46 attendees learn about design principles and emerging products

Almonte, Ontario, November 5 – Forty-six people from a variety of backgrounds attended a 5-hour workshop on assistive technology at the Almonte Civitan Club today. Very generously, Dr. Mihailidis donated his time to travel from Toronto to explain assistive technology for seniors, a subject he has immersed himself in for many years. A very general definition of assistive technology is any device, software, or environment that enables people to accomplish something. Assistive technology can address physical, sensory or cognitive issues. Usually assistive technology is thought of as something only for disabled people but it can be applied to everyone, including the caregiver. For example, bifocal glasses are assistive technology.

The impending growth of the senior population will put tremendous pressure on the health care system if changes in dealing with the problems of old age are not made. Assistive technology can enable seniors to “age in place” instead of moving to higher cost assisted living and long-term care. One major concern for seniors living alone is falls. The current assistive technology device is a button worn around the neck for the person to push to summon help when they fall. Many seniors reject this both because it has a stigma and because of the month monitoring cost. The workshop was shown a soon-to-be-released product that can detect a fall and summon help without the intervention of a call-monitoring centre.

When professional care is needed assistive technology can reduce the care demand and still improve quality of life. Dr. Mihailidis showed an actual study he conducted using a video camera, display, speaker and software to monitor and prompt people with dementia while they were washing their hands. Hand washing improved greatly and caregiver monitoring time was reduced by over a factor of ten.

The day was packed with information such as the design principles for assistive technology and examples of how well intended assistive technologies can be rejected by the user. The rejection rates are very high. These insights should help those make caregiving decisions and developing policy for seniors more effectively apply assistive technologies to solve aging issues for their friends, relatives and clients.

The Lanark County chapter of CARP (Canadian Association of Retired Persons), The Mills Community Support Corporation and the Alzheimer Society of Lanark County sponsored the workshop. Lunch was served by volunteers from the Civitan Club of Almonte.

Presenter Alex Mihailidis, Ph.D., P.Eng., is the Barbara G. Stymiest Research Chair in Rehabilitation Technology at the University of Toronto and Toronto Rehab Institute. He is an Associate Professor in the Department of Occupational Therapy and in the Institute of Biomaterials and Biomedical Engineering at the University of Toronto. He has been conducting research in the field of pervasive computing and intelligent systems in heath for 15 years. One focus has been on intelligent home systems for elder care and wellness. Dr. Mihailidis is also very active in the rehabilitation profession, currently as the President of RESNA (Rehabilitation Engineering and Assistive Technology Society of North America).

About the Lanark Chapter of CARP

The Lanark Chapter 55 of CARP held its founding meeting in conjunction with the September Almonte Seniors Expo, of which it was a sponsor. The chapter is getting off to a quick start in supporting seniors issues by co-sponsoring the “Assistive Technology for Seniors: Approaches and Innovations” workshop. Don Cram, chapter chairperson, invites all Lanark County members of CARP to get involved with the local chapter to participate in setting its focus and direction. Contact Don at [email protected].

About The Mills Community Support Corporation

Mills Community Support Corporation is a multi-service organization assisting over 1,000 people throughout Lanark County with specialized supportive housing services, non-profit housing services, and home support services. These services assist individuals, young families and seniors who may be economically disadvantaged, as well as people of all ages who require support, to live as independently as possible for as long as possible. The vision: An “age-friendly community” in which people of all abilities live in a state of dignity, share in all elements of living in a community and have the opportunity to participate effectively.

About the Alzheimer Society of Lanark County

The Alzheimer Society is the leading not-for-profit health organization working to improve the quality of life for Lanark County residents affected by Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias and to advance the search for the cause and cure. Support is offered to individuals who have been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, and to families and caregivers of those with the disease. The society also offers educational opportunities and resources for those seeking to understand the effects of dementia. Contact Karen Timmons at [email protected].