Living independently in their own home for as long as possible, is a primary goal for millions of seniors. For anyone who cares for an aging individual however, this can bring some anxiety. Concerns about the safety of an elderly loved one who is on their own is common and is often warranted.

A careful assessment of a senior's special needs can help to alleviate some of the concerns and assure safety by identifying which adaptive and assistive aids might be beneficial. It's important to realize however, that needs can change over time and the assessment must be an ongoing process. Luckily, there are now a number of electronic devices that are readily available to help provide assistance in areas where an elderly individual may struggle. In fact, there are now systems available that can allow families to monitor a senior throughout the day. However, in most instances something less invasive can often fill the need.

There are a wide variety of electronic devices that can help compensate for reduced vision, hearing, dexterity, strength, memory, and other basic skills. The following are just a few examples of some devices that can help increase safety and boost independence.

1. An Emergency Cell Phone
While cell phones are great in an emergency, most of them are difficult for anyone with reduced dexterity, hearing, or vision to operate. However, some are designed with the elderly population in mind. A good cell phone for seniors generally offers increased volume, hearing aid compatibility, larger buttons and text, good contrast, one button dialing features, and simple navigation at a minimum.

With a cell phone, an older loved one can reach help if they slip and fall while taking their morning walk around the block. If they drive to the grocery and have a flat, they can still contact someone to take care of the problem. A cell phone for an elderly person serves the same purpose as it does for anyone, but the phone simply needs to accommodate any of their special needs.

There are now several options available on the market. There's the Jitterbug, the ClarityLife C900, phones from Doro, Just5, Easy5, and a number of others that offer these simplified features.

2. Medical Alert Systems
Medical alert systems are even more simple to operate than a cell phone and therefore, may be preferred by a senior who has difficulty using the most simple cell phones. In addition, these systems can be used in the shower or bathtub where falls are most likely to occur. On the other hand, these medical alert systems won't work in situations where the person is not in or very near their home.

Medical alert systems typcially provide a button for the individual to wear. The button can be depressed in an emergency. In most cases, an operator will respond to the call to determine the nature of the need or to send emergency help right away.

There are of course a number of companies that provide these services. Rescue Alert, Alert1, and American Medical Alarms are just a few of the possibilities.

3. Electronic Pill Dispensers
Taking medications becomes increasingly familiar for many elderly individuals. For some there are multiple pills to be taken each day. Remembering which pills to take and when is important and it's not an easy task for anyone. Sure, there are those pill boxes that allow you to fill each compartment with the pills to be taken each day, but if you have an elderly loved one that needs a reminder to even look at the pill box then something a bit more sophisticated may be in order.

An electronic pill dispenser can provide an audible and a visual alarm to alert the user that a dose is due. Some will even keep other compartments locked so that an overdose is impossible. At their most sophisticated, these devices can also notify a designated party if a dosage is not taken on time.

Med-Ready and e-Pill are two popular options.

4. Special Home Phones
Many seniors communicate better using a traditional landline phone. They are accustomed to the feel and look of these traditional phones. The signal may be better, the fit to their ear superior, and so forth. However, any reduction in hearing, vision, or dexterity can still present problems.

Amplified phones are available however. Many of them also offer speaker phone functions, large buttons, extra loud ringers and even visual alerts in the form of flashing lights to assure calls aren't missed. Clear Sounds, Clarity, and Ameriphone are three of the major makers offering these phones.

Another feature that can be handy is "talk back". An amplified phone with talk back allows the phone to repeat back numbers as they are dialed so that the caller knows they have dialed correctly, even when they can't read the LCD screen to double check their accuracy.

Again a cell phone and a medical alert system is ideal for emergencies but these more traditional phones are often preferred for other communication needs.

5. Talking Devices
Certainly, not all elderly individuals have a significant vision loss but such things aren't uncommon. There are a number of devices that we all come to depend on that are difficult to use when vision is reduced. For example, talking alarm clocks allow the user to set the time and the alarm by voice. Many of them will also announce the time, weather, and so forth rather than requiring the user to read the display.

There are also talking watches, talking thermometers, and so forth. For those with vision loss there are also talking pill bottles that will read the prescription label aloud so that medications won't get confused. As mentioned above there are also "talk back" phones that will repeat numbers dialed to assure the user that they've dialed correctly.

These are just a few of the possibilities, but ones that could certainly make a difference in allowing an elderly person with special needs to continue to function independently.