Assistive technology for older people

Assistive Technology is any product or service designed to enable independence for disabled and older people.
(King's Fund consultation, 2001)

From scooters to aid mobility to a device to turn off the gas if someone forgets, assistive technology is becoming cheaper and more widely available. A constantly changing range of assistive and adaptive products and services in the market place means that understanding what is on offer is increasingly complex.  The growth in assistive technologies for older people is partly driven by the development of the technologies themselves and advances in telecare, and partly by the personalisation agenda and moves towards greater independence. Will you need to train people in some of these new assistive technologies? Will they complement or replace your services for older people? Read on for more on how you can prepare for these developments.

What are the implications?

  • Older people’s independence and ability to stay at home may be increased.
  • An increasing range of products and services on the market may lead to confusion amongst providers and users.
  • Increasing concern over ethical considerations such as loss of autonomy, surveillance and privacy.
  • Older people may be suspicious of unfamiliar technology, (see digital exclusion).
  • An increase in the range of products and services available, and in the number of people utilising them as technological costs fall, and assistive technology becomes more affordable and easier to use including, telecare, telehealth and telemedicine.
  • A risk that organisations may find it difficult to keep up with such fast emerging technologies.
  • Inequalities of access related to funding and knowledge.

Moving forward

Assistive technology generally has the potential to greatly empower people, as long as those providing it know how to properly support older people in its use, and older people have also been involved in its design and application.

  • Can your organisation support GPs, community and occupational therapists in empowering older people to play an active role in assessing their care needs for assistive technology?
  • Are there solutions your organisation can offer to fill the gap when delays in the provision of appliances and aids are held up, such as providing items on loan?

Service providers need to keep up to date with the newest technologies and new ways to deliver services using new technologies.

  • Could your organisation develop a pool of volunteers trained in providing needs assessment and liaising with supply agencies?
  • How can your organisation influence the use of Individual Budgets to purchase technologies?
  • How can older people’s organisations take advantage of large national contracts for supply and provision of assistive technology products given the current market place?

If you need some guidance thinking through the options open to you, have a look at our pages on planning. You need to bear in mind some of the issues here and on our other drivers to feed into your planning.

You might also like to have a look at our Future Focus 6 which looks at how the UK population is changing and what this means for civil society organisations. And of course you can join for free to get our ebulletin which will help you think through all these elements to face the future with confidence.

Want to know more?

Research briefing: Assistive technology and older people

Published by: Social care institute for excellence

Date: 2008

Format: Web

What is it? Briefing on assistive technology

How useful is this? Along with defining assistive technology and providing examples of their use for older people by individuals, practitioners and organisations in meeting the needs of older people, this briefing examines claims made about assistive technology and its benefits, identifying relevant points to the UK health and social care system.Implications from the research for policy makers, health and social care organisations and practitioners, users and carers are also discussed.

Other comments?  Includes a list of useful web-links

Older people and information and communication technologies – an ethical approach

Published by: The European Older People’s Platform

Date: 2008

Format: PDF

What is it? Discussion paper examining the ethics of assistive technology

How useful is this? This paper raises some interesting questions about the use of assistive technologies and the tension between its assumed value and its potential invasion of individual freedoms.

Other comments? The European Older People’s Platform has links to a lot of useful resources on issues facing older people.

Assistive Technology: Independence and well-being paper 4

Published by: The Audit Commission

Date: 2004

Format: Web

What is it? A paper examining the role of assistive technology in supporting independence.

How useful is this? This paper examines the importance of assistive technologies to individuals and organisations and evidence for its use in promoting independence. It also looks at barriers that might be faced, how these can best be overcome, and makes recommendations on its future implementation in the health and social care field.

Other comments?

Last updated at 13:44 Thu 17/Feb/11.


How will this affect your organisation? Have you considered it during your strategic planning? Can you share any interesting relevant links?

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