Technology Adoption by Older Adults Growing, CEA Study Finds

Technology will make it possible for seniors to live independently longer, more safely and in better health than is possible today.

That’s key as our population continues to age.

But the degree to which they will benefit depends on seniors making technology a fundamental part of their lives, much as younger adults do today.

You’ve heard the Senior Care Corner® team say that a number of times before — and you’ll hear it again and again — because we’ve gotten glimpses of coming innovations and can envision what they will mean to our senior loved ones.

And to us as family caregivers of our seniors.

Not to mention what they’ll mean to us when we are seniors ourselves.

Because we believe that, it is encouraging to see statistics indicating adoption of technology by older adults is growing — though there is still work family caregivers can do to encourage tech use by senior loved ones.

Consumer Electronics Association Study

Each year the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA), the producers of the International CES, publishes their Annual CE Ownership and Market Potential Study to help those in the technology business understand the marketplace.

We have been members of CEA for several years, in large part to have access to their excellent research. We don’t use it for market purposes but to better understand and report on the technology opportunities and challenges for family caregivers in making the lives of senior loved ones better.

We wish they would study seniors as an age group, maybe even more than one age group, in more of their research, but understand their age groups are more reflective of what is considered in marketing decisions by the tech industry. Still, we find their results informative.

This year’s CE Ownership and Market Potential Study reflects continued adoption by older adults (55+ years old) of more technology, but adoption that still lags that of younger adults and thus represents opportunity for family caregivers.

Older Adults’ Technology Use Growing

This year’s CEA study reflects that the adoption of what we see as key technologies by older adults is growing, though still lags that of younger adults. Because technology will be even more critical to seniors’ lives than most young adults, we are hoping to see those gaps closed and even reversed someday.

CEA looks at a broad range of technology and reports statistics on much we see as less important to seniors’ independence, such as headphones, digital cameras and bluetooth speakers. Our look here will focus on statistics we see as more key to the lives of seniors aging in place independently in the future.

According to the CEA study:

  • Almost half of older adults own smartphones, more than double the penetration in just four years but still just 2/3 of the overall smartphone ownership.
  • Three out of five older adults still own cellphones that are not smartphones. While this is 50% more than the overall population, the number has been steadily falling with the rise in smartphone ownership.
  • More than one in three older adults owns a smart (internet-connected) television, representing continued growth.
  • Tablet ownership by the age group is growing toward half, triple that of just four years ago, but still represents much opportunity to learn the benefits of this important technology.
  • The homes of most older adults have a desktop computer, notebook computer, or both, which is close to being in parity with the overall population.
  • 28% of older adults reporting having a dedicated ereader, such as a Kindle or Nook, less than the one third of the overall population. We see this as a positive, though, since more older adults are adopting multi-use devices such as tablets.

We see growth reported in the study as positive and an indication many seniors and other older adults are embracing technology. Still, there is much room for growth.

Technology Intentions Important Too

In addition to looking at the current ownership statistics reported in the CEA study, we like to look at the intentions expressed by older adults as well, seeing these as indicative of sentiment about technology and future senior adoption.

Intentions statistics reflect the future purchase expectations of respondents, whether they own the device type already or have not purchased one.

  • While less than half reported they would never by a new smartphone, the lowest value yet, we still see these 43% of older adults part of the challenge in putting our senior loved ones in a position to take advantage of the technology that will mean so much to their lives in the future.
  • Just under half said they didn’t expect to buy a new tablet, about a third more than the overall population.
  • 45% of older adults indicated they did not expect to purchase a new smart TV in the future, the first time more have said they expect to purchase one (or another one). While maybe not as important as smartphones and tablets, smart TVs present a convenient means of connecting to the outside world, especially for those with vision challenges.

One of the challenges we see in the intentions statistics is in family caregivers helping senior loved ones stay current with technology. While they think they already own a smartphone or tablet, for example, so won’t need a new one, we know technology becomes obsolete and unsupported quickly. That means today’s devices might not be compatible with much of the innovation that will help keep seniors safer and healthier.

Many Still Not Connected to the Web

One of the biggest challenges we see in the CEA study is the report by almost one quarter of older adults who indicated they don’t have internet access at home. This was double the overall population.

One of the primary benefits to seniors of smartphones and tablets is the link they provide to the web and thus the rest of the world. The lack of internet access in their homes will make independent living more of a challenge to many seniors.

When being connected to the web means having a link to family, friends, healthcare providers and other caregivers, and the rest of the community around them, lack of internet connectivity can leave seniors isolated and dependent on others for transportation to care that could be provided remotely via the web.

Not having an internet connection can also mean the difference between living at home and having to move into a senior living facility for some seniors — and even more in the future. Today it can mean not being connected to communications that let family members and caregivers know the senior is safe at home.

Soon not having an internet connection will mean not having a link the healthcare team can use to monitor vital signs, perform tests and consult with your senior loved one. Lacking that link can keep your senior from getting the remote care that lets her continue living at home.

We see that quarter without internet access at home a challenge to be met by family caregivers and the community at large. Let’s ensure our seniors have the opportunity to connect to the care they need and the world around them.

Challenges for Industry and Family Caregivers

We at Senior Care Corner® see bridging the gaps between seniors and technology as a challenge for both family caregivers and the tech industry.

Family caregivers can do a lot to introduce senior loved ones to technology and show them how to make use of it, which has and will continue to be very important to seniors’ technology adoption, as we’ve seen firsthand and heard from many others.

Much can be done by the technology innovators and marketers to tailor both devices and promotions to older adults. Yes, devices have become more friendly to those with vision challenges and diminished dexterity, but improvements should continue. Just as importantly, though, packaging and promotion of tech can focus on the priorities of seniors and the benefits of the devices to those who are older.

We appreciate the ability to access and report on CEA’s research and look forward to reporting on much more over the rest of the year. Even more, though, we look forward to the promise of CES 2016 and the innovation about which we will learn there.

Family Disney Vacation With Seniors – Keep it the Happiest Place On Earth

Planning is a big part of the fun with family vacations, especially when it’s shared.

It’s also a key in determining if the vacation will be seen as successful when everyone is back home, especially when traveling with very young and/or elder family members.

With summer approaching many of us are planning our summer getaways with the family, including senior loved ones.

What if you’re among those planning to travel on that vacation to the happiest place on earth – Walt Disney World?

Planning Considerations When Vacationing with Seniors

As you’re planning the trip you might stop to think seriously whether your seniors would endure this trip and what might be involved in making it successful for them as well.

  • Will they be able to physically sustain this trip?
  • Will all areas of the park be accessible with limited mobility?
  • How will the hotel accommodate their needs?
  • Will there be food available that they will eat and is acceptable for any doctor prescribed diet?
  • Will it be too hot, too humid, rainy, noisy, over stimulating, or boring?
  • Will there be any age appropriate activities for them?
  • What do we need to do to prepare to have them join this family vacation?

Preparing to Visit Disney

This might be your first trip to Disney World or maybe your family, like ours, has been a frequent visitor over the years.

We visited often when the kids were young because we lived not too far away. We feel pretty comfortable with the Disney property and the rides and shows available for our family, but there was always newness to it because the kids saw it differently each time as they grew up.

What we never considered was how that adventure would be with our senior loved ones, but are able to revisit the parks in our memories (some of which are from recent visits) when we put on our family caregiver hats.

Let’s discuss what we need to prepare for and how we will be proactive about this trip into happiness.

Traveling With Senior Loved Ones

Going on any trip with seniors requires careful planning to ensure as many obstacles and possibilities as practical have been addressed. Being prepared for as many eventualities as possible will help your trip succeed.

  • Set aside clothes that will be comfortable for them to spend long hours in during the trip from traveling to a day and night in the park. Bring an extra set with you each day in case clothes get soiled.
  • Determining if clothes will be easy to clean in a hotel bathroom if accidents occur or will there be convenient laundry facilities?
  • Carry adequate layers for the senior who is always cold or frequently hot despite the sun, heat or air conditioning — or maybe because of all these different air temperatures.
  • Be sure to have all necessary medications in the carry-on luggage so that they are available when needed and prevent loss along the way. Consider which over the counter medications and first aid treatments may be needed such as band aids, aspirin, aloe, sunscreen, anti-diarrheal medicines, hemorrhoid cream, eye drops, and the list goes on and on.
  • Bring along copies of important papers and contact information in case of emergency. Have a medication list with pharmacy contact number, doctor’s phone number, and advance directives with you whenever you travel. You might consider saving all of this securely on a smartphone you will always have with you.
  • Pack an extra set of glasses in case theirs gets lost or broken and don’t forget about sunglasses if your senior wears them.
  • Prepare for the sunshine of summer with sun hats, sunscreen, and water bottles, which would be pretty much the same as the needs of younger family members so this might be pretty easy. Let’s not forget the rain – a poncho or small umbrella would be handy when storm clouds burst in the Florida afternoon!
  • Be sure to include any special equipment your senior may need, such as a raised toilet seat, wheelchair, walker or other devices they might need if away from home for several days.
  • Pack all those essentials, like personal care items, toiletries, books or puzzles, and comfort sources such as a favorite pillow.

Massive Disney Experience

Going to Disney during the summer and spending several days trekking through the many attractions and parks could be wonderful and appealing to our senior loved ones, but it can also be a source of concern for their safety and well-being.

What we don’t know is how will the happiest place on earth accommodate our seniors? Surely they have made Mickey’s house safe for older people as they boast 15-20 million visitors a year from all over the world.

There are 40 square miles, or 25,000 acres, in Disney World near Orlando, Florida. 35% of that has been developed into the Disney World Theme Parks. Needless to say, that is a lot of ground to cover for anyone, but that is especially true for many of our senior loved ones.

There are four separate parks within the Disney Florida experience, each offering a little something different, not to mention two waterparks. What exactly interests your senior is something to discuss as you plan your vacation. That will be important in deciding how much time to spend in each park, based on the activities of interest to all members of the family, well before you arrive.

There is transportation offered between the parks and even into the Downtown Disney entertainment, dining and shopping area, with a system that serves over 250,000 guests a day. There are monorail trains, buses, water taxis and boats that carry people around the park. All are handicap accessible so will work for any mobility limitations of our senior loved ones.

Accommodating Dining & Sleeping Needs

Yes, with everything there is to do at Disney World, you will still need to sleep and eat! Those aspects of the trip require planning as well.

If your senior has a doctor prescribed diet or food allergies, there are ways to eat in the park whether at a quick service kiosk or a full service restaurant. They offer more and more different varieties of foods, vegetarian options and diet related items than ever before.

There are more than 22,000 Disney operated rooms from which to choose, with a broad range of amenities and prices. The hotels are themed and include many services and address most needs.

When choosing a room it will be important to know how far it is to the transportation system, what foods are offered, and the amenities that your family values most. Do you want a pool that includes a slide or one within walking distance of the park?

Hotel rooms that are handicapped accessible have roll-in showers and raised toilets with grab bars so seniors with mobility issues can be safe while they stay. If that is needed, be sure to ask for that service. Letting the Disney staff know ahead of time what you need could lead to more services than you thought to ask for which will benefit the family.

Inside the Parks

Disney does have rental wheelchairs and electric conveyance vehicles in addition to a huge fleet of strollers. Many rides are wheelchair accessible too.

You might want to check out the Disability Access Service Card if your senior requires wheelchair accessibility. This card allows people with disabilities – as well as an allotted number of people from his or her party – to schedule a return time at a specific attraction that is comparable to the wait time when they first arrive at that attraction. This could save waiting in line time for fragile seniors and family members, especially in the Florida heat.

Disney does not offer discounts for park admission or hotels for seniors but other organizations might offer discounts that are worth checking out ahead of time.

Tips for Theme Park Safety

There are safety tips that we should all follow, whether vacationing at Disney or elsewhere.

  • Wear comfortable shoes that fit properly.
  • In warm weather, wear light colored, lightweight clothes that reflect the sun’s rays and can breathe. If needed, bring a jacket or sweater to layer on top.
  • Protect everyone from the sun with sunscreen that is reapplied throughout the day, sunglasses and a wide brim hat. Plan for shade during the peak sun times, such as a nap in the room, a show or a bench under a tree.
  • Stay well hydrated in the heat. Get a drink of water before you feel thirsty! Find out in advance if your destination has water fountains or if you will be allowed to bring your own drinks.
  • Set a meeting place for all family members in case you get lost or separated.
  • Wash your hands often – especially before you eat – to stay clear of germs and grime.
  • Locate the first aid center in case it is needed during your stay. It will make it faster to get treatment if you have a sense of where first aid can be found.
  • When making restaurant reservations, be sure to tell the staff about any food allergies or dietary restrictions.
  • Be prepared to capture the memories!

Proper planning will help you and your entire family experience the magic and create lifelong memories too!

Barriers to Senior Technology Adoption Include Family Caregivers

Technology means more than entertainment to our senior loved ones — it can mean their independence.

But they have to be using it!

There are more and more seniors adopting technology. But it is enough and could it be more?

We can see it everywhere we go. Seniors on smartphones, reading books on their e-readers, and using their tablets for all kinds of things.

Laptop computers continue to be used for streaming media, web surfing, data storage, word processing and connecting to family and friends.

We know there are benefits for our seniors when using technology and also for family caregivers to provide the best possible care for our senior loved ones without as much time required.

How can we connect our seniors and train them to use technology and, more importantly, what stops us from making that connection?

Technology Adoption Barriers

A recent study conducted by Philips and the Global Social Enterprise Initiative at Georgetown University’s McDonough School of Business has found that there may be unexpected barriers to our seniors using the latest technology.

They found that non-professional caregivers may be unintentionally blocking seniors from adoption of technology that could help.

These same caregivers state they realize how important technology could be in the life of their seniors but are still not helping them connect.

  • 44% said they are concerned that their senior is depressed or lonely and know enrichment activities including social interaction is important
  • 62% said social interaction enrichment is a top priority
  • 67% report that their senior has participated in no new activity in the last two years
  • These same 67% said their seniors get socialization via talking on telephone or watching TV
  • 63% felt their senior is open to using new technology
  • 74% said they found it extremely fun to teach a senior a new technology and 72% felt capable of teaching new tech to seniors

Why the dichotomy between knowing that they need it, would like it, can share it and are actually using it?

Difficulty Making Time for Tech

Surprise – not having enough time is the factor most cited by family caregivers for lack of tech adoption by their seniors.

Study participants felt they didn’t have time between caregiving duties and personal duties, often including a job.

Many family caregivers indicated they would rather spend their limited time with their own families or personal relaxation and entertainment than more time with their seniors outside of caregiving tasks, even knowing that time spent on technology could reduce caregiving task time in the long run.

Many say if they saved time with technology they would spend it doing something other than more senior caregiving such as personal errands.

Many caregivers are looking at technology and may be seeing it as more practical, such as that in the health and safety realm, instead of as a social connections and boredom/depression relief. The reality is that both are important to the independence of their senior loved ones.

The researchers hope that helping caregivers understand that technology can enrich seniors’ quality of life during aging, not just keep them safe at home, will get more seniors connected.

Technology That Means Independence

Innovations in technology that are useful for our senior loved ones are expanding rapidly. What started out with home monitoring in case they fall has grown to all aspects of medical care, socialization and entertainment.

Many seniors could use a little help from family caregivers to connect to devices and apps that will make their lives not only safer but more enjoyable.

Here are some ideas for tech that may be already available or coming soon.

  1. Connecting via the internet to events and classes at the senior center. This will keep your senior connected to their peers doing activities that are age appropriate and engaging for them from their own home. No need to arrange transportation over long distances when the nearest senior center is far away. It can reduce isolation for many homebound seniors.
  2. Contact lenses that measure blood glucose levels. This can help seniors and their healthcare team be aware of daily values to manage diabetes better, reduce need for emergency treatment and engage senior with health team.
  3. Canes for visually impaired people that can send an alert when a familiar, known person comes near using facial recognition. This would definitely help seniors who are at events, community locations, church services stay in touch even if their vision impairment may keep them isolated.
  4. Pill bottles for prescription medications that light up or send audible alerts when medications need to be taken or when missed dosage. They can help seniors take the medications they need without errors to stay healthy.
  5. Use an app when you are physically active that earns money for a chosen charity for every action you take. Connect with Charitymiles.org for details. Seniors who are physically active can do good work for others as they age and it may motivate seniors to get moving.
  6. Watches that can track not only steps taken and sleep quality, but also blood pressure, blood sugar, heart rate and other health metrics can help them be in charge of their health.
  7. Body sensors that track heart rate especially during physical activity, ECG electrocardiogram sensors using a smartphone that records heart activity at 30 second intervals is being used to detect atrial fibrillation so that doctors can tailor treatment more effectively.
  8. Robot caregivers continue on the development path and many are out there, now performing specific functions such as companionship and assisting with reminders for medications and meals. A new model called Robear from Japan is transferring people by helping them stand, sit or even lifting out of bed. They aren’t intended to replace family caregivers but rather augment daily tasks.
  9. Apps for smartphones that alert family members to how seniors are doing, what they might be doing, and managing their health needs. Caregivers can organize the care of their seniors, keep all the family near and far in the loop with the latest information and connect with members of the healthcare team. New apps are introduced daily so if you haven’t found one you like yet, keep looking as updates come to market frequently. Helps seniors and caregivers meet needs with time leftover for socialization.
  10. Remote doctor visits via a tablet or computer screen. Video conferencing with healthcare team and family loved ones using a variety of tools such as Skype, FaceTime and secure internet connections.

Connection Means Independence

These are just some examples of technology that can keep our seniors engaged in the family, community and with their healthcare team.

This can prevent feeling lonely and isolated for many seniors.

That means our senior loved ones will be able to live independently longer, if that’s what they want.

Quality of life not just quantity is the goal for seniors and their family caregivers.

If you don’t have time to help them get connected perhaps you can ask someone you know to volunteer their time to help set your senior up and start using technology to their advantage. There are also classes offered in many communities.

Remember, technology can’t help us if we don’t use it!

Changing Face of Aging and Implications for Family Caregivers

We have heard it time and time again – the silver tsunami has hit the shore!

The number of people who are over 65 has hit an all-time high, not just in the United States but globally. They are not just aging but our seniors are changing in many ways.

The latest Profile of Older Americans bears that out.

This profile is compiled by the Administration on Aging, the Administration for Community Living, and the US Department of Health and Human Services.

It uses the latest information available from sources such as the US Census Bureau, the National Center for Health Statistics and the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

The more we learn about our seniors, their needs and how we can all best take action to create opportunities to meet those needs, the better off we will be together.

2014 Report Highlights

Here is an overview of the report findings and statistics of our changing senior population. Some of these statistics are a bit shocking and should help guide us to programs that can help our seniors.

  • The number of those over 65 has increased by 8.8 million people since 2003 to top out over 44.7 million in 2013.
  • Those people who are 45-64 and will be over 65 in the next two decades increased by 20.7% during that time period.
  • One in every seven citizens is considered an older American.
  • The average life expectancy has increased by 19.3 years.
  • In 2013 there were 67,347 people 100 or more years old!
  • 28% of non-institutionalized older adults lived ALONE!
  • Almost half of women over 75 live alone.
  • 536,000 grandparents in 2013 were primary caregivers for their grandchildren who lived with them – Yikes!
  • The major source of income for older people in 2012 was Social Security. Other sources include assets, pensions, and earnings.
  • Over 4.2 Million older adults were living below the poverty level in 2013!

Acting on Statistics

What do these startling statistics tell us? What do we need to do as family caregivers and advocates of our senior population?

What discussions need to be taking place in the government, organizations and agencies to ensure that programs that will meet the needs of our seniors in a wide range of ways not just healthcare?

  • What we can see from this data is that the number of people getting older is growing and even those people are older, as evidenced by the numbers of centenarians. With an increasing life expectancy, that trend is expected to continue. The only thing that can put a halt to increasing life expectancy is the number of obese individuals.
  • More seniors will need more caregivers, more healthcare professionals, more public transportation, more access to affordable housing, more long term care healthcare services, better access to healthy affordable food and be able to live on little or a fixed income. Finances will become a major concern as planning for an extended amount of time in retirement may not be happening and their pensions or investments might not be growing with the cost of living.
  • Another interesting note is that from 1980 to 2014 the number of divorces or separated couples increased from 5.3 to 14%. This could have consequences for family caregiving, as parents may be living in different locations – maybe even at a distance – making it harder for family caregivers to meet the needs of parents and grandparents when families are divided.
  • As the number of older people become primary caregivers for their grandchildren, what will happen to not only the senior but the young child if emergency strikes? Who will be there to care for the older adult and child when there may be no other adult available? Will there be support services for these people?
  • How will states fund services such as Medicaid for their growing senior populations? Many states are seeing marked increases in the population of older adults compared to other states. Over half of the people over 65 live in only 13 states. 19% of older citizens live outside of metropolitan areas meaning the services need to reach them.
  • With so many seniors below the poverty level, how will they pay for shelter, food, medications and healthcare? Add to those people the 2.5 million seniors termed “near poor,” who were near but just above the poverty level and don’t qualify for some assistance programs? These may be the most at risk.
  • Many older Americans over 65, 8.4 million, continue to be employed or actively seek work. This is 5% of the labor force. Older adults are more educated than in years past with the numbers of those completing high school going from 28-84%. Perhaps these more educated people understand the need to stay active, continue to earn money and gain a sense of self-worth from working.
  • Despite the fact that most older people have at least one chronic medical condition and many have more than one, 43% say they are in very good or excellent health.
    • 71% reported getting a flu shot in 2014 and 61% said they had a pneumococcal vaccine.
    • 29% are obese according to their Body Mass Index (BMI).
    • They see the doctor regularly and many stayed overnight at the hospital at least once during the year.
    • They paid out of pocket health costs of an average $5,069 in 2013 compared to younger adults who only spent $3,631.
    • The largest portion of that amount was spent on insurance coverage, then medical services, and next medications.
    • The majority, 93%, are covered by Medicare and 54% have some private health insurance.

Will they be able to continue to afford these healthcare costs especially with limited income or those who are below or near the poverty level? Will they get the medical care they need when unable to pay? Will their state Medicaid be able to fill the gap?

  • We know limitations in functional status increase with age and are compounded by multiple chronic medical conditions. Requiring assistance with activities of daily living is expected to increase. Family caregivers are assisting with these daily tasks while juggling their own family life. Who will help them if there are no family caregivers or there is no money for home care services? Will they be forced to become institutionalized? Will there be enough places for them to go?

Family caregivers and truly our nation will be asked to care for senior loved ones. There will be challenges ahead for everyone. We are all facing the same foe and no one has the answers or many solutions at this point. We need to continue to advocate together for the welfare of our seniors who will soon be us!

Not just the risks but the rewards of caregiving will be great too!

A Dozen Tips to Help Your Senior Avoid Falling Victim to Identity Theft

Our senior loved ones are at risk, as are we all, for identity theft. The more they become connected, the greater the chance of having their identity stolen grows.

Does this mean we should stop them from getting online and reaping the benefits of technology?

Absolutely not!

What we need to do is help them do the things necessary to stay secure and protect their identity.

As someone who has had a stolen identity in the past, preventing it from being stolen is a lot easier than trying to get it back and cleaning up the damage!

Preventing Theft of Senior Identities

Certainly we know that if a criminal wants to get what your senior has they will work to find a way to do it, no matter what precautions are taken. However, the likelihood of avoiding identity theft with some security steps can impact your senior’s safety.

Here are some ways you can help your senior loved protect against identity theft:

  1. If your senior is not looking to buy a house, car or apply for a loan in the immediate future, it is a good time to do a security freeze with the three major credit reporting bureaus. This will keep another person from opening accounts in your senior’s name and restricts anyone from having access to your senior’s accounts or credit report containing your senior’s private information. If your senior wishes to get a loan, their credit can be released for a short time period and re-frozen again.
  2. Transfer all paper statements to paperless so that a paper statement from creditors or banking institutions won’t get diverted or stolen from your senior’s mailbox. Once these statements are in the hands of criminals they can steal your senior’s identity and open new credit cards in your senior’s name or drain their bank accounts. They do this quite expertly and quickly so that much damage is done before your senior even realizes they have been a victim. You can also get your senior a locking mailbox to secure all their mail. They should also be encouraged not to put payments or valuable information in the outgoing mailbox with the flag up as these pieces are often the victims of stolen mail. Have them go directly to the post office or hand directly to the mail carrier.
  3. Keep all passwords secure. Change passwords often and use more complex entries that can’t be easily guessed based on a minimal knowledge of your senior such as their birthday or street address. Don’t leave passwords in a place that is easy to find such as in your phone. Write them down if needed to remember but keep the information in a safe place.
  4. Don’t give out personal information over the phone or via email, even if it seems legitimate. Most scammers are very convincing. Banks and businesses will not contact you via email or ask your senior for passwords. Phishing incidents are increasing as more people are falling for the realistic scams that enter our email inboxes every day. Remind your senior not to open email from anyone they don’t know or trust and definitely don’t open attachments contained in emails. Delete before opening, don’t let curiosity get the best of them. Even using Facebook can open their computer up for viruses when attachments and videos can contain malware.
  5. Be careful where your senior connects to free Wi-Fi and don’t use free Wi-Fi to do banking or any other computer activity requiring a password. It is too easy to steal your information through public Wi-Fi sites or twin routers used by criminals.
  6. Add your senior’s phone number to the no call list and then have their phone number unlisted to reduce nuisance calls and open them up to potential phone scams.
  7. Use the password protection on your senior’s smartphone, even if it seems annoying every time it is used. If your senior leaves the phone somewhere or just sitting on a table their personal information will not be open to spying eyes.
  8. Engage the app FindMyiPhone, or the equivalent for other systems, on the smartphone that helps track a lost phone or tablet and can, even remotely, erase sensitive information if their devices are stolen or lost.
  9. Use free monitoring services from the bank or other financial institutions so that your senior or you will be alerted if there is suspicious activity on their accounts.
  10. Tell your senior not to carry their social security card, check book or even Medicare card due to the possibility of a wallet or purse getting stolen or lost with sensitive information in it. Medicare cards have your senior’s social security number on them at this time — hopefully that will change in the future due to the risk of identity theft.
  11. Keep your senior’s computer protected from malware and security breaches by installing software that can scan it regularly for viruses.
  12. When using credit cards, inserting PINs or paying with the smartphone, warn your senior’s to look out for ‘shoulder surfers’ who may be trying to steal your PINs and even clone their credit card swipe.

Trusting Ways Open Door to Harm

Criminals, scammers and hackers know all the tricks to get our personal information from us and can use our data to steal our identities.

Seniors are often targets because they are very trusting, having grown up in a time when that was the norm rather than an invitation to criminals.

Many of the 12 tips above target tempering that trusting nature with precaution, simple steps to take away the opportunity for criminals to take advantage of seniors who still want to live as they did in those earlier times.

With a little planning and some education for our senior loved ones, we can reduce the likelihood of them becoming victims. They worked hard for their nest egg and retirement income so it is worth taking the precautions needed to keep their money safe.

And worth the effort of us, as their loved ones, to help them.

Risks and Rewards Await Growing Number of Young Senior Caregivers

Increasing numbers of seniors are entering their golden years needing care by family members to complete even the most basic tasks.

According to the Family Caregiver Alliance, National Center on Caregiving, in 2012 more than 65 million caregivers provided care to an adult who is ill, disabled or aged.

43.5 million family caregivers provide some level of care for someone 50+ years of age.

14.9 million of these family caregivers care for someone who has Alzheimer’s disease or other dementia.

These numbers are incredible and are expected to grow as the senior population grows. Unfortunately, the family caregivers who care for senior loved ones are also aging.

Who will be giving their elder family members care in the future?

Growing Numbers of Younger Caregivers

There are more and more young people taking on the mantle of caregiving to senior adults.

The US Census Bureau estimates 5.7 million grandparents live with their grandchildren in their home. Some of these grandparents are nurturing the kids but many kids are now providing senior care for the older adults.

It is thought that 1.3 to 1.4 million child caregivers between the ages of 8 and 18 are caring for family members, including older adults.

Most alarming of all is the statistic that 22% of high school dropouts leave school to care for family.

Oftentimes younger people take care of family members, especially grandparents, while their own parents are at work, are depressed or suffering from substance abuse.

Some children have to act as interpreter for their family when English is a second language, which means they are mediators in the healthcare team.

There are many cultural reasons that children take on the caregiving role in a family, including poverty, divorce, sickness, and crumbling of the family unit.

Regardless of the reason, more of the responsibility for senior care is being shouldered by teens and younger children.

Not surprisingly, these younger caregivers report being an observer to the family dynamic and taking the stress of the situation upon themselves.

Effects of Youth Providing Senior Care

Caregiving for family members, especially senior loved ones, is usually a joy, as you are giving back for all that was given to you, and it is fulfilling and purposeful. It can also be stressful and create emotional, financial and physical stress for many caregivers.

When you are a young person serving as a family caregiver, the stress can be more difficult. No one really knows how to help you and the young person doesn’t have experience to guide them with tasks or how to ask for help.

Here are some pitfalls for younger caregivers:

  • Lack of knowledge about disease or treatments
  • Unable to handle psychological and emotion consequences of caregiving
  • Lack of resources
  • Inability of peer group to support caregiving needs
  • Little attention given to their health or needs as caregiver
  • Takes time from their childhood, unable to attend age appropriate events, miss out on activities with friends; lose a carefree life
  • May overwhelm time needed for studying resulting in poor grades; often absent from school frequently; difficulty getting teachers to understand why homework not done
  • Age may mean they can’t legally act on of their senior loved one especially at end of life
  • Limited support groups for their age group
  • Little recognition or support for grief given during aftercare
  • Become isolated and feel alone; mood swings
  • Put their own future on hold including college or career
  • Fatigue and illness
  • Grow up too fast

Caring for Young Caregivers

Family caregivers who support their parents, grandparents or other family members need to be even more careful to meet their own individual needs.

This, in many instances, means that the young caregiver has to be the one who ensures that their needs are met since there may be no other adult looking out for their needs. If there was, the adult family member would take over the caregiving role so the young person wouldn’t have to be responsible for a senior.

Here’s some advice for young family caregivers.

  1. Be your own person. Do things that you enjoy. Take time to be yourself and do things that other kids your age are doing. Listen to music, go to the movies or just hang out with your friends.
  2. Ask for help from adults. It is important to recognize that you aren’t saving the adults in your life from worry when you assume the entire burden. Now they are going to have to worry about you too. Engage the adults in your home or community to help. Perhaps extended or long distance family members can help do something to relieve you of tasks so that you can be a kid and do your schoolwork. They could pay for home care so you can attend school. Provide respite for you so that you can find time to be with friends. Maybe longtime friends of your senior can pitch in to do household tasks for your family member. Don’t be afraid to ask!
  3. Seek out other young caregivers who are walking in your shoes or have recently done what you are doing. These people will be able to relate to you, share experiences and support you in your journey the way kids at school can’t.
  4. Gain knowledge about the disease or illness of your senior loved ones so that you will be able to be prepared for changes, treatment and behaviors especially with dementia. Learn about their medications so that you can administer them safely. Learn how to be a better caregiver with local classes that could help you stay safe when transferring your senior or for giving first aid. Take a CPR course.
  5. Express your emotions. You will have down days, be frustrated and even guilty. It is OK and even normal to feel a wide variety of emotions, more than one at a time sometimes. You have to have an outlet for your emotions so that you stay well. You can talk to a counselor, therapist, church leader, or a trusted adult. You can also use a journal that you keep private to express your feelings. Talking about it is the first step in coping with whatever emotions you have in a healthy way.

Young Family Caregivers Need Adult Support

Adults need to realize that being put into a role of providing senior care, especially to a loved one, is even more challenging to the lives of youthful caregivers than older family members in the same role and help them understand and follow the advice above.

Caregiving children are part of a growing phenomenon, not just in the US but also globally. We will have to come to terms with this situation as a society and provide alternatives to adult family members who are unable to – or won’t – care for senior loved ones without relying on children to be primary caregivers.

Every child should be allowed to be a kid, have access to an education and not be compromised physically and mentally as a result of caregiving. Helping grandma is different than shouldering full responsibility for grandma’s health, well-being and safety.

As former US First Lady Rosalynn Carter said so well:

“There are four kinds of people in the world:

Those who have been caregivers;

Those who currently are caregivers;

Those who will be caregivers;

And those who will need caregivers.”

We need to help our youth stay in the “will be caregivers” caregivers category as long as possible and give them all the support they need if their caregiving future is now.

Stop Reduced Mobility from Limiting Senior Loved Ones’ Independence

Most Americans want to stay in their homes as long as possible, even the rest of their lives.

In order to age in place successfully, we have to remain independent and capable of caring for ourselves as we grow older.

There are many lifestyle changes our senior loved ones can make as they age so they can maintain the highest level of function and thus independence in their elder years.

Seniors and future seniors should make real efforts to eat right, stay physically active, manage weight and do strength building exercises to improve balance and prevent falling.

Falling can increase the likelihood of losing independence and getting moved to a nursing home or even suffering a fatal injury. Falls are the leading cause of death and injury for seniors.

Most falls (55%) occur in people’s homes, with another 23% occurring outside, but near, home.

Prevention is the best option when we think about falls in seniors especially compared to treatment and final outcomes.

Helping Prevent Senior Falls

We hear about the many things we can do to help prepare our senior’s home to prevent falls.

Here are just a few things we can all do to make our senior’s homes safer:

  • Remove clutter.
  • Provide appropriate lighting.
  • Remove throw rugs and other tripping obstacles from the floor.
  • Rearrange furniture for best access, opening up walkways.
  • Keep items within easy reach, including in the kitchen.
  • Repair loose floorboards, steps and thresholds and install handrails on both sides of hallways, including porches.
  • Install grab bars in bathroom at sinks, showers and toilets.

There are also personal changes that will help your senior stay standing. Here are just a few examples:

  • Review medications to be sure prescription or over the counter drugs are not causing side effects that may lead to falls.
  • Drink adequate amounts of fluids.
  • Stay physically active every day. By getting exercise your senior will help prevent muscle loss, build muscles, improve balance and coordination and stay flexible. Stiff joints can lead to falls.
  • Have yearly dilated eye exams and use any prescribed corrective lenses.
  • Get enough sleep to refresh and restore muscles.
  • Wear appropriate shoes whenever not in bed

Assistive Devices for Fall Prevention

An important part of fall prevention in the home is for senior’s to use assistive devices that have been recommended by their healthcare team.

Many seniors who own devices don’t use them in the home because they feel that they aren’t needed or the distance is too short, from bedroom to bathroom for example, to need it.

Guess what – 55% of falls occur in the home! It is important for our senior loved ones to actually use their devices.

We have all heard stories that our seniors don’t want to use the devices they have when they go out because they don’t want to appear ‘old’ or ‘infirm’. I recently heard about a 100 year old woman who wouldn’t use her walker despite severe hip pain because she thought it made her look old!

All too often our seniors know they need the devices they own, don’t really want to have to need them or use them so instead isolate themselves in their homes. Lack of engagement and social interaction through self-isolation can lead to depression and declining health.

It makes a bad situation worse.

Right Device Sized Properly

Some seniors may be using devices purchased from a pharmacy that have not been approved or fitted to them by a professional which can lead to harm. Others may borrow one from a friend or loved one, trying to save money.

It is important to seek the advice of a therapist when getting assistive mobility devices in order to be safe and use them safely.

Some seniors may also think that using a device will put them at greater risk, but research has shown no increased risk of falls in those using an appropriately sized assistive device.

In other words, a properly-used walker that is fitted to the user’s height will not cause a fall.

A few devices that we often see used by seniors are canes, walkers, rollators, motorized scooters, wheelchairs, and other devices. Also considered assistive devices are the raised toilet seats and shower benches that can provide benefits by preventing falls in the bathroom.

Reliance on Assistive Devices Growing

The statistics show that, as the population ages, more and more seniors have, or at least should be using, assistive mobility devices. In fact, the number has grown by 50% in the past few years, according to interviews of Medicare beneficiaries.

In addition, 10% of seniors interviewed report using more than one device. That is seen as a good thing by researchers because it indicated the seniors are using different devices depending on the situation to get the most benefit.

Hopefully, as accessibility in the community for seniors who use these devices increases, society’s acceptance of elders needing to use assistive mobility devices — and seniors feeling comfortable using them in public — will continue to increase so that the number of seniors falling and being injured, or worse, will decrease.

We can’t prevent every fall but with some planning, modifications and interventions we can reduce the number of falls our senior loved ones experience. Hopefully we can avoid injury by making some changes.

After all, our seniors just want to live independently as long as possible and family caregivers want this for them too!

Helping Seniors Fall in Love with Tech Devices That Change Their Lives

We have done a good job in getting our seniors to accept the latest technology, according to the latest statistics about seniors adopting technology.

More than accepting it, many now wonder what they did without it!

They have smartphones in their pockets, tablets for their apps and laptops on their dinner table. Now what?

If you have had the same experiences that we have had, you are probably pulling your hair out!

Let’s all take a breath and remember the benefits that they will get once they can say “I got that!”

Getting Seniors Started with Technology

With every new device or even app that our senior loved ones want to use and will accept – or that we are hoping they will – comes a set up and training session (at least one!).

Getting the device charged, registered, passwords established, wireless connections and printers installed does take a bit of time on our part.

This is very often just the beginning. What do they do next?

We need to show them what to do from the very beginning including:

  • how to turn on the device
  • adjust the volume
  • set the ringtones
  • adjust privacy settings
  • get their favorite backgrounds
  • open the apps after they are installed
  • take a photo, send it to social media or download as a file
  • sync their devices
  • charge the devices
  • use FaceTime
  • type onto a tablet
  • alter the font size for the reading app
  • download books using an account
  • surf the net on the device
  • protect the device with covers, cases or carrying bags
  • how to turn on the ringtones and then quiet the ringer

Don’t overlook how to simply make or receive a call, since those functions in smartphones are very different from home phones or not-so-smart cell phones.

Some of these things seem so minor to us but they can be overwhelming and at times deal breakers for our seniors. Helping them make their new devices as user friendly as possible will help them accept and use them more often.

Answering the Multitude of Questions

If your senior loved one is anything like ours, you will have to constantly answer questions. Oftentimes the questions get asked over and over again. Don’t get frustrated, because that’s a good thing. Better to ask a question until comfort is reached than leave us assuming they know.

Many times the questions come over the phone and we struggle to understand what the actual problem is so that we can help with the solution. We seem to end up saying we will come over and help or bring the computer next time you visit and we will do it together. Does this sound familiar?

“How do I send that picture to my email?”

“How can I print this photo on photo paper for the album?”

“Why isn’t my phone making a sound when you text me?”

We have begun making scripts that outline every process using step by step guidelines for every action so that what we show them when we are together they will be able to duplicate when they are home again.

It is natural that they have questions for a few reasons. They aren’t using the technology in the same way that we do and don’t use it often enough to become familiar and comfortable with it.

They may also be afraid one wrong move will kill the device and break the internet. It is hard to overcome the fear that they could do something wrong. They also have trouble remembering all the details, especially when they get a little complicated.

Updating Their Devices

Another area where our seniors seem to have a big issue is updating their systems.

One session we had with a family member and a laptop computer that needed 31 updates and took quite awhile installing them all. It seems there is some misunderstanding about why updates are needed and if it was safe to update when prompted.

After all, the computer worked, right? In the next breath, though, we learned of frustration the computer had been running so slowly of late.

Once it was updated, ran faster and worked without as many hiccups it became clear why the updates were necessary.

Keeping your device up to date with the latest software updates can actually protect your computer from malware and security breaches. Updates provide patches that can protect your computer from the latest problems hackers have invented.

Seniors need help understanding this concept and that updates don’t cost them money or hurt their computer.

Once they do, they may ask for help updating tech gadgets, such at TVs and Blu-ray players they never realized needed software updates.

Apps We Love for Seniors

With the latest, greatest devices come some really interesting and useful apps. We work with many seniors and find that there are quite a few apps that they find appealing.

Here is a list of those that we think are fun and beneficial for seniors:

  1. Books – print and audio. There are a multitude of sites that provide a reading/listening experience so whichever your senior and you like best or works with your operating system would be great. We like Kindle, BookShout, Audible, Nook and iBooks. Many books can be found for avid readers that are free. It takes a bit of looking through free books on these apps but you can find many good titles and self-help books for free or a very low price.
  2. GPS/Maps – even for those with all their routes memorized, having a mapping app handy can help when in a new location or looking for a store or landmark that isn’t on the usual route. Be sure to show them how to set it up for walking vs. driving directions so they get the best route no matter their mode of travel.
  3. TV Guide – being able to see at a glance what TV programs are coming on and bookmarking your senior’s favorite shows or channels is much better than waiting for the newspaper with the small print.
  4. Cable TV – many cable providers have apps that can be used wirelessly to stream onto their tablets. They can watch their favorite programs on the tablet while they sit on the back porch or in the swing in the yard.
  5. Calendar app – a good calendar app that has features they need, like appointment reminders, that can be set an different time intervals using familiar sounds is a great idea. They can set up medication reminders, birthday reminders and any type of alert they want to remember. We like Informant but there are many others from which you can choose.
  6. Social Media – apps on the tablet or smartphone for social media sites they use will make it quick and easy to see the latest family pictures.
  7. Music – being able to stream their favorite music from apps like Pandora where they can set up favorite music or iHeart Radio that allows them to pick their favorite station/genre, as well as iTunes that lets them download and buy songs and make playlists. They will have music wherever they go.
  8. Pharmacy – adding the local pharmacy’s app to their devices allows them to pre-order prescriptions, check if they are ready, get coupons, get reward points for purchases and order printing of photos from their device. It also provides a ready list of all their prescriptions in one place along with their refill status.
  9. Weather – getting an app that gives them hour by hour forecasts, alerts for storms and radar images so they know when to take shelter promote safety not to mention just cool!

Our senior loved ones will enjoy these and SO many other apps.

Avoid “Too Much Too Fast”

Be care not to overwhelm them with too many apps right away, though, or it may confirm assumptions new technology is just too hard to learn.

When we ease senior loved ones into it, they can find their devices and apps are great for entertainment, mind engagement, social activity, memory creation and enjoyment, and for staying safe.

What other apps do you know that will provide real benefits to your senior loved ones?

We may always have to help them through and answer their questions and even troubleshoot regularly, but that just cements our bond and makes us indispensable to them! That’s a good thing for family caregivers.

If sometimes their need for help is overwhelming for you, involve a grandchild who would love to have an opportunity to show grandpa how to do it!

When we help them love their technology devices without fear or frustration, we will help them realize immeasurable benefits — and realize some for ourselves.

When the Nest Egg Cracks: Senior & Family Caregiver Financial Options

Most of us shiver at the thought of retiring without enough money to see us through, not just the everyday needs but also emergencies.

Financial issues of our senior loved ones (and our own) cause many a sleepless night for family caregivers.

How much is enough to meet their needs? What are the potential costs that might push a nest egg out of the tree?

These are all considerations as family caregivers think about their own future but also for their senior loved ones who may be struggling making their nest egg meet their current needs.

Are there options for them now to afford healthcare and living costs as they age in place?

What can we do to help figure it out?

Cracking Retirement Nest Eggs

Our senior loved ones have already planned for their retirement and probably have a steady income at this point in their life. The concern comes when one, or both, of two scenarios comes into play:

  • their expenses, planned and unplanned, overwhelm their resources, or
  • something happens to devalue the nest egg they have built.

Many seniors are living longer than the years they planned their money to last. That’s a good thing for the family members who love them but not always a good thing for the finances.

On the other side of the equation, we have seen how financial markets and interest rates can devastate savings and business decisions can do the same to pensions.

The cost of healthcare has risen so sharply that even a well person can have difficulty keeping pace with the costs. Add a few chronic conditions, medical procedures and several expensive medications and the nest egg starts to teeter out of the tree limb.

There are some options to meet expenses for our seniors to take advantage of even at this stage of their lives or to offer protection of assets for the family after the death of a senior. This could be important if the family caregiver incurs financial expenses during caregiving.

Financial Options for Repairing Cracks

Financial situations and issues are individual so we won’t tell you which is best for your senior loved ones, but we have some options to consider. You may want to consult financial or legal experts with questions or advice in determining what is best for your senior (remember, we are informing but not providing legal advice).

Caregiver Loan

Relatively new on the scene it is a peer-to-peer loan between family members and seniors. Family members, including children and grandchildren, can collectively fund a flexible line of credit with low interest rates to seniors.

Family members become the bank. No fees upfront but adequate interest rate to cover the interest family would have had on the money they are lending.

Even though or perhaps because family is involved, there could be problems and disagreements. It is best to have legal help or from a bank that helps structure the loan for you so that all the particulars are clearly understood by all. Experts recommend that the value of the amount lent does not exceed 65% of a senior’s home value as most of these arrangements are similar to reverse mortgages.

Life Estate

A life estate is a term about which we are hearing more and more lately as seniors look for a way to get more control over what happens to the family home after their death and shelter their children from the probate process.

A life estate is a joint ownership of real estate, such as a house. A senior can sell or give ownership to their children of the home while the senior remains living there. The senior is the life tenant and the child is the remainderman. Under a life estate, the home does not go through probate because the home’s title is no longer in the senior’s name.

During their lifetime the senior continues to be responsible for the mortgage and upkeep of the residence. If the child pays for these, they can be reimbursed from the senior’s estate.

A life estate can be sold or given to more than one child if that is a preference. It is considered a gift and could affect medical assistance for long term care of the senior.

There are family benefits and is seen as encouraging families to live together to better care for their senior loved one, but there are potential drawbacks to a life estate. However, the main benefit of a life estate is minimizing the effect of inheritance tax or other taxes when transfer the real estate asset in probate.

It makes it difficult to mortgage or sell the property if needed. The child or children and the senior must all agree to any change in title, sale or borrowing against the home. If the child sells the property after the senior’s death, they must pay capital gains tax. The senior also takes on the possible legal problems of the child which could impact ownership of the home including lawsuits, bankruptcy or back taxes. If the child dies before the senior, the estate of the child would have to proceed through probate. It the child gets divorced, the spouse would have a claim against the house.

It is very important to seek advice from an elder law attorney, estate lawyer or tax expert before proceeding with a life estate so that every possibility is understood and because each state has different laws governing a life estate.

Transfer of Death Deed

When the title to real estate has a filed Transfer of Death Deed (TODD) it will also usually avoid probate, since the title is transferred upon death but remains in the senior’s name up until their death.

This is helpful to keep the property in the family with the person of the senior’s choosing, but this doesn’t offer the senior any financial gain during their lifetime that would be helpful during aging.

Reverse Mortgages / Home Equity Conversion Mortgage

Many seniors have decided to get reverse mortgages to help pay for current expenses and others may be considering it.

A reverse mortgage was originally issued to help seniors access the equity in their home in order to help prevent economic hardship.

If the senior has a low mortgage balance or owns their home free and clear, they can get a lump sum payment, monthly payment or line of credit. The lending company pays the senior homeowner and recoups the investment at the time of death or if the house is sold. Significant fees are often associated with these mortgages.

A reverse mortgage can help low income and low savings seniors who own their home be able to live comfortably now. However, it has many disadvantages, including a high cost (as much as 5% of the value of the home) that should be carefully considered. It might be more beneficial to have a line of credit or monthly payment so that a lump sum isn’t spent in a less than advantageous way including scams.

Home Equity Loan

This is a loan that allows the owner (in this case senior) to use the equity in their home for cash. The money can be used for home repairs, medical costs or other debt. The amount of equity is derived from the difference in the appraised value of the home and what is owed in mortgage.

The home is used as collateral so that if your senior defaults on the equity loan, the bank can take the home. It has a fixed interest rate, a set amount of time money can be used, and a repayment period.

A home equity loan can be done in a lump sum or as a line of credit.

Leverage Life Insurance

Some seniors are choosing to take a loan against the value of their life insurance to use for their current expenses. The life insurance policy becomes collateral for a loan.

The death benefits are then used to pay off the loan after your senior dies. If there is any money left over, it will go to the beneficiary.

Housing Rehabilitation Grants and Low Interest Loans

Money to be used to repairs or correct health or safety hazards in the senior’s home or to make accessibility modifications so that seniors can stay in their home longer.

Home Energy Assistance Program (HEAP)

A federal program that offers cash grants to help pay home heating expenses.

Both the Housing Rehabilitation and Home Energy Assistance programs are typically administered through your state’s Agency on Aging. Your senior should contact them to learn more or apply for funds.

Caution is The Parent of Safety

As with anything that involves money, you and your senior loved one should be cautious before signing on the dotted line. Loans of any type are not always desired but can be valuable tools if needed.

These are a few ways to help seniors and their caregivers face economic challenges. However, there are many other ways to help fund our senior loved ones aging in place, including following a budget and participating in all government programs for which they are eligible, including SNAP, Medicare, VA benefits, housing and other assistance.

Sometimes our senior’s best idea of what funds were needed to feather their nest egg will provide adequate amounts for their care but for many their retirement planning just won’t cut it. Being aware of the financial options available and finding the right fit for your senior, will help them live comfortably.

It will help both of you sleep better.