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Removing the Stigma of Assistive Devices for Seniors

Imagine for a moment no longer being able to complete the activities that had been second nature to you throughout your entire life. The interruptions to your ability to independently complete the instrumental activities of daily living (IADLs) would cause a range of emotions from frustration to embarrassment. Add on to that the stigma some people have with regard to using an assistance device – which can feel like a beacon identifying to everyone around them that they have a disability.

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The concerns around the use of assistive devices are important to address within the elderly community — especially because in the U.S, of the 6.1 million community-dwelling adults using assistance devices,66% are people 65 or older.

Fortunately, there are a couple of ways to address the issue of assistive devices for older adults and make the use of such devices more appealing.

Emphasize the Benefits of Assistive Devices for Elderly People

One of the most important things to emphasize about assistive devices is that they are made to aid in areas where the body is having difficulty. This is in contrast to the societal perception that one’s limitation is because of the device. For instance, wheelchairs and scooters improve independent mobility, reduce functional decline, and decrease the burden of care on others. Canes and crutches help redistribute weight so that still-strong arms can support lower extremities that need some help.

Depending on a person’s medical condition, assistive devices for seniors can also offer benefits in areas like cardiorespiratory performance and circulation. Not to mention the psychological benefits of being able to take part in activities in a variety of environments with family and friends. Addressing these points with an elderly loved one may help them remember that assistive devices are not a sign of weakness but rather a way to help them maintain their quality of life.

Personalize Your Assistive Device

Another reason assistive devices can be met with trepidation is that they can be visually bland. Yet, just like orthodontic braces, prescription eyewear, or casts for broken bones before them, assistance devices are seeing a renaissance in terms of design.

Liz Jackson, a former Ellen show staff member-turned-assistive fashion advocate reflected on her first assistive device: “I had found this purple cane, and it had sort of changed my perception on having to use a cane.” Liz had been diagnosed with idiopathic neuropathy but did not allow it to stop her from living a full life. She’s gone on to advocate that retailers add assistive devices to their product offerings.

The feelings she expressed, of being more accepting of her device because it fit her personality, is one that elderly adults can probably identify with and the community as a whole is catching on. Companies like FashionableCane offer a wide array of trendy products. People now customize wheelchairs in a variety of ways, and social media offers inspiration from assistive device users worldwide. As long as a doctor has evaluated the device for fit and usage, there’s a whole world of uniqueness to explore.

No matter how we promote the use of assistive devices for older adults, it is important to never lose sight of the ultimate goal; their use helps in maintaining a better quality of life.