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Devices help seniors maintain independence

August 19, 2010
By RENEE PRUSI Journal Staff Writer

NEGAUNEE - Betty Hemmila saw the mirror on the table and asked for it to be handed down to where she was sitting.

She held the mirror, which magnified things to 12 times their size, up for a look.

"I can't see to pluck those stray hairs on my chin anymore so I have been shaving. This mirror would be great," she said, bringing chuckles from the other seniors sitting at the table with her. She directed her next comment to the newspaper reporter sitting next to her: "Make sure you tell them what the mirror is for..."

Article Photos

Betty Hemmila tests out a mirror that magnifies things to 12 times their size during a demonstration put on by SAIL at the Negaunee Senior Center recently. (Journal photo by Renee Prusi)

While Hemmila's comments were one of many that drew laughter during a workshop at the Negaunee Senior Center, the presentation also elicited excitement and wonder from the dozen or more seniors in attendance.

Emily Gregorich from the Superior Alliance for Independent Living was there to demonstrate the latest in assistive technology.

"Assistive technology is really gadgets that make it easier to live at home," Gregorich said. "You can take a look at what I brought and see what will make things easier for you so you won't have to call someone to help you. I have all sorts of things with me today."

Gregorich, an independent living advocate-assistive technology specialist, said SAIL's assistive technology objectives include matching people with items that will help with their specific needs. She brought six canvas bags filled with items designed to help around the kitchen, the living room and other parts of the house.

"Pick them up and guess what they are," she said to the seniors at the workshop. "Look around the table and ask about the items that interest you."

The first item Gregorich was asked about was a long piece of metal with an attachment on the end.

"This is a sock assistance device," she said, picking up a black dress sock and showing how the device makes it easier for seniors who might have physical challenges to get dressed.

Shoehorns of various sizes and styles were demonstrated, then Gregorich picked up an item that drew raves from the crowd... once they knew what it was.

"It's a rolling lotion applicator," she said. The device resembles a shower brush, but can be taken apart and filled with lotion. The bumps on the surface provide a massage while the lotion is applied to the skin.

"Oooohh. Fantastic," said Annette Jachimski as she tried a "dry" run with the application. Other seniors at the table followed suit, smiling as they experienced the device.

One by one, the devices were discussed, from a toothpaste squeezer to a toiler paper reacher to an instrument that helps with zippers on clothing.

Several of the devices were greeted with surprise. Like an alarm clock with a twist.

"Do you know what's special about this clock?" Gregorich asked as she held it up. "This clock has a vibrating attachment that shakes the bed when your alarm goes off. So if you have hearing problems, you will still know when it's time to get up."

Or the knork.

"This is a fork and a knife in one," Gregorich said as she held it up. "It works great for people who have the use of only one hand."

Many everyday kitchen devices were altered to make them more valuable for people with physical challenges, like a nail clipper that attaches to a surface with suction cups and a device that opens medication packets with ease.

From a pill bottle that comes with a device that allows the pharmacist to record a message detailing instructions to a weighted cereal spoon, the assembled seniors were impressed by what's out there for them.

Gregorich said SAIL does not sell any of these devices, but its staff is available to help people find and order them as needed.

For more information, contact SAIL at 906-228-5744 or visit its website at

Renee Prusi can be contacted at 906-228-2500, ext. 253. Her e-mail address is



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