Our senior loved ones are beginning to use technology more and more — and seeing benefits from doing so.
It has taken awhile for some of them to begin to see the advantages to using some of the latest technology but they are getting there, often with the help and urging of family caregivers.
According to the latest statistics from the Pew Research Center, six in ten seniors currently go online. That is 59% online, of which 47% have high speed broadband connections in their homes.
Pew found that many seniors don’t use technology because of physical challenges that keep them from adopting, such as vision impairment or disabilities. They also feel that being disconnected doesn’t mean they are missing anything. Most seniors fear learning how to use the latest devices and feel they will need help to get comfortable and helpers to keep them using it.
The good news is that of those seniors who have connected, using technology has become a standard part of their life. They report using technology on a daily basis.
79% of those users feel that anyone who is not connected is at a real disadvantage because of the information they are missing. 94% of daily users feel that the internet is much easier to use and find the information that they seek than in the past.
Once seniors become technology fans, they are hooked for life. How do we get more of them connected with the latest technology to gain the benefits?
Technology for Seniors
There are more and more devices and apps available that will provide meaningful data and assistance in addition to answering their needs for accessible medical information and freedom from boredom.
Here are our top 5 picks to get started with technology:
New devices keep coming to market, each bringing advantages to our senior loved ones (and family caregivers).
The latest iPhone, 6 Plus with a larger screen, is getting attention from older adults who are ready to upgrade to these innovations. The screen measures 5.5 inches compared to 4.7 inches and that small difference actually makes a huge difference for seniors.
Many people find the larger screen easier to manipulate with fingers that are either larger or when mobility problems make dexterity hard such as arthritis. At the same time, the devices are lighter and easier to handle than tablets.
Seniors report they are easier to read than other smartphones were in the past. Most really enjoy seeing their photos on the larger screen too. When they increase the size of the font to read a book on their iPhone, they get more bang with the larger screen without having to cut off half the page.
Many state they are happy that iPhone came out with the larger screen since they already own an iPhone and did not want to learn a new device from a different manufacturer or platform just to take advantage of the benefits the larger screen has to offer.
A recent survey by Accenture reports that more than half of smartphone buyers will purchase one with a larger screen this year.
Smartphones with the ability to store information, point you in the right direction, alert you when trouble is happening or if the front door is breached and keep your senior entertained when they are bored or lonely can be invaluable helpers too.
Tablets are great for older adults. They are easy to see for those with impaired vision, the fonts can be adjusted, they have touchscreens which are simple to use and lightweight compared to a laptop.
Tablets are starting to replace eReaders because they provide more benefits than just reading a book. Because they can be connected to the internet, they can replace laptop computers. In addition, your senior can use a tablet for email, Facebook, YouTube and Skype calling. They can still get all the books they can read, adjust the font size and download books quickly on a tablet so they won’t lose the benefit of an eReader but gain those provided by the tablet.
Many seniors are connecting, not just with social media on their tablet but also games. Participating in brain fitness games are fun and engaging to keep older adults mentally stimulated.
Seniors can also use programs such as Evernote that cross all platforms to keep their medical records, advance directives, medication lists and contact information handy. They can set up spreadsheets for a variety of functions including blood pressure readings and financial information.
They can connect with iTunes, Spotify, iHeart Radio or Pandora and listen to music wherever they are. You can both set up playlists or stations that have their favorite music and even create playlists with specific needs like getting calm or dancing.
One of the best features of a tablet is its portability. Music, photos — even streaming their favorite TV programs or movies — can be done on their tablet.
Most apps they can use on their iPhone can be downloaded on their iPad. There are of course many manufacturers of tablets that could be useful for seniors including the latest android version RealPad.
One great app is the Weather Channel. They can get up to the minute weather information for their location and every family member near or far too. They will get weather alerts when threatening weather is on its way too.
3. Joint Replacement, Transplants and Getting Active
Surgeons are happily using the latest technology to replace joints with computer assisted “space age” materials. They are replacing shoulders, knees, hips, elbows, and wrists. Once thought to last about fifteen years, the newer joints have a thirty year lifespan. The surgery itself allows for tissue sparing unlike previously as the operation is less invasive and usually doesn’t cut muscle. Recovery time is shortened due to surgical advances during replacement.
New joints allow seniors to stay active and live their lives fully without pain or limited mobility. Fewer limitations are placed on those with new joints. Playing sports and staying active are encouraged, not frowned upon, these days.
Cataract surgery advances make the surgery faster, only fifteen to thirty minutes with a speedy recovery. Stitches are rarely needed when an oscillating ultrasonic probe is placed in the incision to break up the cloudy lens and clean the eye for the new implant. Some incisions are made with lasers too.
The more we learn about prevention and the importance of staying healthy for the long haul, the more we all know that being physically active is vital. Getting exercise, going to the gym, and eating healthfully has become important for all of us as we age and should be for seniors for the highest quality of life possible. Many gyms are senior friendly, tailoring their machines and classes for lower impact, strength training and wheelchair accessibility so that older adults can participate without fear of injury. When we have joints that work, there is no excuse for not being physically active to benefit the body and the mind!
4. Health Apps
There are many apps that can be downloaded onto a smartphone or tablet (or both) that can help our senior loved ones connect their healthcare team with you as caregiver.
There are medication reminders so prescriptions will be taken on time and not forgotten. There are blood pressure monitors that can plug into the smartphone or dock it and transmit the information right to the doctor or family member so quick action can be taken if needed.
There are symptom checker apps that allow you to get advice if a problem occurs, guide you in medical emergencies and decide when it is time to call the doctor.
Apps can also track their medical information and health data, organize their appointment schedules, connect with caregivers and hold their advance directives. You can also set up remote monitoring using apps that can establish patterns and alert caregivers when the pattern is broken in addition to sensing danger.
There are assistive helpers available in app forms for reading when the light is low or magnify when the print is too small. There are phone finders to alert you if you lose your phone or tablet. There are also GPS apps and maps to help orient themselves if they lose their way.
5. Hearing Aids
Can you hear me now? Unfortunately many seniors have to answer no.
We expect to see an increase in hearing loss as we age due to environmental factors such as loud noise over our lifetimes from working or listening to music especially using ear buds. To meet this demand the hearing aid industry has exploded in the last several years with more manufacturers making more different types of digital hearing aids.
Happily, the technology improvements in hearing aids are finally coming. Hearing aids are being made so that noise levels, including bothersome and often confusing background noise, can be dampened. The newer technology has reduced the microphone feedback that was often annoying and also cut out the higher intensity sounds wearers found unacceptable. This is all done with a computer chip in the aid that determines whether the sound is noise or speech.
Getting started with new technology will need guidance from you about which products will be most beneficial for your senior loved one. But they will also need your help to show them how to use it, setting it up and creating secure connections to keep them from being victims.
They will wonder what they did before they got connected!