LIFE in the news! Special ‘lab’ helps individuals with disabilities live independently

Simple technology can transform the lives of many senior citizens and individuals with disabilities.

The Area Agency on Aging in Darien hopes to make more individuals and caregivers aware of tools that can help them live more independently. Through its Life Assistive Technology Lab, the agency showcases low and high-tech devices that can increase, maintain or enhance people’s independence.

“It really is just pointing people in the right direction,” said Denise Howard, one of the lab’s coordinators. “And just because you can’t do something, maybe there’s something out there that can do that.”

Assistive technology can range from low-tech items like walkers and bath benches to high-tech devices, such as the Amazon Echo, which can be connected to and control electronic devices all around one’s home.

Throughout the lab are items that can assist people who have mobility issues, dementia, vision loss, hearing loss and more.

Peggy Luukkonen, the Aging and Disability Resource Connection program manager at the agency, said the lab has been operating for several years, but she hopes for more people in the community to know about this resource.

Purchasing this technology is often the most efficient way to spend money on care, she said.

“For the cost of giving someone a bath aid, if they can do it themselves with some sort of assistive technology, wouldn’t that be better?” she said. “So it really is about just letting people know what’s out there for them that will make things easier for them.”

In the lab’s kitchen, items range from stabilized spoons that won’t spill when the user’s hand shakes, to a “talking” microwave that provides audio feedback.

The bathroom showcases a tub lift that can slowly lower users into a bath and an electronic toilet chair lift.

The agency has partnered with the LIFE center — Living Independence for Everyone — to operate the lab. Howard, who works for LIFE, offers tours and one-on-one consultations.

“(LIFE) exists to help people with disabilities to be as independent as possible,” she said.

The lab doesn’t sell the technology it showcases, but the agency’s workers can offer research tips to help people find items that fit their needs and purchase products online at affordable prices.

“It’s amazing the people that we’ve found that don’t have the equipment that they need because Medicare or Medicaid won’t pay for it,” Luukkonen said.

Luukkonen encouraged community members to schedule a tour and see firsthand the technology available to make lives easier.

The lab is located in the Coastal Regional Commission building at 1181 Coastal Dr. in Darien, and those looking to make an appointment can contact Howard at 437-0851.