In Canada, 1.1 million older adults use assistive technology to compensate for physical or cognitive limitations. However, despite the potential benefits of these technologies, there are some older adults who remain reluctant to use them. They may fear being stigmatized or discriminated against, feel a loss of independence and sense of control, or think of assistive devices as a last resort. There also may be confusion (and concerns) about what assistive technology is publicly covered or not, and under what conditions.
If you are a caregiver and considering assistive devices for your loved one, how you approach conversations about their use is an important part of the decision-making process. Taking into consideration your loved one’s needs, preferences, and concerns can highlight how these technologies can help them. Providing examples of how assistive devices can have a positive impact but enabling them to do the things they love – like participating in social and community activities – while easing any fears about aesthetics or stigma can make the conversation more productive.
It is important to acknowledge that there are many types of assistive devices and not all are required to be used 24/7. Things such as corrective eyeglasses, grab bars in the bath, non-slip floor mats, a loud-ringing phone or easy-grip utensils can greatly improve quality of life. Starting with something small may be a helpful transition into conversations about other devices that can be used to live more independently.
Whether you are a caregiver for an older adult, or you are curious about how an assistive device can help you, start by consulting health professionals and ask whether decision aids are available to help inform your decision-making process. If you are a caregiver, consider how you approach the conversation with your loved one to ensure you understand their needs, preferences, and concerns.
For more information on assistive technologies, read through our resources below.