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Finding a good car is difficult enough, with sky-rocketing gas prices, ever increasing gadgets and rising sales costs.  For those who use wheelchairs or caregivers who transport loved ones in wheelchairs, the challenge can seem even greater.  From expert resources and user reviews, we compiled this list that can kick-start your search for the most comfortable and most user-friendly vehicle.

Kenguru cars allow drivers to roll right in.

Credit: Kengurucars.com

Before purchasing, here are some things to consider:

-  Ease of parking – Consider a ramp extension or space to pull out the wheel chair in addition to finding  a vehicle that can comfortably fit into standard parking spaces.

-   Space – You want to not only be able to get the passenger and wheelchair into the car, but to also have enough leg room. The height of the doors and storage space should allow for easy transfer of the passenger and wheelchair in and out quickly.

-   Utility – Considerations that may be taken for granted are orientation of functions such as the height of the steering wheel and layout of navigation tools which may need to be adjusted in standard vehicles.

1)      Honda Element – This car has a seating configuration that is inherently accommodating for those in wheelchairs, and frequently needs little or no modifications for those using wheelchairs. The doors are more than accommodating in size for a wheelchair. It offers options for style, performance, and accommodation of lifestyle. The Element is more affordable than a modified van.

2)      Ams Vans Minivan – A minivan is considerably cheaper than an SUV alternative and tends to have lower doors.  These cars also tend to have a higher passenger capacity than a standard sedan.  The seats fold down so you can move around inside without climbing over seats.  On the downside, they tend to not accommodate wider or taller wheelchairs.

3)      MV-1 Mobility Car – Due to a green CNG fueling system, this vehicle has better gas mileage than a standard minivan. Parking is easy and it showcases a classy interior and safety features including anti-slip surfaces and electronic stability control. This model however, does not allow occupants to drive independently and driving does take getting used to, particularly when the car is full of passengers.

4)     Chevrolet Silverado Truck– Companies such as Mobility SVM (formerly Go Shichi) offer Disability Accessible Trucks that they themselves converted or will convert for you. The model they most frequently work with is the Chevrolet Silverado, though the GMC Sierra 1500 series has also been popular. Trucks are useful for those who continue working, gardening or just need to cart around a lot of equipment.  Gas is more expensive for trucks, as of course is parking.

5)     Kenguru- More like a wheelchair scooter, the Kenguru is an invention from Norway that is a great alternative to getting around locally and for short trips.  It accelerates up to 60 miles per hour and is fairly small to fit almost anywhere.  The vehicle allows wheel-chair drivers to roll right in to propel the car straight from their wheelchair.  However, there is no storage space or room to transport other riders.

At the 2012 IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation (ICRA) this week, the Clothbot, a personal modular robot, has been developed with the aspiration to assist in home care.  This digital friend can be of valuable use in monitoring health of the elderly or disabled.

Created by the Chinese Academy of Sciences and the Chinese University of Hong Kong, this tech friend can climb up and down stairs, navigate across rugged surfaces, and follow you around.

Its creators, headed by Yuanyuan Liu, envisioned a robot that can:

-          Conduct “body inspection”

-          “Act as a movable phone on our shoulder with frees human hands”

-          “A tiny pet climbing on human bodies”

While others might find this invasive or perhaps creepy, there is a great potential benefit that can come from an interactive robot like Clothbot:

-          A tracking and monitoring device to assist someone who is unable to grip or hold other devices, such as a phone, can be extremely beneficial

-          An alarm system that alerts the recipient of the information any potential danger, similar to sensory detectors or alarms

-          Increase interaction and activity among idle elders (similar robots have been used as games)

-          Companionship  – Just recently, Britain’s Royal Academy of Engineering recommended similar autonomous devices such as the Dream Cat Venus to provide companionship to older people.

 

Community Press has created a book intended to help elders stay safe online. The book, Computer Scams, Shams, and Spam: How to Safely Enjoy Your Online Time [For Boomers and Beyond], provides older computer users the education they need to protect themselves from the scam artists that prey on
them via email, at websites, as well as over the phone.  Filled with pictures and  real-life examples of malicious campaigns against the elderly, the book is a valuable resource for older people who want to reap the benefits of online engagement while protecting themselves from cyberthreats. For more information about the book, check out Community Press’ website.

Top tips include:

1) Protect your personal information. Read privacy policies, check URLS, and shop only with trustworthy businesses

2) Beware of deals that sound “too good to be true.” You already have heard it, if it sounds “too good to be true” it probably is. Unsolicited emails from “lost relatives,” “Nigerian businessmen,” and people selling care in another state are almost always shams. If someone contacts you promising you funds, be suspicious.

3) Watch out for phishing. Phishing is an attempt by an illigitamate business to impersonate a legitatmate business and dupe customers into “verifying” their personal information. Click on the links in a phishing email, and you’ll be directed to a site that looks like the site you normally use, but this one is set up to steal your info! With step-by-step advice,  Computer Scams, Shams and Spam can help your parent or grandparent figure out what to trust, and what to stay away from.

A new technology aims to help older drivers stay on the road for longer, using pictures of mail boxes or restaurants as visual turning cues. The tool, which has been nicknamed “the Granny Nav” is being investigated as a part of the UK’s Research Council efforts to help facilitate safe driving among the elderly. According to a press release, Professor Phil Blythe stated that “For many older people, particularly those living alone or in rural areas, driving is essential for maintaining their independence.” The technology is a part of an effort to examine whether people could continue to drive safely when given technological supports to overcome decreased reaction time that is a normal part of ageing.  To figure out the best ways to help keep older people on the road, the Intelligent Transport team at Newcastle University converted an electric car into a mobile laboratory called DriveLAB.  Using tracking sensors, motion monitors, and bio-monitors, researchers are able to document response times and processes among older drivers. Preliminary findings suggest that use of advanced external cues can help older drivers prepare for and properly execute driving maneuvers. The research will be presented at an Aging, Mobility and Quality of Life conference in Michigan, USA in June.

Photo courtesy of jamelah

The Director of IAHSA, Katie Smith-Sloan, recently met with representatives of Panasonic to discuss their innovative products for seniors. Some of the Panasonic products currently on the market in Japan include a robotic companion teddy bear, a hair-washing robot, and a mobility bed. Panasonic is also working on developing other products to enable the virtual delivery of rehabilitation services.  As a part of its service line in Japan, Panasonic operates a variety of long-term care facilities and rehab centers, and hopes that the development of new technologies will enable them to better serve their client base. Interested in learning more? Check out the video on their website.

Are you signed up for the International Federation on Aging’s 11th Global Conference on Aging? This year the event will feature a Senior Government Officials Meeting to discuss the role of Technology in Long Term Care.  Technologies to be reviewed include medication optimization, remote patient monitoring, assistive technologies, remote training, disease management, cognitive fitness and social networking tools. Join the conference from 28 May to 1 June 2012, where speakers will include Professor Greg Tegart,  Richard Watson, Dr Eric Dishman, and Msc. Anneke Offereins. To sign up of for more information, visit the website below!

This morning IAHSA received a visit from the Executive Director of Fundacion Saldarriaga Concha, Dr. Soraya Montoya. The Saldarriaga Concha Foundation is a Colombian institution that has worked since 1973 to increase organizational capacity and societal awareness of issues faced by elderly or disabled persons. The  issue of ageing in Latin America is increasingly urgent, as Latin America has a growing population of older people and relatively underdeveloped social security and healthcare systems. Dr. Montoya stressed the importance preserving the human dignity of older persons. “They do not just need health care and a pension. Those things are important, but it is also very important for older people to feel like they are integrated into society.”

The Foundation is seeking to expand its work in the area of age appropriate technologies to help older people stay connected with their family members. In the past year they have financed courses to help senior learn basic computer skills and their on-line recipe competition received over 800 entrees. “The older people are so happy when they are able to get on the internet and send letters to their son or their grandchild,” said Dr. Montoya. “We really see that the interest is there and we are interested in helping people connect with one another through technology.” Want to stay connected with Saldarriaga Concha? Follow them on Twitter or Facebook or check out this video (Spanish), highlighting the Foundation’s ageing initiatives.

 

Earlier this week ACSA announced the appointment of Adjunct Professor John Kelly AM to the role of CEO. He will be based out of Canberra. “It’s a significant time for the sector and the community as the Government prepares to formally respond to the PC’s Report ‘Caring for Older Australians’ and the discussions surrounding the establishment of the Australian Charities and Not for Profits Commission,” Professor Kelly said. “I look forward to advocating on behalf of ACSA’s membership in these critical discussions.”

Professor Kelly has over 15 years of experience as a director of not‐for‐profit and remunerated health and aged care related organisations. He is also a recognised expert on health law, health administration and health policy.  In 2010 he temporarily held the position of Commonwealth Aged Care Commissioner, appointed by the Australian government.

Check out this video where Professor Kelly discusses the future of robotics in elder care.

Did you see the article in the New York Daily News on the increased use of robots in elder care facilities? Thanks to advances in computational technologies, robots are now able to assist with tasks such as moving people, washing people’s hair, and delivering items to people.

Check out this video highlighting a robot that is able to lift people out of bed and sit them up in a chair.

MyFriends Online Week kicks off this Monday 19 March and runs through 25 March 2012. The purpose of the campaign is to help seniors learn to use the internet to access information, connect with family and friends and improve their ability to find care and supports. Check out this video from AgeUK on how you can be a part this year!

About this blog

IAHSA’s Global Ageing Network Blog was created because of you!! We got your message loud and clear – “Provide us with a quick and nimble communications vehicle so we can stay connected and create community across borders".

Questions? Email us at iahsa@leadingage.org.

Authors

Virginia Nuessle, Study Tour Director

Majd Alwan, Director, CAST

Alla Rubinstein, Program Administrator, IAHSA

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