News and Events Product Spotlight Smart Home Tech

Holiday Shopping Just Got Smarter!

Written by Amy Norton, EASTCONN & Arlene Lugo, CTTAP

Snow falling on smart home devicesSmart home technology devices make awesome holiday gifts, especially for individuals with disabilities or aging adults who might be looking for ways to enhance access to their home, improve their functioning, and make a real difference in increasing their independence!

Here are some of the more common smart home devices that our Assistive Technology partners have been recommending this past year (in no particular order): 

Smartplugs like the Wemo or Kasa Wi-Fi Smart Plugs

These Wi-Fi outlets can be plugged into your regular wall outlet. Connect it to your home’s Wi-Fi and download the app. Such an easy way to upgrade and automate your regular (not smart) devices. Whatever you plug into the smart outlet can now be controlled by the app or via voice control through an Amazon Alexa or Google Assistant. These devices provide an excellent way to turn lights, devices and even holiday displays on and off, especially if the outlets are hard to reach, outdoors or when you are away from home. 

Philips Hue Motion sensor –

Turns your lights on and off with motion – it’s hands-free and voice-free. Simply walk or roll past the sensor to turn the lights on to increase safety and reduce trips, falls and bangs. These sensors are especially helpful when entering or leaving home, when a light switch is hard to reach, or for those late night trips to the kitchen or bathroom. The Philips Hue Motion sensor works great with the Philips Hue smart light bulbs. It is battery-operated, which means that someone will need to change them periodically, and it connects to an app for initial setup. 

Video doorbells –

Allow you to see who is at your door right from the app. Is it a delivery person dropping off a package, your personal care attendant, family, friends or neighbors stopping by to celebrate the season or someone you don’t know? Not only can you see the person, you can speak to them through the doorbell. Some alert you via motion before they even ring the doorbell. CNET offers a great article comparing some of the top video doorbells, including prices and features. 

Smart Assistants – 

Amazon Echo Show Series brings all the smarts of Amazon’s voice assistant, along with the ability to video chat and watch cooking or other videos and look up recipes to make your favorite holiday meal. Use “drop-in” to allow family, friends and caregivers to stop in virtually using both audio and video.

This feature of the Echo Show devices does not require you to answer and can provide added safety for those times when you are alone especially if you are at risk for falls, need reminders to take medications or are unable to visit with others in person. During set-up, you control who is able to drop-in. The devices in the series come in 5, 8, 10 and 15 inches. Read the CNET Echo Show 5 Review.

Google Nest Hub – according to CNET, the second-gen Google Nest Hub is “a super smart device that brings convenience to nearly every dimension of the Google Assistant-powered smart home. Whether you’re streaming music, checking who’s ringing your video doorbell or playing YouTube videos, the Nest Hub’s got you covered.”

The display on the device is 7 inches but if you are looking for a larger display, check out the Google Nest Hub Max which is 10 inches. Read the CNET Google Nest Hub Review.

Happy Holidays to All!


News and Events Product Spotlight Smart Home Tech

Combating Social Isolation Using Assistive Technology

written by Pam Fields, ATECH

ATECH logo - Social Isolation

The degree to which individuals are interconnected and embedded in a community has a powerful impact on their health and personal wellbeing. Social isolation is typically defined by a low frequency of social contact, and is often associated with lower quality of wellbeing. Recent research has been giving attention to whether loneliness is an indicator of low social connectedness or social isolation, and other studies are looking at the relationship between loneliness and social isolation.

It is our belief that assistive technology can be used by individuals experiencing barrier issues including those with intellectual developmental disorders or Autism, as well as seniors aging in place, helping them take steps towards establishing a greater level of independence and improving their wellbeing. There are also assistive technology devices that assist people in combating loneliness and social isolation.

Findings from a study conducted by Karina Alibhai of the Samuel Centre for Social Connectedness show that technology can be used to reduce social isolation among seniors aging in place and in group home settings. Alighai’s research on various tools found a positive correlation between technology use and levels of social and community connectedness.

Tools to Combat Social Isolation

There are several categories of technology that have been studied as tools to lessen social isolation, and many have been shown to successfully reduce the loneliness, depression and anxiety commonly experienced by many people. These technologies include mobile tech, videoconferencing, internet and communication technologies, games, social networks, and mobility tools.

Common Misperceptions

Before we get into the details of the assistive technologies, I wanted to take a moment to address a common misperception among some families and caregivers. Some people believe that using assistive technology (AT) for social engagement is akin to giving someone an iPad and letting them watch videos all day because it’s what they want to do. That is not true engagement, and that is not the goal of using AT as a social engagement tool.

For an individual in a direct care setting, leaving them alone to sit by themselves for hours on end with no interaction with anyone except a device or piece of technology, is not an engaged or informed choice. Instead, we see technology use as an opportunity for a staff member to get the individual engaged in a more productive way, to encourage them to take part in a conversation or in some other activity, using tech as a support. The technology is a tool, and used effectively can be a powerful solution in helping combat social isolation.

scrabble tiles spelling holistic

Assistive Technology As Part of A Holistic Approach

At ATECH, we believe that AT can be used as part of an overall holistic approach to helping the individual move towards independence. Other elements of this approach include

  • Natural/family supports and interaction
  • Community and friends
  • Paid and unpaid Staff support and communication

AT is just one tool among many in the holistic approach to care. Assistive technology is not a “plug and play,” or “set it and forget it” kind of a solution– it needs to be tailored to the individual to be truly successful and it frequently changes over time. Assistive technologies are tools for getting individuals more engaged with each other and with the community at large, combating loneliness and isolation, and boosting their personal wellbeing.

Mobile Technology for Communication

Technology that facilitates communication, like email, video calls including Skype, Facebook Portal, or Zoom can be especially appreciated in the case of people who have physical and cognitive disabilities. These individuals commonly experience feelings of isolation, frustration and depression. Using communication-based technologies via a mobile phone or tablet can give these individuals the ability to share their experiences with others, forging new connections, sometimes with those who have the same diseases or disabilities. This newfound sense of understanding and community can provide high levels of emotional support and greatly increase wellbeing.

Mobile technology’s ease of use is an additional factor in helping to keep individuals connected with family and friends. Many seniors can be technophic, and individuals with IDD or Autism may need some coaching at first, but once they become comfortable with the use of a mobile app, their experience deepens and their sense of control and independence increases.

Assistive technology can be used to help people overcome mobility challenges and help them to stay better connected. New mobile apps are being developed and launched to identify different transportation routes in cities and towns, making it easier to set up transportation and stay in touch with the community. These new mapping apps help mitigate social isolation by providing transportation options to get people to where they want to go and give them information about places where others are connecting in person. Drive sharing apps like Uber and Lyft are easy to use, and provide individuals with private transportation to and from community events, or meetups with friends.

Video Conferencing

Many people prefer face-to-face interaction, but with the COVID-19 pandemic’s social distancing policies, geographic and mobility barriers have frequently prevented in-person meetings. Video conferencing technologies like FaceTime, Skype, or Facebook Portal, have bridged the physical gap and allowed people to stay connected.

One Canadian study focusing on seniors aging in place found that even five minutes of weekly video conferencing interaction with family over a three month time span alleviated depression symptoms and loneliness. Similarly, for individuals with IDD or Autism, after the initial introduction to the technology, connecting with a staff or family member online via a video conference becomes a way to read stories together, play games, or just talk.

Additionally, research is now being done by long-term care and assisted living facilities in the use of companion robots to ease loneliness for their residents. Sophisticated robots, like the ElliQ, are specifically used for engagement and social companionship. Some robots tell jokes, some play music, while others offer mindfulness exercises or play exercise videos to keep seniors engaged, thinking, smiling and moving.

seniors playing video games

Online / Digital Games

The growth of online or digital gameplay in the past few years has been staggering. The range and scope of digital games continues to expand exponentially, and the immersive experiences of virtual reality offer many online players the ability to engage in a way never before possible. Many games allow players to interact with each other, simply connecting and talking or working together to solve problems. Avatars and role-playing games also allow people to interact with each other in a way that equalizes the playing field.

Additionally, research has found that digital gameplay has socio-emotional benefits and can help develop relationships that strengthen social ties, both on and offline. – not sure this is pertinent to our population as a whole…

Social Media

Social media provides a quick and simple way for many individuals to engage in meaningful social contact. For older adults aging in place, using social media can be extremely beneficial in finding needed support in dealing with a challenging life event. Finding like-minded individuals who are interested in the same hobbies or activities also helps connect individuals with a built-in network of others who share their likes and interests. All of these activities combat feelings of loneliness and isolation, providing emotional comfort and support, while improving overall wellbeing.

social media icons


Assistive technology can be used in many different ways for a wide variety of purposes. Helping to connect individuals to friends, family, and the community at large through the use of assistive technology not only helps fight against isolation and loneliness, but also provides a deeper sense of belonging. New research is showing this greater sense of wellbeing can positively impact overall health.

These tools are an integral part of looking at each individual from a personalized, holistic approach. In our role as caregivers, helping an individual move towards independence is an ongoing goal. Using assistive technology to positively impact socialization and community involvement while providing an easy to use and comfortable tool helps both the individual and the caregiver.

Reposted from:

News and Events Product Spotlight Smart Home Tech

8 Ways to Turn a Traditional Home Into A Smart Home

Written by Pam Fields, ATECH

smartphone showing smart items in room and ATECH logo

With advancement in technology improving every day, assistive technology keeps getting better and better, providing more seamless integration into our lives. As direct-care givers, what’s the best, and easiest way we can use the new and emerging smart-home devices to assist in providing better care? Even if the current living environment is a traditional home or apartment, there are 8 easy-to-install and easy-to-use assistive technology tools that can greatly improve any home.

We live in a connected world; many new technologies are controlled using an app on a smartphone or tablet, are wifi accessible, and many are voice enabled, allowing you to make changes by simply speaking a voice command. For example, using a voice-controlled Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant, or Apple’s Homepod or Siri, you can lock doors and windows, adjust the lighting or air temperature, or turn appliances on or off.

Reposted from  

News and Events Smart Home Tech

How to Use Assistive Technology to Promote Independent Living

By Jillian Day,

Man using a tablet and smart pen while sitting on his bed.

Assistive technology (AT) can make life easier for people in many ways. For example, seniors with limited mobility can benefit from voice-activated smart assistants to handle basic tasks like turning on lights and seeing who is at the door. However, people of all ages can benefit from these cutting-edge tools. The Connecticut Tech Act Project helps people with disabilities and aging adults discover the many uses of assistive technology. Read on to learn how AT can help you and simplify your life.

Make working from home a breeze with the right tech

Whether you’re a small business owner or an employee, if you deal with telecommuting, you’re likely already familiar with some commonly used tech tools, like Zoom for video conferencing. However, there are many other useful apps and software available. Here are 10 essential tools and apps for work from home employees, like Trello, which can help you organize your projects and tasks.

Enjoy greater peace of mind if you live independently with smart security tools

Smart tech can also help make your home more secure. Modern security systems create interlinked networks that make it easy to monitor your home. For example, a comprehensive package might include security cameras and motion sensors that you can control from your phone. If the cameras or motion sensors detect unusual activity, they will send an alert to your phone. You can then control the camera to view the issue. If it’s not a threat, like a wild animal, you can ignore it. If it’s an issue, like an intruder, you can notify the police. Here are some tips to choose the best smart home security gadgets for you.

Improve your personal self-care with smart tools

Smart technology can also help you take care of your most important asset: your own physical health. For example, you can use apps to help track your diet and exercise. There are also apps available to support your mental health, such as guided meditation apps. If you take medications, you can use apps or smart pillboxes to help you remember to take them on time. Here is a roundup of the best mental health apps for 2022 written by a Licensed Clinical Social Worker.

Make the most of smart tech when you’re on the go

Assistive technology isn’t just for use in the home or workplace. It can also prove practical when you’re on the go, from using your phone’s hands-free voice assistant to set reminders or check directions – helping to ensure safety when you’re on the road – to using your smart phone to create grocery or shopping lists. Apps like GasBuddy that help you find the most affordable gas prices in your area helping you save valuable money can be essential right now.

Keep connected with loved ones with cutting-edge innovation

Assistive technology can help you enjoy a more independent lifestyle and can allow you to stay connected with family, friends and your community more easily. From having “face to face” interactions via video call tools or playing games together on the internet, here are apps that will help you social distance without feeling isolated.

Assistive technology is no longer the stuff of science fiction movies. It’s already helping people of all ages enjoy less stressful and more independent lives. The above guide provides some pointers on how to incorporate smart tech into your life.

News and Events Smart Home Tech

Adventures in Assistive Technology: Creating our Smart Home

Written by Vicki Kowaleski

My husband and I recently purchased a ‘new to us’ home. In addition to remodeling the home to incorporate ramps, a bathroom with a roll-in shower, a handheld shower head and wider doorways into the bathroom and closet with barn doors for easier entry, I decided to explore a number of assistive technology devices. I was injured in a diving accident 35 years ago, resulting in paralysis from my chest to my toes, impacting my arm strength and hand dexterity. I use a power wheelchair for mobility, so I am all about finding assistive devices to help me manage everyday living.

The first thing we did was to enlist the help of ADT alarm services. They installed an alarm panel that is all touch screen. I downloaded the ADT app so I am able to operate the alarm from my phone. They also installed an interior as well as exterior cameras which are also accessed through the app. Finally, the package included door sensors and the new Ring doorbell camera. This way I can tell which door is opened and when, receiving alerts when the cameras pick up motion inside the home, as well as outside in the backyard where we have a pool. I can see who is at the door by looking at my cell phone or our Alexa devices. I feel safer now that I can operate the alarm system either from my phone or from the panel for now. We can purchase a key fob as well, which will help my husband since he isn’t fond of technology and still struggles with his phone.

Echo Show 8 on counter next to plantsRegarding Echo devices, we have an Echo Show 8 on our kitchen counter. From getting recipes, checking the calendar, asking for weather reports, watching movies, listening to music…the list is endless with this device! We have a smaller Echo dot in our bedroom that we use for our alarm, to play Sleep Sounds and listen to music and audiobooks. I am still learning all of the skills that Alexa enabled devices can learn.


We replaced two ceiling fans in the living room with Modern Forms fans that are Wi-Fi compatible and equipped with Bluetooth. I can operate them using their remotes, my cell phone and yes… Alexa! We liked them so much that we bought one for our master bedroom as well. No more searching for the remotes; we just use our phones or Alexa.

One surprise that came with the house was in the garage. The previous owner had installed a Chamberlain garage door opener with myQ technology. I was able to pair the garage door opener with my iPhone using the myQ app. This is extremely helpful paired with the Ring camera device for when we drive away from the house and wonder “did I remember to close the garage door?” I am able to open and close the garage door from anywhere using my phone. It can also be programmed to open or close at set times.MyQ app on smartphone showing Garage Closed

As an Amazon Prime member, I can get our Amazon packages delivered inside our garage with Key by Amazon. It was free! I have not used that device yet but with the winter coming, it will be very convenient. A keyless entry pad will be installed on the outside of the garage, allowing us to assign codes to allow family to get into the garage if we are not around.

For ease of entry into the house, we installed a keyless entry lock on the interior garage door. No fumbling with keys, just touch the keypad to enter a code.

Inside the house, all of the light switches are rocker switches that are easy to operate. We purchased Smart lightbulbs by TreatLife. These are compatible with Alexa and Google assistant. I like to use them in bedside lamps so all I have to do is say “Alexa, turn off my lamp.” These lightbulbs can be put on a schedule to turn on or off, and they are dimmable!

For our home thermostat, we had a Honeywell Wi-Fi smart color thermostat installed. It is programmable, has a nice touchscreen and is Alexa compatible. I downloaded the Honeywell app to be able to adjust the thermostat from anywhere using my iPhone. We can set schedules for when we are home and away. It’s very convenient on those cold mornings: just grab the phone off of the nightstand and turn up the heat.

We plan to purchase smart plugs for our bookcase lights and any other lights that are plugged in that can’t use smart bulbs, such as my makeup mirror, which has a knob that is impossible for me to turn. Another planned purchase is outdoor lighting that we can schedule to turn on and off. So far, our Internet provider seems able to keep up with our needs for strong wi-fi service.

As far as financing these kinds of purchases, look for deals through Amazon, Best Buy and similar stores. Our families give us gift cards for our birthdays and holidays. I am always looking for the best deals and prices.

And for now, if the power goes out we will use our portable generator as our back up plan. Eventually we hope to install a permanent, automatic generator to keep all of our smart devices connected and working.