare, is "medical equipment that is ordered by a doctor (or, if Medicare allows, a nurse practitioner, physician assistant, or clinical nurse specialist) for use in the home.

A hospital or nursing home that mostly provides skilled care can't qualify as a "home" in this situation. These medical items must be reusable, such as walkers, wheelchairs, or hospital beds."

If you are a veteran, you may be eligible for assistance from the Department of Veterans Affairs.

Out-of-pocket and private health insurance are other ways to pay for ATDs. Most insurance companies, however, will not pay for expensive devices like motorized scooters.

Assistive Technology Devices are designed to make life for seniors easier. Some devices are as simple as a key lever while others like a stair elevator are far more complex and costly. Once you determine what your needs are, you should have no problem finding a product that fits your needs.

For even more tips on making your life easy, check out "Aging Well: The Choice Is Ours."


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