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"How old would you be if you didn't know how old you were?"

—Satchel Paige


By the end of this chapter, readers will be able to:

  1. Describe the three ways the built environment can be adapted or modified to benefit older individuals.

  2. Differentiate among accessible design, adaptable design, transgenerational design, and universal design.

  3. Define and describe assistive technology.

  4. Differentiate between high-tech and low-tech devices.

  5. Describe the devices used for individuals with mobility impairments, including environmental control devices and mobility aids.

  6. Describe the devices that may be helpful to individuals with visual impairments.

  7. Describe devices that may be helpful to individuals with hearing deficits.

  8. Describe the devices that may be helpful to individuals with cognitive impairments.

  9. Describe how the World Health Organization's International Classification of Functioning (ICF) model and Occupational Therapy Practice Framework (American Occupational Therapy Association, 2014) can be used to determine the types of devices that may be helpful to a particular individual.

  10. Discuss the limitations in the usefulness of technological devices.

Clinical Vignette

Ralph Smith, a 74-year-old retired teacher from rural South Georgia, is about to be discharged from his local hospital. A week ago, while tending his garden, he felt dizzy, had trouble seeing clearly, and developed an intense headache. His wife drove him to the hospital where he was diagnosed with a hemorrhagic stroke. As a result of this stroke, Mr. Smith now has difficulty walking and has lost most of the function in his right arm. Before the stroke, Mr. Smith would go for long walks in the morning with his dogs, and often spent the afternoons tending to his chickens and taking care of his garden. Mr. Smith lives with his wife in a small farmhouse he built himself with the help of his brother and his next-door neighbor.

  1. Do you think Mr. Smith will be able to continue participating in the activities he likes?

  2. How would you help Mr. Smith so he can continue doing the things he likes? How would you change his environment?

  3. What tools can Mr. Smith use to compensate for some of his limitations?

This chapter begins with an overview of how the built environment can be adapted or modified to increase or maintain functional performance for older individuals with disabilities. This is followed by a discussion of how the World Health Organization (WHO) International Classification of Functioning Disability and Health (ICF; 2013) model can be used as a tool to evaluate needs and select appropriate assistive devices. The chapter then describes some common assistive technology devices used to compensate for various age-related problems (i.e., mobility, vision, hearing, and memory) and concludes with a brief discussion of important issues related to technology and older adults.

This chapter emphasizes the use of technology to support function. It is important to understand what constitutes technology. In its broadest sense, it can be ...

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