Aims: To determine the ownership and use of various assistive devices by older people living at home.
Method: A random sample of 1405 elderly people aged 65 years and over, in three health authorities, were asked about ownership and use of a number of disability aids, spectacles and hearing aids.
Results: 74% of respondents owned one or more aid, 97% had spectacles and 16% a hearing aid. The most commonly owned assistive devices were a non-slip bath mat (50%), a walking stick (24%) and a bath rail (21%). Many severely disabled people, however, had no aids. For example, 75% had no stair rail, 68% had no lavatory rail and 46% had no non-slip bath mat. Most of the equipment owned was used. Walking frames and wheelchairs were used more by those over 75, as were all bathroom and lavatory appliances. Gender influenced the use of some aids, with more women using their walking frames and bathroom rails than men.
Conclusion: Our study confirms that ownership and use of aids varies with age, gender, living arrangements and disability. Very disabled people need but do not own certain basic and relatively inexpensive appliances. Community services currently aim to promote autonomy and independence in elderly people in the community. This may be facilitated and enhanced by provision of appropriate equipment and increasing awareness of the value of assistive devices among elderly people, informal carers and health- and social-care professionals. Knowledge of who owns and uses various items of equipment may help improve strategic planning.