(Illustration by Matt Saunders for The Washington Post)
by Hawken Miller
“When Jackson Reece lost his arms and legs to sepsis after already being paralyzed, he thought his life was over. It was video games that brought him back.
Almost $1.5M Extended in Consumer Loans to Pennsylvanians with Disabilities for Assistive Technology in 2018
Pennsylvania Assistive Technology Foundation Celebrates Its Successes in 2018 and Releases its 2018-2019 Annual Report that Outlines the Organization’s Latest Accomplishments, Including the Publication of Funding Your Assistive Technology: A Guide to Funding Resources in Pennsylvania.
Harrisburg (June 3, 2019)– The latest accomplishments of Pennsylvania Assistive Technology Foundation (PATF) were highlighted at a press conference held today at the Capitol Rotunda at 10:30 a.m., hosted by Nancy Murray, President of The Arc of Greater Pittsburgh/ACHIEVA and the in-coming Board President of PATF, and Susan Tachau, Chief Executive Officer of PATF.
PATF continues to achieve outstanding results for individuals with disabilities and older Pennsylvanians, helping them purchase the assistive technology (AT) devices and services they need. The program leverages a small amount of public funding into a large number of loans that strengthen our communities. In addition, the repayment of loans from past borrowers provides funding for future borrowers. Remarkably, even though PATF makes many non-traditional loans, its loan loss rate for the last year is only 2.1%, which is better than the industry nonperformance average.
Through loans valued at more than $36M ($1.5M in 2018) and with over 14,000 Pennsylvanians helped since its founding in 1998, PATF is the only Community Development Financial Institution (CDFI) in Pennsylvania that extends consumer loans to individuals with disabilities and their families.
At today’s press conference, PATF released its 2018-2019 Annual Report, demonstrating a continued demand for its financial products. The Report highlights the following noteworthy statistics for 2018-19:
- 278 no-interest or low-interest consumer loans were extended worth $1.5M.
- More than 1,178 people were helped through Information & Assistance (I&A) services.
- 122 trainings were conducted about financial education, funding resources and assistive technology.
Nancy Murray spoke about the importance of helping people with disabilities and family members navigate the complexities of financing their AT needs. She urged everyone to pick up a copy of PATF’s new, comprehensive book, Funding Your Assistive Technology: A Guide to Funding Resources in Pennsylvania. Published in April, 454 people have already downloaded the book from PATF’s website, www.patf.us.
Susan Tachau thanked Governor Wolf and the General Assembly for their long-standing support of PATF. She stated, “We are so grateful to the Governor and our elected officials for making it possible for PATF to help Pennsylvanians with disabilities of all ages and incomes help themselves. Most of our borrowers do not have access to conventional lending markets-and therefore, do not have access to the capital that’s needed to purchase assistive technology. We remain committed to creating programs that are meaningful and respond to our ever-changing world of technology.”
Pennsylvania policymakers spoke about their continued commitment to provide essential public and private funding for the program. Speakers included:
- Senators Camera Bartolotta, Bob Mensch, and Christine Tartaglione; and
- Representatives Sheryl Delozier, Patty Kim, Brandon Markosek, and Melissa Shusterman.
Additional speakers included:
- Ms. D.J. Stemmler, PATF borrower featured in the 2018-2019 Annual Report, stated “PATF was willing to fund the van and the adaptive equipment-something most commercial banks won’t do. Without this loan, I wouldn’t have been able to continue to work.”
- David Gates, Esq., Senior Attorney, PA Health Law Project and PATF Board member, who discussed the importance of integrating financial education into community programming and he encouraged attendance at PATF’s upcoming conference, Vision for the Future: Financial Empowerment for Individuals with Disabilities on October 3, 2019 at the Keystone Building, Harrisburg.
- Matthew Seeley, Esq., Executive Director, PA Statewide Independent Living Council, who discussed blending PATF funding with PA Office of Vocational Rehabilitation (OVR) funds for the purchase of his van so that he could work and be active in the community.
- Abbie Spackman and Kendra Martin, PA AgrAbility Project, who talked about PA’s AgrAbility Program, a program that helps farmers with disabilities remain in production agriculture, and their collaboration with PATF.
Nancy Murray closed the press conference by announcing that PATF was honored to be included again in the Governor’s proposed budget for fiscal year 2020 in a line item called Assistive Technology Financing (or Devices), within the Department of Labor & Industry. The appropriation supports PATF’s operations on behalf of people with disabilities of all ages and incomes throughout the Commonwealth. PATF is advocating for an increase of $50,000 (total of $500,000) to support the costs associated with outreach and underwriting new loan applications and providing financial education trainings and one-on-one coaching.
SOURCE: news release
“Can We Live Longer but Stay Younger? | With greater longevity, the quest to avoid the infirmities of aging is more urgent than ever.” – The New Yorker
Some view old age not as a fact to be endured but as a disease to be cured.
Illustration by Igor Bastidas
by Adam Gopnik
“Aging, like bankruptcy in Hemingway’s description, happens two ways, slowly and then all at once. The slow way is the familiar one: decades pass with little sense of internal change, middle age arrives with only a slight slowing down—a name lost, a lumbar ache, a sprinkling of white hairs and eye wrinkles. The fast way happens as a series of lurches: eyes occlude, hearing dwindles, a hand trembles where it hadn’t, a hip breaks—the usually hale and hearty doctor’s murmur in the yearly checkup, There are some signs here that concern me.
“To get a sense of what it would be like to have the slow process become the fast process, you can go to the AgeLab, at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, in Cambridge, and put on agnes (for Age Gain Now Empathy System). agnes, or the ‘sudden aging’ suit, as Joseph Coughlin, the founder and director of the AgeLab describes it, includes yellow glasses, which convey a sense of the yellowing of the ocular lens that comes with age; a boxer’s neck harness, which mimics the diminished mobility of the cervical spine; bands around the elbows, wrists, and knees to simulate stiffness; boots with foam padding to produce a loss of tactile feedback; and special gloves to ‘reduce tactile acuity while adding resistance to finger movements.'”
(MIKE REDDY FOR STAT)
by Mike Reddy
“CLEVELAND — Seven floors, and long odds, were stacked against John S. He was undergoing a test on the first floor of a Cleveland Clinic hospital when his nursing team — on the eighth floor — got a call, telling them the 57-year-old had developed a dangerously rapid heartbeat that was spiraling toward cardiac arrest.
“It is a predicament that often ends badly. Only about 25 percent of U.S. patients survive when their hearts stop in hospitals. Crucial minutes elapse before help arrives, sometimes because alarms are missed amid the din of beeping monitors.
“But the call that day didn’t come from within the hospital. It came from a darkened room in an office park several miles away, where a technician in the clinic’s Central Monitoring Unit (CMU) was watching the patient’s vital signs on a computer monitor and noticed the onset of ventricular tachycardia.”
Continue reading this STAT news article in its entirety, click here.
Long-Awaited Assistive Technology Funding Guide for People with Disabilities and Older Pennsylvanians is Published
“Local organization helps Pennsylvanians navigate complicated process of paying for assistive technology devices and services in a free, user-friendly guide”
KING OF PRUSSIA, PA—Today, Pennsylvania Assistive Technology Foundation (PATF) is bringing clarity to the complex process of funding assistive technology (AT) by publishing an easy-to-read guide, Funding Your Assistive Technology: A Guide to Funding Resources in Pennsylvania (http://www.patf.us/fundingyourat/), the first of its kind to be compiled for people with disabilities and seniors in Pennsylvania.
“At PATF, we define assistive technology as any device that helps a person with a disability achieve a more independent and productive life. Examples include a ramp into a home, smart home technology, and hearing aids,” explains Susan Tachau, Chief Executive Officer of PATF. “These devices are critical for many people with disabilities to go to work, live in their own homes, and actively participate in the community.”
The conversation around assistive technology is often centered on new advancements and innovative applications, while consideration for how to pay for this technology remains an afterthought. In fact, one of the leading obstacles for many people in obtaining assistive technology is finding the money to pay for it. And, there are many circumstances to take into account when developing a funding solution. A person’s diagnosis, age, whether or not they are a student, where they live, whether or not they work, their financial situation, and their wants and needs all factor into determining what funding options are available.
The friendly tone of Funding Your Assistive Technology: A Guide to Funding Resources in Pennsylvania, leads readers through the decision of choosing an appropriate assistive technology device and/or service to developing a funding strategy with simple instructions and sound advice. The Guide suggests: “Look at your objective first and work backwards from there: ‘What am I trying to do?’ and then, ‘What technology or device would best support me in reaching this goal?’ It’s easy to be wooed by fancy marketing and flashy technology, but by focusing attention on the task you are trying to accomplish—the functional skill—you are more likely to find the device that most closely fits your wants and needs.”
Topics covered include:
- What Is Assistive Technology?
- Choosing My Assistive Technology
- Developing a Successful Funding Strategy
- Accessing Assistive Technology Through Home and Community-Based Waiver Programs (including Community HealthChoices)
- A Funding Resource List
- Saving for Assistive Technology: ABLE vs Special Needs Trusts
“This comprehensive guide is an easy-to-use resource for Pennsylvanians with disabilities, seniors, their families, service providers, and legislators. It empowers Pennsylvanians with the knowledge to gain access to devices and services that make independence and autonomy possible,” says Nancy Murray, President of The Arc of Greater Pittsburgh at ACHIEVA and incoming Board President at PATF.
Funding Your Assistive Technology was made possible through a generous grant by The Donald B. and Dorothy L. Stabler Foundation of Harrisburg, PA and can be downloaded free of charge as a PDF at: http://www.patf.us/fundingyourat/.
“Older people play an outsized role in civic life. They also are more likely to be online targets for misinformation and hyperpartisan rhetoric.”
by Craig Silverman
“FORT WASHINGTON, Maryland — It’s late morning and roughly 25 senior citizens are learning how to talk to Siri. They pick up their iPads and press the home button, and pings echo around the room as Siri asks what she can do to help.
“‘Siri, what’s the closest coffee shop?’ one woman asks.
“‘Sorry I’m having trouble with the connection, please try again?’ Siri says.
“A handful of employees with AARP, the national nonprofit focused on Americans age 50 and older, hover behind the participants and jump in to help. They’re in Fort Washington, Maryland, to deliver four free workshops about how to use an iPad. Participants learn how to turn it on, what an app is, how to text, and how to flip the camera to take a selfie, among other activities.”
We’ve been reading so much about advantages that aging persons can accrue with the introduction of emerging technology, we decided to list some of the articles.
Aging In Place Technology Watch shares this in today’s newsletter: “… it’s good to see that Envoy (concierge service for independent living), Kindly Care (home care agency), Caremerge (home care platform), and Seniorlink (care coordination) are in their same businesses from 2016 – and others from the period like Envoy and CareLinx received additional investment and moved forward.
“Smart Home Technology Becomes a Must-Have in Senior Living” – Senior Housing News
“Home Instead Inc. — the international franchise company behind the Home Instead Senior Care network — is joining forces with senior-friendly tablet startup GrandPad in an attempt to reduce client loneliness and improve connectivity.” – Home Health Care News
“Where the Home Health Aide Shortage Will Hit Hardest by 2025” – Home Health Care News
“Real Seniors lack essential technology – who will make it happen in 2019?” – Aging in Place Technology Watch
by Laurie Orlov, Laurie Orlov’s Blog
When Pew stops tracking senior adoption, does that imply a market saturated? Rant on. Note this Fact Tank aggregation of technology adoption statistics (tech overall among seniors, last reported in 2016) – and the most recent data cited on Internet use, seniors were quoted in a 2016 survey, 44% of responders did not use the internet users. Of those that do, older adults aged 65+ said they had little to no confidence in their ability to use electronic devices to perform online tasks. Let’s think about their non-confidence (not broken down into the 65-74) and the 75+ who are the Real Seniors.
Does that fear imply lack of training? Or too much media reporting about scams, breaches, and identity theft – most of which it is difficult to detect and nearly impossible to prevent? Who knows, since Pew appears to be largely done – after all, they note, 89% of Americans are online and they do not survey all questions each time. AARP published a survey last year that included responders in their 70s — we stay tuned for the next update.
Are those who should care about this not doing enough? Here are questions to ponder moving into 2019 for those whose job, business, or non-profit organization is explicitly to help seniors go online (you know who you are):
- For seniors, why is there a problem with non-use? Note the research from Michigan State cited in an AARP article: “Greater technology use was associated with better self-rated health, fewer chronic conditions, higher subjective well-being and lower depression.” The study also found that technology use reduced feelings of loneliness. And let’s not forget how many services can be discovered and accessed online, including scheduled food delivery, transportation requests, buying tickets and signing up for local events. And have we mentioned online banking, accessing Social Security information, buying savings bonds – oh, and then there’s healthcare access, including finding a doctor or benefiting from telehealth services?
- Are there still senior centers or organizations that do not have high speed internet? You know where they are – maybe they haven’t figured out the right source of grants, like, for example, Grantmakers in Aging? Senior centers are partially funded by the Older Americans Act – which also provides Meals on Wheels. But there is nothing in the Act (beyond partial funding of senior centers) that specifies professionally delivered training of seniors on technology use or supporting seniors in their usage. This is a policy change and it’s high time that the policy was changed.
- Why isn’t technology training of seniors required to be delivered by professionals? Is it because it is viewed as non-essential because it is ‘free’? The Geek Squad isn’t free, so why is there no magnanimous donor group focused on helping seniors who could fund a regular visit of several Geek hours to a library, senior center or other community center who could help individual older adults during designated hours with their devices? AARP pays for training it offers in its regional workshops, which is free to participants. Presumably organizations like OATS, expanding outside of NYC (but still reaching a small percentage of seniors), must use grants to pay trainers to do the offered training, which is free to attendees. This should be the standard of caring about seniors — offer professional trainers combined with free training.
- But you ask, so why isn’t ‘volunteer’ training good enough? Because at today’s pace of technology change, it can’t be. Read the list of Geek Squad services again. Or look at another nationwide competitor, HelloTech (ads bash Geek Squad) or Bask or many paid services in various geographies. You hopefully get what you pay for. Free training may be well-intentioned – and it is appropriate in stores of carriers who provide the connectivity. But it is very expensive to stay current with the myriad of always-shipping new devices and OS variations and upgrades, required to keep a device secure. Add the difficulty (and costs) of getting an operational router, high speed internet printing from multiple devices, streaming from devices.
- Smart phones for seniors: why can’t every Real Senior have one? And no, it’s not to read dumb text messages heads down and fall into a manhole – nor is it about the social media company that cannot be named. Smartphones are useful in so many ways that without one, day-to-day life and flexibility are circumscribed. GPS turn-by-turn directions, research about what’s nearby when traveling, renting a car, checking reviews before eating in a restaurant or checking into a hotel, for starters. And that doesn’t count emergency advice from WebMD or Mayo Clinic. So that brings me to:
- Why isn’t there a senior discount to get a smartphone? No, I am not talking about the cell phone plans. Senior discounts are offered in at least 180 categories. But what about 50% discount an iPhone or Galaxy S9 – to get them into the 21st century of their grandchildren, assuming that other infrastructure is available to help them (in-store training, upgrade assistance, and on and on.)
- When will everyone have a voice-activated TV remote? Voice-activation and control will surely be standard for smart TVs, but sites that cater to seniors aren’t sources for finding them. Nor is there any apparent interest in re-engineering older remotes to support voice input. Why not?
Baby boomers cross 73 in 2019, becoming Real Seniors in 2 years. They will likely live, on average another 10-15 years or more. For the next 18 years, the growth in the number of Real Seniors will continue. Shortages of in-home care workers are worsening, new, hopefully tech-enhanced services are already forming. Senior living firms, meanwhile, are over-expanding to accommodate them, hopefully in communities with high speed internet and WiFi access everywhere. For all of the Real Seniors to be, now’s the time to tech-enable their future, don’t you think? Let’s not keep having this conversation for the next 18 years. Happy New Year. Rant off.
by Ed Carter
PHOTO: Courtesy of Pixabay.com.
Fewer than 5 percent of all homes in the United States are accessible to individuals with disabilities; less than 1 percent are wheelchair accessible; and just one-third are capable of being modified to accommodate a disabled owner. That’s according to no less an authority than the US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).
It’s a distressing situation for disabled homeowners, because it means that many have to settle for properties that aren’t suitable for them from the standpoint of safety. Depending on the size of the market, that could mean having to try to modify a home that doesn’t meet the minimum standard of disabled accessibility: a stairless entry, and a bathroom and bedroom on the first floor.
That’s a sobering situation for a disabled person entering the housing market. So, where can you turn for help, and what resources are available to a handicapped individual? In most cases, your real estate agent is your best asset, even though many lack experience working with disabled buyers. Consequently, there’s a knowledge gap among realtors when it comes to knowing where and how to look for suitable housing.
Nevertheless, your agent will know the area well and have familiarity with what’s available, valuable knowledge for someone needing to find a property that can be adapted to their needs (such as a single-story house, a home with widened hallways, and specific safety features). With many disabled individuals having to modify houses, it’s important to know where to look for alternate sources of funding, such as through the VA, Red Cross, Americorps, the US Office of Housing, and HUD.
Real estate search engines are generally fairly limited in terms of search options. Terms like “handicapped accessible” and “universal design” may yield some results, but there are few other filters available that can produce the kind of results you need. General real estate search engines may prove disappointing, but there are a couple of national websites that are worth keeping an eye on as you work through your search.
Fortunately, it’s not all bad news for disabled homebuyers looking for online assistance. Barrier Free Home is virtually unique in its focus on barrier-free, wheelchair-accessible, universally-designed, ADA-compliant homes and apartments. Theirs is the most extensive database catering to disabled homebuyers. Barrier Free Home’s property entries contain an exhaustive amount of information, including number of bedrooms and baths, as well as handicapped-specific features, like roll-in shower or tub, roll-under sink, level entry and whether the property is VA approved.
Easy Living Homes falls into much the same category. It’s America’s first voluntary program encouraging the inclusion of features that make a property more accessible and efficient. An exhaustive list of features includes the type of lighting available, the kinds of material used in construction, and disability-accessible features. AMS Vans is a useful online resource for wheelchair-bound individuals seeking accessible housing.
HUD lists an online inventory of housing for elderly and disabled persons seeking multi-family homes. HUD’s subsidized apartment search offers disabled persons a robust listing of qualified units with information concerning suitability and accessibility for individuals with mobility restrictions and other special needs. A state-by-state search function provides an extensive listing of units in your area with physical features, contact information and whether each unit is specific to the needs of the disabled or elderly.
Finding a property that’s accessible to disabled buyers isn’t as easy as it is for people conducting searches on standard real estate websites. It takes some patience, flexibility, and knowing where to look. In the long run, your own persistence and the assistance of your real estate agent are your most valuable assets. As you search, bear in mind that some properties can be modified to meet your needs, which may help widen the parameters of your search.
SOURCE: news release