You get in the car, turn the key and drive to the store. Simple! You grab a hammer, take a nail, strike the nail with the hammer and hang the picture. Simple! You don't stop and think. You take advantage of what's appropriate and what's available to accomplish your task. It's called using a TOOL! According to a 2014 study by Global Social Enterprise Initiative (GSEI) at Georgetown University, 91% of all seniors want to age in their own home. If that statistic is true, then why do some seniors insist on not taking advantage of the tools that will allow us to accomplish that?
Recently, I went to visit a neighbor who had suffered a fall. She had worked hard in rehab to recover and was now able to return home, but under strict orders from her physician to use a walker. On her second day home, I knocked on the door just to check on her. Here she came, floppy bedroom shoes scuffing along, and NO WALKER. When she opened the door, I said, "Duffy, where's your walker? You're still recovering." Her reply, as she held precariously on to a chair, "Well, I don't need it here in the house, I really only use it when I have to go out."
Oh my goodness, how I wish i didn't see this as frequently as I do. The reality is far too many seniors don't take advantage of the tools that allow us to get healthy and stay healthy in our own homes. The stigma of using a walker or cane, or wearing a first alert bracelet or necklace because it "makes me look old" is putting our health and our continued mobility at risk. Per a 2014 article by the Center for Disease control, the fact is one in three of us over the age of 65 will fall this year.
Since many seniors live alone, falling becomes an even larger issue. My mother in law always felt confident because she "had her cell phone." One night, she fell getting out of the bed and broke a bone. Yes -- her cell phone was where she could SEE it, but she could not REACH it. She lay there in pain for hours until she crawled to her phone to call for help. If she had only had a first alert pendant, what a difference it would have made.
It's normal to think, "that will never happen to me"... until it does. We live in an age of technology and innovation. That technology and innovation is going to allow us to live at home longer - but only if we use it. There are many examples of low tech and high tech that can be harnessed to give us more independence and better lives.
Low tech -simple things to keep us safe:
- Using a walker or cane consistently as recommended by our physician for balance and mobility
- Adding grab bars to the shower or bath
- Reorganizing our kitchen and closet so that we are not reaching or using a stool
- Asking family, friends, or hiring a service for difficult yard work and home repair
- Asking family, friends, or even calling a service if we are unable to drive to do errands, doctor appointments, and social activities
- Opening ourselves up to services such as Meals on Wheels, Friendship Trays to insure proper nutrition
- Welcoming and asking for assistance from friends, and family
High tech - technologies that can enhance our lives:
- First alert bracelets or pendants that provide easy access to immediate assistance
- Electronic pill dispensers - a simple unit that alerts the user that medications are ready to be taken and delivers them in the proper dosage from the dispenser
- GPS tracking service on your cell phone so that family and friends can know your exact location in an emergency
- Mobile/rechargeable wheelchairs/ scooters allow for enhanced mobility
- Skype and other computer tools to stay in touch with family and friends
There are many more low and high tech tools of which we can take advantage, but the key is to remember the old adage "pride go before the fall." Don't put up roadblocks to the tools that can keep you healthy, happy, productive and mobile for as long as possible. The tools and technology are there - all we have to do is USE THEM!