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August 13, 2020

How to advocate for accessibility for all

Senior Health Accessibility

Content sponsored by IBC - Native (195x33)

Wheelchair in motion Marcus Aurelius/

For those living with a disability or chronic health condition, isolation can feel all too familiar. This is particularly an issue for seniors who are limited in their mobility. According to a report from the National Institute for Aging (NIH), the physical health of senior citizens can be negatively impacted by social isolation and loneliness. Sadly, this often leads to poor health outcomes.

With as many as 13.8 million older adults living alone, one of the best ways to combat social isolation is to ensure that shared spaces are accessible. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and the Department of Justice (DOJ) both have standards for the accessibility of new construction, but those standards are designed primarily to aid those with mobility impairments.

Since many older adults used to be able-bodied, adapting to new physical limitations during their senior years means navigating new skills and tools. Fortunately, advocating for accessibility is something that we can all help with, in both small- and large-scale ways.

Making social events accessible

  1. To help make social events more accessible for seniors anticipate their needs and communicate openly. Here are some easy techniques to improve accessibility when planning social events:
  2. Hold events in spaces that have few stairs and require little walking to reach the location.
  3. Communicate to guests (and their caregivers) exactly how many stairs they’ll need to climb and what kind of seating will be available.
  4. Find out whether anyone has dietary restrictions, and stock appropriate food and beverages.
  5. Limit background noise during conversation.
  6. Increase the volume or display subtitles while listening to music or watching movies and TV.
  7. Keep the lights bright to ensure clear visibility.
  8. Widen walkways to make sure that mobility aids fit comfortably.

Advocating for accessibility in public

Many of these same principles apply to public spaces as well, but of course you have less control over those environments. When advocating for seniors, it helps to:

  1. Contact venues to ask what accessibility accommodations they offer.
  2. Describe the needs of seniors attending, and ask how they’ve accommodated similar needs in the past.
  3. Ask to bring anything you think will help, whether it’s larger chairs, cushions, and bolsters, or durable medical equipment.
  4. Request to be seated near the bathroom, in a warm area, or somewhere else that will be more comfortable for your guests.
  5. Ask to have the volume of music lowered or the lights raised.
  6. Always choose to patronize businesses that prioritize accessibility.

When you make it a point to ensure that spaces are accessible, you’ll quickly find that it’s not just seniors who benefit. Disability is a fact of life for 61 million adults — that’s one in four! — so you can feel great knowing that accessibility makes a huge difference for many of us.

This article was originally published on IBX Insights.

About Mara Hughes

I work in Medicare Marketing at Independence and blog about navigating life with chronic illness and other issues relevant to caregivers and health care consumers of all ages.

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