August 21 is National Senior Citizens Day. When Ronald Reagan created National Senior Citizens Day in 1988, he said, “We can best demonstrate our gratitude and esteem by making sure that our communities are good places in which to mature and grow older — places in which older people can participate to the fullest and can find the encouragement, acceptance, assistance, and services they need to continue to lead lives of independence and dignity.” If “senior citizens” is one group and “people with disabilities” is another group, there are many people who are in both groups at once—senior citizens with disabilities. Making sure that senior citizens with disabilities have the accommodations they need fits well with the spirit of Reagan’s words.
Of all people in the world over sixty, 46 percent (around half) of them have a disability. Over time, there will be more people over sixty as people in general live longer, and so there will be more senior citizens with disabilities.
Writer Nora Macaluso argues that society does not serve senior citizens with disabilities well. For example, currently, many senior citizens have hearing loss but can’t afford a hearing aid. Medicare does not pay for hearing aids, and even with private insurance and new over-the-counter options, hearing aids still don’t come cheap. People also often just assume that senior citizens will lose their hearing, and so their hearing loss is often not dealt with. And so many senior citizens go without the important accessibility device of a hearing aid. Many people with disabilities, such as people with intellectual disabilities, need more than a single device to live their best life, and if people can’t get hearing aids, argues Macaluso, people with other disabilities are definitely not getting the accommodations they need.
Outside of this example, larger trends are much more complex and positive. The National Health and Aging Trends Study found that for Americans over 70, “the percentage of adults fully able to carry out self-care and mobility activities declined…while the percentage successfully accommodating with devices increased.” It seems that, as predicted, the number of senior citizens with disabilities is growing. But it also seems that more senior citizens with disabilities are receiving the accessibility accommodation they need.
“Attitudes towards the elderly are kind of funny,” said Maya Sabetello, an associate professor of medical science at Columbia University, “because we’re all going to get there, but we always somehow think it doesn’t get to us. The same with disabilities: Most of us will have disabilities one day if we don’t already have them.”
One of the activities you can do at your company to support senior citizens is by making sure your website or app is accessible to all users. Remove unintentional barriers that may exist on your site. Learning about the top ten most common web accessibility issues is a great place to get started.