Poor countries in great need of elderly medical supplies

Elderly medical supplies are available to only 1 in every 10 people in low- and middle-income countries, “quite a very low baseline considering the state-of-the-art in technological innovations in the 21st century,” researcher at the University of Waterloo in Ontario, Canada Keshini Marasinghe said. These countries are expecting a steep surge in their elderly populations. The supplies, also known as assistive technologies, include wheelchairs, canes, prosthetic and orthotic devices, spectacles, low vision aids, hearing aids, communication boards, household robots and assistive mobile and computer technology. Marasinghe and colleagues from the WHO Kobe Center in Japan authored a study on this issue, published in BMJ Innovations.

The supply and demand of elderly medical supplies vary by country. Screen readers for computers and mobile phones are highly sought after in Turkey, while canes are the most frequently used assistive devices in Brazil. Marasinghe et al reviewed data from 17 previous studies that also focused on Cambodia, Egypt, India, and Zimbabwe. Some of the studies found that wheelchairs and walking sticks had increased mobility and independence, while another recorded the cognitive benefits of "geriatric software" developed locally as well as of calendars and routine organizers. However, only a handful focused on grab bars, smart home technologies, and other assistive devices intended to prevent impairment and disability in older adults.

“More attention has to be paid to bridge the huge gap in what we know about the situation of poor access to assistive technology and what can be done in terms of serving aging populations with assistive technology, inclusive of supportive legal framework and legislation surrounding it,” Marasinghe said. Some elderly medical supplies are not cheap – except at Discount Medical Supplies, that is –, and not much has been published regarding the cost-effectiveness of assistive technologies in low- and middle-income countries, according to researcher with Lund University in Malmo, Sweden Johan Borg, who was not involved in the study.

Nevertheless, Brazil, Cambodia, Egypt and India have started initiatives to produce low-cost technology. “The article is a very welcome and timely contribution when more and more countries realize the importance of implementing the assistive technology measures of the UN Convention of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities - it is therefore relevant not only to the six included countries,” Borg – who is not affiliated with The Borg Collective either – told Reuters Health. “The authors of the article indicate that community-based programs may be a way forward. This is in line with previous suggestions. Developing a single system that utilizes infrastructure and personnel to cater to broader needs would probably generate 'more bang for the buck.'” In the meantime, you can also get more than your money’s worth on elderly medical supplies at Discount Medical Supplies.

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