Assistive technology should 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 cope with these changes by supporting independent living, aging in place, and ultimately supporting health and longevity. Yet something known as assistive technology (AT) is far from a household term in Canada.

MT encompasses everything from low-tech tools to complex digital devices and products that can be used at home, at work and in the community to provide solutions that reduce 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 need one or more AT products or services.

AT also refers to the awareness, training and technical support necessary for the safe and effective use of these products. It is an ecosystem in its own right.

An aging population creates a compelling case for making TA a priority. The World Health Organization (WHO) draws attention to this need. In its first-ever global report on assistive technologies, published in May 2022, the WHO says the issue “deserves more attention than ever”. The report presents recommendations for increasing availability, raising awareness and implementing 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 economically shortsighted. We call on all countries to fund and prioritize access to assistive technologies and give everyone a chance to fulfill their potential,” said WHO Director-General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.

Although there are many shortcomings and obstacles to acquiring AT in Canada, it is not a luxury. It’s been shown 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 meet the needs of daily living and aging in place. These will reduce healthcare 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 must be considered a good socio-economic investment by all stakeholders, including donors and all levels of government.

Article courtesy of Age Friendly Edmonton

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