Atul Jaiswal is a doctoral candidate at School of Rehabilitation Therapy, Queen’s University. He is from India, where he previously worked for more than five years in the non-profit sector as an occupational therapist, Community-Based Rehabilitation (CBR) professional and project manager for grant writing, volunteer management, and monitoring and evaluation of projects on disability rehabilitation. He is a gold medalist in Masters in Social Work in Disabilities Studies and Action from Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai. During his two years CBR fellowship, he was instrumental in initiating a successful advocacy campaign for people with disabilities (resulting in sanction of INR 15 million) on the issue of “Lack of Foot over Bridge and disabled friendly structures” at Vangani railway station for safety of 350 people with visual impairment families and 5000+ people without disabilities in Vangani village near Mumbai. He has worked in Utah State Division of Services for People with Disabilities, Salt Lake City, USA in 2011. He has received the prestigious scholarship “Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Scholarship” from the Government of Canada to pursue his doctoral studies in the field of rehabilitation science. He is pursuing his doctoral research on deafblindness in India under the supervision of Dr. Heather Aldersey (Queen’s National Scholar in international community-based rehabilitation). His current work also focuses on understanding the use of assistive technology for people with deafblindness or dual sensory loss. To know more visit https://twitter.com/atuljais111?lang=en
Reducing social isolation in the lives of older adults with combined hearing and vision loss
Evidence suggests that with a rapidly aging population, the incidence and prevalence of older adults with combined hearing and vision loss in the global population is on the rise, particularly in developed nations. Older adults with combined hearing and vision loss have difficulties with their vision and hearing and are a heterogeneous population. This population can be classified into three categories: older adults with congenital deafblindness, older adults with acquired deafblindness – single sensory impairment (vision or hearing) by birth and then subsequently acquire another (vision or hearing) impairment, and older adults with age-related dual sensory loss – who were able to hear or see for most their lives but later develop dual sensory loss of vision and hearing due to age-related changes/diseases. Older adults with age-related dual sensory loss are the largest group among these three categories and their experiences are distinct from those who developed it by birth or acquired it earlier in life.
Researchers report that heterogeneity among older populations with concurrent hearing and vision loss makes it difficult to study them. Older adults with combined hearing and vision loss very often experience varied forms of communication difficulties, mobility restrictions, emotional disturbances, and challenges in daily functioning. All these challenges may eventually cause social isolation and put them at a higher risk of mental health issues including depression, anxiety disorders, and suicidal tendencies. Social isolation, a risk factor for mental health and well-being, were reported by researchers as a significant challenge common in all three groups. The existing literature on this population does discuss the impact of concurrent hearing and vision loss on older adult population, but it is silent on the approaches which could reduce social isolation in their lives. Hence, this presentation will share the results of a systematically conducted literature review to understand the experiences of social isolation in the three groups of older adults with deafblindness. We will also discuss the strategies to reduce social isolation in the lives of older adults with deafblindness.
With the global increase of older adults projected in the near future, it will be timely to start preparing our health care systems to address the unique challenges associated with aging with age-related dual sensory loss and congenital or acquired deafblindness. A trans-disciplinary approach is needed where gerontologists work with healthcare/rehabilitation professionals to engage in research and practice to reduce social isolation in the lives of this unique population.