EDITOR’S VIEW: Taking the stigma out of assistive technology

The level of assistive technology available to the mobility retail market is growing with each year that passes. But the big question facing the industry is how do you get more elderly people to use it in their homes?

I was intrigued to see that a council in England is aiming to find the answer to that after receiving a £25,000 grant from the Local Government Association. Knowsley Metropolitan Borough Council will use the cash to develop a project aimed at driving the adoption of assistive technology and care devices among senior users.

Its pilot scheme is actually one of seven others in the country and it will draw upon behavioural science techniques to increase the use of assistive technology among elderly people by between 10% and 12% in the next 12 months.

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One view held by Knowsley Metropolitan Borough Council is that elderly people are sometimes put off by assistive devices because they think of technology as being complicated, even though it might be affordable. To overcome this, the council initially plans to offer devices free-of-charge for 12 weeks and freely for a set period to people after they are discharged from hospital. Beyond this, there is the potential to apply other aspects of behavioural science to increase the amount of elderly people taking up assistive technology products.

The council’s chances of success will hinge on two things: its ability to change the way it presents the technology and its ability to demonstrate how it can be good for users. Its target groups include people who might be in great need and could use the technology as a prevention measure. This, notes the council, could be as simple and presentable as an Amazon Echo device.

If such projects prove fruitful they will provide valuable knowledge for other organisations to learn from. And ultimately it will shine a light on what it is going to take to ensure a greater portion of the population can reap the benefits of assistive technology.

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