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Gadgets help senior citizens

October 16, 1997

By MARLO BARNHART

Staff Writer

For the next few months, a room at Potomac Towers will be filled with gizmos, gadgets and doohickies, all designed to make life a little easier for seniors and the disabled.

Launched Wednesday afternoon in Hagerstown, the first-floor center will be open on Wednesdays from 1 to 3 p.m. and Sundays from 2 to 4 p.m.

"People can come here, see what is available and then be shown how to get that item," said Susan Garber of the Center for Technology in Education in Baltimore.

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Her agency administers the Western Maryland Assistive Technology Partnership, which is made up of local agencies like the Commission on Aging, the Washington County Office on Disability Issues and the Hagerstown Housing Authority.

Catalogs will be available through which items such as portable chair lifters, jar openers, magnifying reading aids and touch lamps can be ordered, Garber said.

One of the most popular items is a deck of playing cards with large numbers and suits, designed to fit into a small holder that helps card players with arthritic hands.

"We're hoping that local merchants who have such items in stock will contribute models to the demonstration center. Then we will tell people which store has it for sale," Garber said.

Volunteers from Potomac Towers and Walnut Towers will operate the center. The Hagerstown Housing Authority donated the space.

Also, the Washington County Free Library will have a large resource notebook listing items and services, Garber said.

The purpose of most of the self-help devices is to keep seniors in independent living situations.

A $60,000 grant is the source of the funds for this temporary demonstration center, Garber said. She hopes it will become so popular that a permanent center might be possible, with community funds to keep it going.

Ideally, a model apartment with all the devices in their natural surroundings would be the best way to demonstrate the services, Garber said.

"In addition to the regular hours, there will be times when groups from retirement centers or nursing homes could arrange to come through," Garber said.

For more information, call 301-797-8954 or 1-800-99-WMTAP.

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