Assistive technology needs to become a household term

Do you know assistive technology? Everyone should, advocates Age Friendly Edmonton.

As we age, it is common to experience functional limitations and changes in hearing, vision, mobility, or memory. Technology can help us deal with these changes by supporting independent living, aging in place, and ultimately aiding health and longevity. However, something known as assistive technology (AT) is far from a household term in Canada.

AT encompasses everything from low-tech tools to complex digital devices and products that can be used at home, in the workplace and in the community to provide solutions that lower barriers. Examples include hearing aids, medication management systems, health/wellness devices, voice interfaces, specialized software, home or vehicle modifications, and much more. Inevitably, as we age or experience disabilities, many of us will require one or more AT products or services.

AT also refers to the awareness, training, and technical support that is needed for the safe and effective use of such products. It is an entire ecosystem in itself.

The aging of the population creates a compelling argument for making AT a priority. The World Health Organization (WHO) is drawing attention to the need. In its first Global Report on Assistive Technology, published in May 2022, the WHO states that the problem “deserves more attention now than ever”. The report outlines recommendations to expand availability, raise awareness, and implement inclusion policies and an enabling environment.

“Assistive technology is life changing… Denying people access to these tools is not only a violation of human rights, it is an economic shortsightedness. We call on all countries to fund and prioritize access to assistive technology and give everyone the opportunity to reach their potential,” said WHO Director-General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.

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While there are many gaps and barriers to acquiring AT in Canada, it is not a luxury. Proven to have a transformative impact on end users, it’s time to make AT a household term.

Holistically designed AT programs are needed to serve aging populations and people with disabilities; programs that can support the needs of daily living and aging in place. These will reduce health care costs and hospital readmissions, improve caregiver support, and create a better quality of life and well-being for users and their families.

AT should not be viewed through a cost lens; it should be considered a sound socio-economic investment by all stakeholders, including funders and all levels of government.

Article courtesy of Age Friendly Edmonton

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