Independent living for seniors

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Elderly woman using walker
Seniors can easily maintain their independence - despite any mobility, vision and hearing problems - with numerous products and services
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These helpful products and services improve a senior's life.

It's no surprise to hear that today, many seniors are running wild. They're vacationing at the seaside and dancing at swanky resorts. Other seniors need just a little help to make their lifestyles similarly comfortable. That help is easier than ever to access and enjoy.


The burgeoning field of assistive technology is providing a helping hand to thousands of seniors, intent on maintaining their independence despite problems related to mobility, vision, hearing and the like. Seniors are utilizing an impressive array of assistive devices to perform activities that otherwise might be difficult—or impossible. There are aids that help seniors—and others with disabilities—enjoy a wide range of daily activities:

• Participating in recreation
• Communicating with others
• Working without assistants
• Performing household chores
• Accessing computers
• Reading printed literature


Today, many assistive devices arrive on the doorstep via mail order. Others come from retail stores and home remodeling centers. However, there also are lending libraries from which seniors can borrow the aids they need—free of charge. Obtaining an item on loan enables one to try a product without springing for a pig in a poke—an object purchased without prior knowledge. The lending library offers a bit of 'try before you buy' convenience.

A call to one's state Department of Aging—or equivalent organization—can locate similar resources in mostly any part of the country. Pennsylvania's Assistive Technology Lending Library (PATLL) is based in Philadelphia at Temple University's Institute on Disabilities. Staffers at branches across the Commonwealth and at regional Assistive Technology Resource Centers (ATRCs) help patrons in those communities learn more about how the various aids work. Featured devices require no installation. Simplicity of use is a priority.

Available Products and Services

Some aids help a person with cooking and cleaning. Others are geared toward recreation. There are gadgets that magnify the print in books. There also are items that help folks who have difficulties bending or kneeling. The selection is diverse:

Desk lamps with attached magnifiers
• Shoe lace fasteners and shoe lace locks
• Arm-supported fishing rod holders
• Electric staplers and hole-punchers
• Typing and writing aids
• Sports gloves that help grip equipment

The Institute on Disabilities also offers a Telecommunication Device Distribution Program (TDDP) that provides free equipment to eligible Pennsylvanians. Independent living for seniors entails immediate, reliable access to telephone services. The telephone provides a sturdy lifeline for a person whose needs may include calling doctors, taxi cab companies, friends and occasionally, the local pizza parlor.

Today's assistive technologies enable anyone to stay well connected. The TDDP offers products for people whose vision, hearing, speech or mobility skills require a helpful boost. Available from the TDDP is a wide array of items:

• Amplified large-button speaker phones
• Cordless headset phones
• Talking telephones
• Signalers with lights, loud rings, vibrations
• Phones with voice-activated dialers
• Text telephones (TTY) with display screens

Social Independence

Independent living for seniors may require a variety of assistive tools. But mental and emotional needs are important, too. Community centers enable seniors to find activities that nurture their independence—on a highly social level. Available in many communities are fitness classes, nutrition workshops and counseling. Craft sessions address seniors' manual dexterity. Karaoke empowers the timid—and encourages the songbirds.

Patricia Buck, Older Adult Program Supervisor at Fels Community Family Center, added that one of the most important keys to independent living for seniors is accident prevention. The program provides seniors with some simple yet effective ways to stay safe at home:

• Use nightlights in hallways
• Use a rubber mat in the bath tub
• Install sturdy grab bars where needed
• Affix handrails alongside stairs
• Keep emergency numbers near phone
• Add extra phones throughout the house

A little forethought goes a long way toward securing independent living for seniors. There is a big world inside every home—and outside every door. Work, play, companionship and the challenge of life's adventures can keep anyone young at heart for a long, long time. But a little help is always nice.

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