Many of us have the belief that you can’t learn new things when you get older. Technology is proving otherwise.
As more tech products and health care apps were being introduced on the market, the question of whether seniors would be willing to learn how to use them was often raised. Now we know unequivocally the answer is yes. Senior citizens are embracing the latest technology for the variety of benefits it brings to their lives. The experts at Pew Research found that over half of adults age 65 or older are using the internet and email. Almost half of them access it every day. 34% of this same group uses at least one social networking site like Facebook. Adult children are also finding technology to be an effective way to help them support an aging parent’s desire for independence.
Technology that Helps Seniors and their Caregivers
What other forms of technology are available to support older adults in their everyday lives? Here are 7 we think are worth considering:
1. Tablet devices. These are some of the easiest tools older adults can use to access the internet and stay connected. Devices like an iPad make it easier for seniors to video chat with family, play online games to pump up their brain fitness, send and receive emails, and explore their favorite websites. Tablets are senior-friendly because they utilize a touch screen that is easy for even those living with arthritis to use. They are also kinder for aging eyes because the font size of the text can be easily increased. Because tablet devices work off wireless technology, older adults can log in to everything they need online from the comfort of their favorite chair.
2. Gaming technology. The variety of games and platforms to play them on range from simple apps you can download on your phone to more complex virtual reality systems. If you’ve visited a senior living community in the past few years, you may have witnessed residents actively engaged in Wii challenge matches in tennis, bowling, golf and even Guitar Hero. These types of technologies are great for physical fitness, brain health and for promoting socialization.
3. Video chat. When an adult child and the senior they love are separated by a long distance, video chat provides a way to talk “face-to-face.” They are easy services to use and are typically free or low in cost. They provide older adults with a way to stay connected to children and grandchildren. Another benefit for families is that adult children and long distance caregivers can see their loved one on video and better assess how they are really doing. That makes it easier to spot weight loss, flushed face or a disheveled appearance that might indicate a problem before it is too late.
4. Home safety devices. Technology has made it possible to find a solution for almost every need the older adult in your life might have. If they need extra support managing their medications, there are systems that can do everything from sounding an alert that it is time to take a medicine to sending a caregiver a text message if an older loved one hasn’t taken their medication on time. There are other devices that can turn off the oven if something has been left unattended too long. Whatever your loved one needs, there is likely to be a tech solution.
5. Remote monitoring technology. While these products might initially seem like an invasion of privacy, they can help keep a senior citizen safe and independent in their own home longer. Most of these systems work off of sensors that are strategically placed throughout the home. These systems monitor the older adult throughout the day and night. It can alert caregivers if something out of the ordinary happens. If an exterior door is opened during the middle of the night, for example, an adult child can be notified. Or if the senior hasn’t gotten up at their usual time in the morning an alert can be sent.
6. GPS tracking devices. If a loved one is in the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease but wants to continue living alone, GPS technology can help. These devices are typically about the size of a large wrist watch. If a loved one wanders away and can’t be found, the GPS on the device can be activated, allowing them to be quickly located. Many also have an alert the senior citizen can trigger if they become lost and frightened and want help finding their way home.
7. Health tracking technology. There is an app for almost everything today. Tracking health conditions and medications can be easy to do using a smart phone app or an online program. These systems offer a variety of advantages. If you and other family members would all like to be able to view a loved one’s upcoming medical appointments on a calendar, there are programs that allow that. So that multiple family members can help support the needs of their loved one, many programs provide a place to sign up for handling transportation or meals. Health records and a medication list can also be stored using these types of apps. These technologies allow any family member with a log-in to access that important information in the event of a medical emergency.