Independence means everything

Assistive technologies help tackle the challenges posed by ageing and disabilities

What immediately comes to mind when evoking active assisted living (AAL) is that it is essential in helping senior citizens keep as good a quality of life as possible. The focus is obviously on the elderly in industrialized countries where the population is ageing rapidly. But AAL represents more than that – it is meant for all people who suffer from illnesses or physical, mental and social disabilities. The general concept is to ensure that they live their life independently and comfortably in their own environment for as long as they can manage.

assistive technology for seniors
With the help of assistive technology, people can overcome their disabilities and become better integrated into all aspects of community living (Photo: Specialised Assistive Technology Centre, Singapore)

A wide array of technologies

Everyone can benefit from the use of smart devices and appliances, from new technological developments in healthcare, from new home designs that incorporate sensors in every corner of the house that allow people to control doors, windows, heating and much more through applications on their smartphone or tablet. For older or disabled people, these technologies may be life-changing. They can stay in their own home instead of having to go to specialized institutions; they can be independent while knowing that, in case of problems, help from family, caregivers or emergency services is available at the touch of a button. 

Elderly or disabled people often feel isolated. AAL develops programmes and applications that help them remain socially active. They can chat online with their family on a regular basis; assistive robots allow them to interact with their caregivers or doctors via videoconference while the latter can remotely visit their patient’s environment to ensure all is as it should be. 

Ongoing developments

Not a day goes by without its lot of launches in smart technologies, in healthcare and medical equipment, in robotics and wearable devices. With the proportion of people aged 60+ expected to almost double from 12% to 20% between 2015 and 2050 and more than one billion living with some kind of disability (WHO), the necessity to devise new forms of assistance is essential. Assistive technology will most certainly play a major role in the future in contributing to the care and wellbeing of this part of the population.