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Last fall, MDOD’s Director of Emergency Preparedness Policy collaborated with the MD Technology Assistance Program to secure a grant for creating assistive technology kits to be used during disasters. A disaster or evacuation shelter provides life- saving mass care to survivors in their community so they can begin the recovery process. To ensure that Maryland meets the needs of the whole community, survivors need equal access to mass care, disaster assistance, and other recovery services. This means equal access to buildings, programs, communication, and information. Response and recovery services must be compliant with the ADA.

During the recent flash floods, the kits were deployed to shelters and disaster assistance centers in Howard and Baltimore Counties, and Baltimore City. MDOD works closely with Maryland Department of Human Services to ensure that the assistive technologies are available when mass care, repatriation, or recovery centers are open. The assistive technology kits are strategically located throughout the state to ensure they are operationally ready to support a disaster 24/7.

Hey Google!

Contributed by Erin Swann, MSE, ATP

“Hey Google, who won the hockey game last night?”

“Hey Google, turn on the living room light.”

“Hey Google, play my morning music playlist.”

Google Home and other smart home devices allow us to control many things in our environment simply by using our voice.

For some people with disabilities, having control over the lights, thermostat, doors, locks and many other things by using voice commands can be very powerful.

Google Home can also provide entertainment by playing music, audio books, or even TV shows and movies with the use of Chromecast on a TV.

And for those who could use some assistance with keeping organized, Google Home can keep track of your calendar, reminders, and even place phone calls for you.

We recently added the Google Home and Google Home Mini to our Assistive Technology Loan Library. Send us a message at mdtap@mdtap.org if you’d like to give Google Home a try!

We also have the Amazon Echo if you’d like to give that a try as well!

 

Contributed by Karen Weeks of Elder Wellness

Today’s senior citizens have an advantage that previous generations lacked: the Internet. With

access to the countless resources available online, today’s elderly can fight loneliness and

cognitive decline even as their health and mobility become limited. Here are seven ways that

seniors can socialize, learn new skills, and stay active, all from the comfort of home.

  1. Social Networks

Social networks let seniors keep in touch with friends and family, see the latest pictures of

children and grandchildren, and play games and share in discussion with friends and

acquaintances. Social networks also have the benefit of being easy to use, making them a great

entry point for less tech-savvy seniors.

  1. Online Games

Aging adults can keep their minds sharp with single-player online games like crosswords,

sudoku, and jigsaw puzzles, as well as “brain training” games. Online multiplayer games provide

the same stimulation with the added benefit of a social element, although not all of them are

suitable for beginners. Check out this list for games that are easy to learn.

  1. Online Music Lessons

According to National Geographic, playing an instrument has the power to “enhance and build

connections within the brain,” even if you don’t start playing until late in life. Online music

lessons are an excellent option for seniors who can’t travel for in-person instruction. For seniors

with arthritis, woodwind instruments like the clarinet offer more pain-free playing than more

common instruments like the piano or guitar. Even if seniors have never picked up a clarinet in

their lives, they can find the right fit with an online clarinet buying guide.

  1. Free College Courses

For seniors with a thirst for learning, free online courses are the perfect way to stay mentally

engaged in retirement. Whether they want to dabble in a diversity of subjects or pursue a

passion that was pushed aside during their career, seniors can find relevant courses through

websites like Coursera, Udemy, edX, and more. This rundown from Lifehack will help seniors

choose the best educational resource for their needs.

  1. Fitness Videos

Staying active is just as important for seniors as it is for younger adults. However, getting to the

gym isn’t always easy for seniors, and they may feel too intimidated to go at all. Online workout

videos provide a great alternative to a gym membership. While there are many free exercise

videos to be found online, not all of them are appropriate for people with limited mobility. Heart

and Soul Fitness is a welcome exception, with dozens of free videos designed for seniors.

     6. Citizen Science

For older adults who are curious about the natural world, contributing to citizen science projects

is a fun way to explore interests and feel like a part of a broader community. Seniors can use

the Internet to report bird sightings, submit recordings of frog and toad calls or examine

microscopic images for interstellar dust.

Retirement quickly becomes boring if you’re not learning and doing, but the effects of age make

it difficult for many seniors to get out of the house. By making use of resources available online,

seniors can find stimulation and interaction no matter their disability status. These six

suggestions are just a taste of the possibilities. If the senior in your life has an interest that isn’t

covered here, do a little digging—you’ll be amazed at what you can find online.

 

Seniors in Maryland who have trouble seeing the computer screen or using a computer keyboard or mouse should contact Maryland TAP to learn about different computer access methods and assistive technology that could make the computer easier to use! mdtap@mdtap.org

 

Suggestions Welcome!

Here at Maryland TAP, we are in the process of adding new devices to our assistive technology loan library.  As technology changes over time, we remove items from our loan library that are no longer being made and replace them with new and updated assistive technology devices.

Devices in our loan library can be borrowed for four weeks to help those with disabilities determine which device is best for them before they make any purchases.  We serve all ages and all types of disabilities.  We also loan assistive technology to family members or professionals who use it for evaluations, demonstrations, or presentations.

Below are a few items we are thinking about adding to our assistive technology loan library in the coming months.  Comment in the comment section under this post with any suggestions for devices, software, or apps that you’d like to see us add to our assistive technology loan library!

 

Quha Zono Mouse: A wireless computer mouse that can be worn on the head or hand.  It uses gyroscopic technology to match movement of the head or hand with movement of the mouse on the computer screen.
woman wearing the quha zono mouse mounted to an around the head headband

 

Snow 10 Pro: A portable video magnifier with a large 10-inch screen.  It also features OCR (Optical Character Recognition), which allows the user to take a picture of printed text and have it read out loud.

the snow 10 pro portable video magnifier with 10 inch screen

 

One-handed Cake Server: A cake server that could allow someone with the use of only one hand to cut and serve cake with ease.

one-handed cake server next to a cake with two pieces of cake that have been sliced

 

Contributed by Erin Swann, ATP

Voice banking is a method for people to use their spoken voice to create a digital voice that can be used in a communication device or app.  This process is especially useful for someone who may lose the ability to speak through a progressive disease, such as ALS.

While communication devices have natural sounding digital voices that speak for those who need them, some people prefer to have their communication device sound more like their own personal voice vs. the standard voice that comes with the device.

There are several companies that offer options for voice banking, and a few of them are listed below.  If you or someone you know may lose the ability to speak, it’s best to start the voice banking process as soon as possible before the voice starts to change.

Do you have experience with voice banking?  Share your experience in the comments below!

Lyrebird

VocaliD

Message Banking – Windows app

ModelTalker

My-own-voice

CereProc

 

Contributed by Karen Weeks of Elder Wellness

For many seniors, aging in place is the difference between happiness and depression. Older adults who have to leave their homes and move into a senior living community frequently have trouble adjusting to life in a setting where they can no longer make their own decisions or have the discretion to come and go as they please. It can be an emotionally wrenching change in lifestyle and some seniors never adjust. Unless they’re physically or mentally unable to care for themselves, most seniors want to stay in their own homes.

Moving can do more harm than good and leave an elderly person who’s used to being independent and self-reliant feeling depressed and abandoned. Other aspects of their health may suffer as well. Communications technology allows family members to monitor their older relative’s condition and state of mind remotely and from a distance, making it possible for more seniors than ever to age in place. It’s particularly valuable for those with limited mobility or seniors in the early stages of Alzheimer’s.

Daily interaction

Isolation and loneliness, a crippling problem for many older individuals, can be overcome through any number of technological options. Today, seniors have access to easy-to-use touch-screen computers and can learn to communicate with friends and family members through an application like Skype or FaceTime. Those who are uncomfortable with computers can still communicate via email with a MailBug machine or tablet. A Jitterbug Plus or TracFone can be an easier, less expensive option for seniors who find it difficult to use a smartphone.

Health monitoring

Telehealth uses an array of telecommunications options that help loved ones keep a close watch on an elderly relative’s health and monitor their medications. A senior with a condition that needs to be closely managed can keep in touch with health care providers through Telehealth. Medication reminders can be sent and blood pressure, heart and pulse rates monitored. In many cases, Telehealth offers such a robust menu of services that visits to the doctor’s office are minimized, further reducing the need for direct assistance or intervention.

Fitness fun

One of the benefits seniors gain from assisted living is the opportunity to stay fit mentally and physically with others who have similar needs. Wii Fit Plus offers an array of virtual games that help elderly individuals work muscles and stay limber at home. Seniors who live alone sometimes need a means of exercising their mental faculties. Brain Fitness Program improves memory, communication, and hearing with special mental challenges that keep elderly individuals sharp and mentally aware.

Vision assistance

Visual acuity diminishes as people age. Seniors with marked vision loss have a number of assistive resources that can help them read, a serious matter for people who need to take multiple medications every day. Screen magnifiers help seniors with low-vision capabilities read computer screens. Those with extreme vision loss can benefit from screen reader devices, which use software programs and a speech synthesizer or Braille display.

Substance abuse

If your relative has suffered with a substance abuse problem, there may be emotional and physical distance between you. It can be difficult to mend fences after many years of distrust, but try to put yourself in the other’s shoes. Try to understand their struggles and the nature of their problem. Technology can allow you to open the lines of communication if you’re not ready to reconnect in person.

Technology has improved our lives in countless ways. For older adults and their families, technology can make it possible to maintain close contact even if you’re separated by many miles. It’s a blessing for seniors who are determined to age in place and remain happy at home.

 

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