According to a 2014 U.S. Census Bureau Report on Disability, mobility issues are the number one cause of disability in elderly Americans. Still, it’s important to understand that a lack of mobility can affect anyone at any time, regardless of their age, or previous health history. Thankfully, science and technology have done a lot to alleviate the difficulties associated with these conditions.

Image credits: Sludge G.

Mobility Issues Can Affect Anyone

An individual’s mobility can become limited for a number of reasons. Injuries can affect nerves in our limbs or the spinal cord itself, limiting our ability to stand and walk. Mobility issues are not limited to the legs — issues that affect the movement in one’s arms and hands can limit our ability to reach, grasp and carry items and have a major effect on our day to day life.

Limitations in mobility can also be caused by illnesses and accidents that lead to the amputation of one or more limbs. Mobility issues can be a symptom of a number of diseases that affect specialized cells in our brain, spine, and muscles. Some can be quite serious and include muscular dystrophy, multiple sclerosis, and motor neuron disease. In these extremely serious cases, the mobility limitation is a symptom rather than a cause.

All in all, limited mobility can have a myriad of unfortunate causes and can make it very difficult to care for oneself without assistance. Learning how to cope with a mobility issue is especially challenging for those who once led active lifestyles.

Today, there are a number of devices that assist those with mobility issues. These tools make it easier for them to complete many of their daily tasks and maintain their independence. The following is a brief overview of some of the common gadgets that can make life easier for those with limited mobility.

Mobility Scooters

In the past, those who were unable to stand or walk relied on devices such as canes, walkers, or wheelchairs to help them get around. Often times, these tools are inconvenient or difficult to use, even if the wheelchair is motorized. They’ve become more and more popular, and thanks to advances in technology they’ve also become cheaper and cheaper — which means that they’re more accessible to a greater part of the population.

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Mobility scooters are specifically designed with the challenges and limitations faced by those with mobility issues in mind. Mobility scooters are fully motorized, and some models can even load and unload themselves on command. They feature engineering details that make it easy to steer and navigate, even when making sharp turns or when traveling in tight, narrow spaces.

A mobility scooter allows those with limited mobility the ability to shop, travel and even get around their properties in comfort and with relative ease.

Tools and Tech that Make it Easier to Grab

Image credits: NASA.

When most folks think of tools that can help individuals with mobility issues that affect the hands or arms, they likely think of devices that make it easier to reach things. Many of these tools are specialized grips that can make it easier to reach items that are too heavy or hard to reach. Similar tools on a smaller scale make it easier to get dressed, assisting with motions that allow individuals to pull on their own socks and other articles of clothing.

This is perhaps the most spectacular area of scientific advancement. Exoskeletons are moving closer and closer to consumers, with most recent advancements being skeletons controlled completely by the user’s mind.

Communication Tech

Other gadgets make life easier for individuals with their fine motor skills. Various apps and programs on computers and smartphones can be controlled entirely by vocal commands. When used in combination with smart home tech, individuals with mobility issues are able to lock and unlock their doors, turn on and off their lights, and even adjust the temperature in their home simply by speaking.

This type of technology is very helpful for people that have difficulty with handwriting due to shaking, tremors and other involuntary muscle movements. Other writing tools use tech that accounts for these extra twitches and movements and makes adjustments so that the individual can produce legible handwriting.

Others may have little trouble walking or picking things up, but conditions such as cerebral palsy can produce spasms in the throat or mouth that prevent clear speech. Augmentative Alternative Communication (AAC) tools and devices can allow these individuals to communicate audibly, and by other means, such as colors, shapes, and letters.

Advances in Prosthetic Devices Offer Greater Control and Freedom for Amputees

For amputees, one of the greatest challenges that can limit mobility is the lack of control over artificial limbs. Advances have led to the creation of prosthetic devices that feature details in look, texture and feel that appear more realistic and that allow greater flexibility and range of motion. New research has led to the creation of sensors that work in conjunction with virtual reality technology to give amputees greater control over their prosthetic devices.

Of course, the life of the mobility-impaired is always harder and more challenging. However, thanks to significant advancements, many of the difficulties can be bridged, and many of the problems can be solved. There’s still plenty of ground to cover, but things have changed significantly