Tech Talk for Seniors, Family Caregivers & Others Not “Born Digital”

Sometimes even the English language can seem like someone is speaking in a foreign tongue.

Older adults, who lived much of their lives without today’s technology, can feel that tech speak is unintelligible and the whole world is trying to tell them something they don’t understand.

It can be like talking about a new medical condition or the effects of medication with a doctor when they use terms we never heard before.

It would be so nice to learn the words to describe a variety of technology solutions that could benefit them or simply make their life a little easier.

Helping seniors (and their family caregivers) learn at the least the most frequently used tech terminology could be very helpful in getting them comfortable using technology and gaining the benefits it can bring to their lives.

Defining Tech Speak

Here are some of the more common words used by those familiar with technology that many seniors — and family caregivers — may not yet have mastered.

Android – mobile operating system developed by Google and used in almost all non-Apple smartphones and tablet devices.

Apps – app is an abbreviation for the word application, it usually refers to a software program that performs a specific function. The term app refers to mobile devices and a user must download them to use. They open up in the operating system. Examples of apps include mobile banking, games, maps, GPS, business links, health links, etc.

Artificial Intelligence or AI — intelligence demonstrated by a machine that is normally associated with humans, such as the ability to observe a situation and make a decision regarding how to proceed based on the information observed.

Blockchain — a list of records, linked using secure code, that grows with each new record added, with none being deleted. Each record is accessible only to those who have the appropriate key code. A blockchain allows secure records, such as medical records, banking information, contracts, and more to be securely maintained without the need of entities in the middle of the transaction, giving parties much greater security potential than is achieved with current systems.

Bluetooth – short (such as within a room or home) distance wireless interconnection between mobile phones, computers, and other electronic devices. Data is sent over radio waves instead of through wires/cords. Devices that are able to connect have a Bluetooth chip in them.

Broadband Connection — often called just ‘broadband,’ refers to a high speed connection to the internet, whether using DSL (Digital Subscriber Line), Cable modem, or high speed cellular connection.

Data – pieces of information, such as names, phone numbers, medical device readings, whether a light switch is on or off, and much MUCH more.

Download – receiving information or data from one computer or electronic device into the memory of another usually over the internet.

Flash drive – a small portable device for the purpose of storing files or data and can transfer that data to another device as well as be used to back up data. This data storage device is also known as thumb drive, flash stick, memory stick, jump drive, or USB memory.

HDMI cable – a cable that transmits high definition digital audio/visual (compressed or uncompressed) from a source device to another compatible device. For example, connects a computer to a projector to present a video.

HTML – fundamental language used to create webpages; stands for hypertext markup language.

Hub – center of a network. For technology, a hub can be the center of a specific network, such as smart home devices, or the center of USB system that connects peripheral devices. A network hub allows multiple devices the ability to communicate with each other. A USB hub allows multiple devices to be connected to or interface with one computer.

iOS – an operating system for mobile devices manufactured and used by Apple devices such as iPads and iPhones.

IoT – Internet of Things; refers to a system of interrelated electronic and mechanical devices that are connected so that no human contact is required for operation (human to human or human to computer). They connect wirelessly using a hub as point of connectivity. They transmit data amongst devices.

Link – it is an HTML object that allows users to jump to a different web location by clicking it. Links are often attached to images, words, or titles. They can be displayed using blue letters or underlined but this is no longer the default. Term is short for hyperlink.

Operating system – a system that allows software to communicate with hardware in computing to allow programs to run. Examples include Microsoft Windows, iOS, and Android.

Phishing — scam that uses email to fraudulently obtain personal data such as credit card numbers, passwords, and social security numbers by tricking recipients into thinking they are opening and responding to an email from a known or reputable source.

Platforms – refers to a computers operating system or group of technologies that are used as a base for applications; examples for personal computing are Windows, MacIntosh and tell on which kind of computer system a particular software will work. Social media sites are often described as platforms as well (Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, etc.).

Remote access – the ability to use a computer or electronic device from a separate or remote location as well as the ability to control the device or app once the connection is made.

Streaming – transmitting or receiving data over a computer network in such a way that you can begin viewing the data before it is fully transmitted, such as when watching a video.

Strong password – passwords that are harder to hack, which will contain a variety of characters such as lower and upper case letters, numbers, and symbols and are at least 8 characters long (typically longer).

Sync – abbreviation for synchronize; connecting data between devices such as computer and smartphones, typically via Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, or cellular connections.

Upload – the opposite of downloading, sending data from one electronic device to another. You will upload emails and photos when you send.

USB — Universal Serial Bus, short distance digital communication; USB ports allow connectivity between devices and transfer data over cables.

Wearables – electronic technology device that can be worn, such as exercise trackers, or can be imbedded in clothing or as tattoos directly on the skin. Powered by microprocessors, they are hands-free and can send or receive data via the internet.

Wireless – transmit data without cables or wires using radio waves. Wi-Fi and Bluetooth are both networks that allow data to transmit without wires. A wireless card or router/modem is used for Wi-Fi and a chip is generally used to enable Bluetooth.

5G — refers to the fifth (next) generation of mobile internet connectivity, which will provide much faster connections and enable much higher volumes of data to be communicated.

Building Comfort with Tech

Seniors may be more comfortable engaging with technology when they are relieved of feeling embarrassed due to a lack of knowledge or understanding of tech and its terminology.

Simply learning some of the technology industry’s language may empower them to get more involved with tech that is beneficial to them and their ability to live independently.

Geek speak shouldn’t be keeping them from using technology.

Keep in mind the objective is building comfort, not making anyone experts in the field.

Learning a few new words shouldn’t be a barrier and it might be fun especially if a tech-savvy or tech geek grandchild is the teacher!

This is a great way for multi-generational interaction to happen that will benefit everyone.

 

 




Give Grandma the Gift of (Safe) Social Media This Christmas

The signs are hard to miss, even though they are showing up even earlier this year: stores of all kinds displaying holiday decorations, holiday sales ads on TV, and Santa taking children’s wishes in many malls.

Yes, it’s time again to wrack our brains on that annual question: “what do we give our grandparents and parents for Christmas” this year?

We try so hard to come up with something that is both appreciated by them (yes, they say everything we give them is appreciated, but…) and useful to them — and usually end up feeling like we have fallen short.

Senior Care Corner® suggests giving the Gift of Social Media this year.

The Gift of Social Media for Grandma (or Grandpa, Mom, or Dad) is one of those rare gifts that truly keeps on giving year-round to both the recipients and givers of the gift.

We have seen recent studies indicating as many as half of seniors use social networking sites, the most with Facebook and YouTube, which still leaves a lot more candidates. Even among that half, though, it is likely many are worried about using social media due to security breaches, when safe practices can reassure them.

Why Social Media as a Gift?

As we have discussed in prior posts, there are many benefits to seniors of being active on social networks, whether Facebook (by far the most accessed), YouTube, Instagram, or one of many others.

  • Keeping families close, making it possible for many seniors to chat and keep up with their children, grandchildren, siblings, and extended family.
  • Photo and video sharing, with social networks making it quicker and easier than ever to share pictures and movies with loved ones and friends.
  • Community Belonging, giving seniors the ability to socialize and stay abreast of current events from the comfort of home.
  • Peace of Mind, keeping the growing number of seniors preferring or needing to live in their homes a convenient way to check-in regularly with loved ones and healthcare providers.
  • Coupons and other Discounts, linking seniors to the online offerings of retailers and service providers.
  • Brain and memory exercise, helping to keep seniors’ brains young.

Helping loved ones understand the benefits they can expect is likely to encourage the effort needed to create a social networking habit.

Social Media Safety is Crucial

Safe use of social media sites has always been important, but never more so than today, with all the stories we hear of breaches and the fear it has created in many users.

There are a number of keys to helping senior loved ones use social networking sites safely — and feel safe doing so.

  1. Establish safe passwords that can’t be guessed from information about your senior that is publicly available. You may suggest they give a couple of trusted individuals their password so it can be retrieved easily if forgotten. Help them change it periodically as well.
  2. Provide the social networking sites the minimum personal information needed in order to use the site. When the seemingly inevitable data breach occurs, the less information included the better.
  3. Limit access to posts appropriately. Utilize the social network’s settings to ensure information posted is only seen by desired audiences.
  4. Post with caution on the sites. Don’t include such things as personal information that may be used to steal an identity, private health information, provide financial data, or divulge when nobody is going to be home at your senior’s house.
  5. Click with caution, avoiding any links in social media posts (just as with email) that are not absolutely trusted and do not respond to requests for information unless certain they are from a trusted friend or family member. A bank, insurance company, or the IRS will not request private information through social media posts.

Remember, social media safety is not a “set it and forget it” act, but a continuing process. It must be practiced each day and even updated as social network settings change, which they seem to do all too frequently.

Giving the Gift of Social Media

Giving the Gift of Social Media is more than signing up your senior loved ones for Facebook or showing them how to access YouTube videos and can be part of a truly memorable family experience.

  • Arranging online access, where needed, often through cable TV or home phone companies or a cell phone provider.
  • Choosing the right device(s) for your loved one. Popular options include computers, tablets and smartphones. Some devices are targeted to seniors and their specific needs.
  • Setting up access to desired social networks. It might be beneficial to survey family members and check around with your senior’s outside interests to see which networks would be most valuable.
  • Establishing privacy settings and practices (very important!).
  • Communicating with loved ones on a regular basis to form and keep the habit, not to mention staying close to them.

The Gift of Social Media is truly a gift for the entire family.

We hope you’ll join us in promoting the Gift of Social Media and consider giving the gift to the senior loved ones in your life!

 

 




Web and Tech Use by Seniors Growing But Challenges Remain

Digital technology and the web are already improving life for seniors living independently and there is much more to come.

In order to realize many of the benefits tech has to offer, however, seniors have to be using connected devices. That’s why Senior Care Corner® has long advocated that family caregivers urge their senior loved ones using smartphones, tablets, the web, and social networking apps.

A recent report from Pew Research, Tech Adoption Climbs Among Older Adults, tells us much progress has been made but also that there is much left to do, especially for family caregivers of older seniors.

We’ll take a look at some of the facts from the Pew report and then discuss how caregivers can address some of the challenges that remain.

Seniors Bridging Digital Gap

After hearing and reading for years that seniors simply won’t adopt smartphones and other connected devices or become active uses of the internet, it’s great to see seniors putting that thinking to rest.

While our own experiences with family and community told us it could happen, we’re thrilled to see it confirmed by Pew.

Would it be a surprise to hear that 21% of seniors prefer to be early adopters of technology?

These are some of the key results of their surveys:

  • 67% of seniors are internet users, including 82% of those from 65 to 69
  • Three fourths of senior internet users report going online at least once per day, with the majority doing so several times daily
  • 42% of all seniors have smartphones, a significant increase from the 18% who reported doing so in 2013; 91% of those report going online at least daily
  • One third of seniors use tablets (such as Apple’s iPad or the Amazon Fire)
  • The one third of seniors reporting they use social media are half the level of all adults

While the increases reflected in those results are encouraging for the future of aging in place, there are some large gaps between the results for younger and older seniors. That is especially important today, since older seniors are the fastest growing segment of the US population.

  • Smartphone usage among those 75 and older is barely half those of the youngest seniors, as is tablet usage
  • Seniors who are 75 and older, those most likely to be isolated if living independently, are less than half as likely as younger seniors to use social media

The gaps that exist for the oldest seniors is one of the biggest challenges to overcome for family caregivers.

While there have been advances in technology usage by seniors, there are barriers reported that affect even tech users.

Barriers to Senior Tech and Web Usage

We have long discussed that many seniors have physical limitations, some age related and others due to health issues, that impact their ability to use digital devices.

Fortunately, there are a number of devices tailored to those seniors. Even more encouraging is that even developers of mainstream devices address usability concerns to make their devices practical for many seniors.

There are other factors we need to address in getting our senior loved ones to use tech and the web.

For example, three fourths of seniors using the web indicated they are less than very confident when using digital devices, with one third saying they have little or no confidence in doing so.

Something we have long recognized is that seniors are more likely than younger adults to need help using their new digital devices. Three out of four admitted to Pew that applies to them.

That’s a role many family caregivers fill and an opportunity for others to do so.

Rising to the Challenge to Benefit Seniors

Family caregivers have played a role in the adoption of technology by many seniors and can help bridge the gaps for even more.

We have found may family members who doubted their senior loved ones would use a smartphone and the web turned into believers after rising to the challenge and introducing technology to their seniors.

Device

The first step is the device itself. While some family caregivers simply purchase a smartphone or tablet for their senior loved one, involving them in the selection can be a first step in building their confidence with using it.

When choosing the right device, consider whether your senior’s needs or interests make a device tailored for seniors a good choice.

Another consideration could be the devices used by the senior’s family and friends. It may be easiest to learn to use a smartphone or tablet when others have experience with the same device and can offer tips.

Support

Once our senior loved ones have a device, the role of family caregivers is just beginning. Just having the device doesn’t ensure they’ll benefit, of course, so initial startup is a key aspect of support.

If this is their first smartphone, for example, they may need some help with basic setup (don’t forget security), choosing the right apps, and a little hands-on training.

It’s also important to establish up front where the senior will turn for help when they have a question or run into an issue, as we don’t want frustration to drive them to toss the device in a drawer. It might be a neighbor or distant family member who can respond with the right answer when needed, or even a friendly, knowledgeable staffer down at the mobile provider’s store where the device was purchased.

Internet Access

Having and know how to use technology is essential, but we can’t overlook the importance of fast, reliable access to the web for our senior loved ones. Seniors recognize that as well, with 9 out of 10 telling Pew they view having high-speed internet access at home as either important or essential.

Family caregivers can help senior loved ones evaluate and select the right high-speed access for their needs and budget. Budget is important, too, since internet access is only useful if affordable.

As many younger adults have found, the best high-speed answer may be wireless via the mobile provider. Here it pays to shop, as there are many plans from different providers. In addition, it may make sense to add senior loved ones to a family plan along with family caregivers.

Keep the Numbers Growing

Each year’s visit to CES® demonstrates to us the meaning technology will have to seniors in the future, especially those living independently at home.

In order for that technology to help our senior loved ones, though, it has to be something they choose to allow in their homes and actually use.

That means the effort we put in today to get our seniors using digital devices and the web is likely to pay dividends over the rest of their lives.

Let’s ensure our senior loved ones are among the numbers of those who will receive the health, safety, and comfort benefits promised by technology!

 




Because They’ll Use Them: Reason to Give Seniors Smartphones & Tablets

We’ve heard variations on the theme many times over, through responses to our tweets and Facebook posts, comments to our articles, and one-on-one conversations . . .

“Mom will never use a tablet, she’s too set in her ways to even try something like that.”

“Getting Dad a smartphone would be a waste of money, since he would only use it to make calls.”

Gratitude is now what we hear each time we have convinced family caregivers to give a senior loved one a smartphone or tablet over those objections.

Fortunately, we are hearing a growing volume of “I didn’t think they would really use it, but …”

Seniors Getting Smartphones & Tablets

Regular visitors to Senior Care Corner® have heard us advocating the ownership of mobile devices by older adults for some time.

Not only do seniors benefit from the use of smartphones and tablets themselves, but we see those as gateway devices. For those who were not “born digital,” mobile devices can build comfort with technology and make it easier to welcome into homes the technologies that will improve health, safety, and comfort for older adults.

While we are gratified to get feedback from many regarding the mobile device adoption by their own senior loved ones, we are pleased the statistics are consistent with our anecdotal evidence.

68% of seniors (65+) in the US own smartphones, as reported by Nielsen Online Insights based on research conducted in 3rd quarter 2016. That is higher than the number reported by AARP based on July 2016 research, which found 68% of those aged 60 to 69 had smartphones but only 29% of those 70 years of age and older.

While fewer older adults own tablets — 40% of those 50+ according to AARP, which is in line with the findings of the Consumer Technology Association earlier in 2016 — there are growing numbers with those devices as well.

Mobile device ownership alone does not ensure our senior loved ones are benefiting, of course. They have to use them.

And they are!

Much More Than Phone Calls

One concern we have heard over time from family caregivers is that their senior loved ones would use smartphones just for making phone calls, making them expensive and complicated telephones.

According to the AARP research, as published in its 2016 Technology Trends among Mid-Life and Older Americans, very few older adults with smartphones use them for calls only. Only 20% use them for just calls and email, the basic function for most mobile device owners.

How did AARP find older adults to be using smartphones?

  • Email and/or text messaging by 92% of those 60-69 and 78% of those 70+
  • Directions or traffic info by 75% of those 60-69 and 62% of those 70+
  • Web surfing is done by 68% of those 60-69 and 42% of those 70+
  • Using a social networking site (such as Facebook or Instagram) was named by 56% of those 60-69 and 40% of those 70+

Significant percentages of older adults also said they did such things as make online purchases, play games, and even do their banking on their smartphones.

Yes, seniors with smartphones WILL use them!

That doesn’t even take into account the number of seniors who no longer have to worry about lugging around a camera because they have joined the millions who use their smartphones for photography.

Tablets Replacing Traditional Computers

While tablets are still not as common as laptop or desktop computers among older adults, tablet use is growing while the other computing devices are falling in popularity.

Tablets are being used for most of the same tasks as smartphones. Their larger screen size makes them better suited for many applications, especially for those with diminished eyesight or dexterity. That same large screen puts tablets on par with many traditional computing options with the added benefit of greater portability.

It remains to be seen whether seniors migrate to smartphones with larger screens, often called “phablets” as a hybrid of smartphones and tablets, as is being seen with younger mobile device users.

Seniors ARE Using Social Networks

We have advocated the use of social networks, also called social media, even longer than the use of mobile devices (see our article “5 Benefits of Social Media for Seniors – Let’s Help Them Get Online!” which is one of our most read). We are also gratified by both anecdotal and published progress in that regard.

Accord to the Pew Research Center’s “Social Media Update 2016” . . .

  • 62% of online seniors use Facebook
  • 20% of online seniors use LinkedIn
  • 18% of online seniors use Pinterest

Older adults are much less likely than those in younger age groups to use Twitter and Instagram.

Connecting with Family & Friends

We have long pointed to the ability to stay connected with those they know and love as a primary benefit of mobile device and social networking use by seniors. Based on their usage, seniors seem to agree.

AARP found, in its research, over 70% of older adults who have digital devices use them to stay connected to friends and family.

While email and text messaging are most popular, 64% of those aged 60-69 and 46% of those 70+ who use tech to communicate connect with friends and family using social networking. That’s no surprise, since social networking spans all generations.

Almost one third of those aged 60-69 and a quarter of those 70+ using digital devices to communicate with friends and family using video chat, which includes FaceTime, Skype and other applications. We see these numbers only growing as seniors discover how easy digital devices make face to face communication.

But Will Your Senior Use Them?

The evidence is clear – – millions of older adults have smartphones and/or tablets and are receiving benefits from using them.

What if your senior loved one is not among them?

All individuals are unique so the fact that other seniors love their smartphones doesn’t mean yours will.

But it could be enough to justify giving it a try, giving them a chance?

This is not to say simply wrap a device up as a gift and give it to them to figure out on their own. Maybe the most valuable part of a device gift is including your time to help set it up, help them learn to use it, and let them get an initial taste of the benefits to come.

Remember, it’s not about adding your loved one to the statistics but improving their lives, both now and in the future. A positive experience with a smartphone or tablet could improve the likelihood your senior’s elder years are enhanced by technology solutions to come.

That prospect is exciting to us!

Tablet Tailored to Seniors’ Needs – Conversation with grandPad on the Senior Care Corner® Show

Technology that connects seniors to their families, friends, healthcare providers, and the world around them is increasingly important to successful aging in place.

For many seniors, that technology will be the same smartphones, tablets and computers used by younger generations.

Others, though, have needs best met by devices that are safe, secure, and straightforward to use. They may not have tech-savvy friends or family near them, so their devices need to work without regular “tech support” to be useful and used.

But is there such a device?

We didn’t think so before we saw grandPad at CES. What we saw impressed us enough to want to share it with you in this episode of the Senior Care Corner® Show.

grandPad for Seniors

The feature segment of this episode is a conversation with Dr. Kerry Burnight, grandPad’s Chief Gerontologist, who has seen firsthand how her patients have benefited from being reconnected with family and friends via grandPad.

In our discussion with Kerry, you will learn about the effort that went into the development of grandPad, which started with a focus on what was important to seniors in such a device.

As she explains, that led to the development of a device with features different from other mobile devices in the market. grandPad:

  • works right out of the box, with no setup or any other steps needed other than turning it on
  • comes pre-loaded with the essential apps and services seniors need to stay connected without any clutter, spam, or distractions
  • keeps seniors out of reach of those who would use digital connections to scam seniors out of their savings
  • comes with a very helpful and always available support team that ensures each senior’s grandPad provides what they need

News Items in This Episode

  • Redefining Health and Well Being in Older Adults
  • Smarter Ways to Teach Family Members Medical Skills
  • Alzheimer’s May Hamper Ability to Perceive Pain

This episode’s quick tip addresses traveling with our senior loved ones.

Links Mentioned in this Episode

  • grandPad’s website and grandpad.net
  • For those who would rather call: (800)704-9412

 

We hope you find this episode informative and will share it with other family caregivers.

Are there other caregiving topics you would like us to cover on the Senior Care Corner Show? If so, contact us and let us know or post a comment on our Facebook page.

Lifelong Learning Has Benefits for Students of All Ages – Are You One?

Throughout our lifetimes we try to do more, be more, live more.

One way we can do that is to be lifelong learners.

Caregivers are constantly learning new things, especially skills to care for senior loved ones.

Being a lifelong learner has many benefits, both mental and physical.

Lifelong Learning

When we pursue new ideas or skills, either formally or informally, we are being learners.

Learning every day, throughout our lives, makes us lifelong learners and information seekers.

We learn voluntarily when we have a love of learning, no one has to force us to do it.

We can be self-motivated to gain knowledge—because we are interested.

It doesn’t have to be for your profession or job, it could be for fun or to be a better caregiver.

Learning doesn’t only happen when we are in a classroom behind a desk but anywhere we are.

When we interact with others and the world in our daily life, we can be lifelong learners.

The goal of lifelong learners is to improve their knowledge and skills for personal and professional situations.

It has been said that “knowledge results from the combination of grasping experience and transforming it.”

Benefits of Lifelong Learning

Caregivers will find that being open to growth in knowledge will help them in their personal and caregiving lives.

These are just some of the ways that you can benefit with lifelong learning:

  • Social inclusion – make new friends
  • Personal development
  • Brain engagement
  • Pride in expertise and self-esteem builder
  • Sense of accomplishment
  • Higher paying jobs
  • Improved quality of life, sense of fulfillment
  • More fun in your days
  • Being satisfied with what life brings and even enjoying it
  • Delay or prevent dementia
  • Reduce boredom
  • Improved emotional health

Lifelong learning leads to self-enrichment for caregivers and seniors. This can increase interactions between caregivers, senior loved ones, and the community.

Technology Spurs Learning

Technology can help or hinder learning, depending on its availability or caregivers’ adoption of it.

Learning how to learn using technology may be the next thing on caregivers list of to-dos.

According to Colin Rose (author of Master It Faster), being a good learner will require caregivers to be a MASTER – Motivated, Acquire skills, Search for meaning, Trigger recollection, Examine, and Reflect.

We can learn via reading a new book, taking a class, learning a language, gaining a new skill, completing a DIY project, traveling, eating a new food or conversing with someone about something you never knew.

Technology especially using the internet can help us all learn more in different ways than we did before.

According to a new Pew Research Center survey:

  • 73% of adults call themselves lifelong learners
  • 74% of adults have participated in activities tied to learning for personal reasons
  • 63% of adults have gotten additional training/learning for the professional roles
  • 52% of personal learners and 55% of professional learners report using the internet for learning
  • 82% of people with a smartphone and a broadband connection in the home have received personal learning using technology; if only one of the two are available, 64% learn via technology
  • 77% of people who consider themselves lifelong learners or are open to it actually are!
  • 72% of caregivers gather health information online

Caregivers who have internet-connecting technologies are more likely to use information technology to navigate the world.

Many Online Learning Options

Caregivers can go online and learn about the diseases and treatments affecting their seniors, take classes online to learn more about their caregiving role and the skills needed to provide that care, take classes to learn hands-on caregiving skills, learn how to cope with behaviors, learn how to budget for healthcare, interact with other caregivers through social media, and investigate resources for caregiving in their communities. This is naturally just a short list of opportunities that are afforded to caregivers through technology and learning.

Distance learning and massive open online courses (MOOC) offered via universities and companies are ways caregivers can learn new information both personally and professionally.

In addition to learning new information and skills, caregivers and their senior loved ones can learn ways to reduce isolation through teleconferencing or video chatting, reduce hospitalization with better disease management and crisis care, and even travel the world virtually.

More Benefits of Technology

More caregivers and seniors would benefit by using technology to increase their access to learning opportunities.

What else can caregivers do with technology to learn how to help their senior loved ones? Use GPS technology to locate a lost senior, use a personal emergency response system if an emergency strikes, remind them to take their medication, keep them safe from falls using sensors, track health statistics, and learn from other caregivers through social media and support networks.

We all need to remember that learning is actually unavoidable.

Keeping a positive attitude and a zest for new knowledge will help caregivers be adaptable when change happens.

Let’s face it – caregiving for seniors is all about change and being able to cope with it gracefully.

Email Safety for Seniors (and the Rest of Us) – Family Caregiver Quick Tip

Many seniors took their time in adopting technology such as smartphones and getting online in general.

Fortunately, most are now realizing the benefits and frequently communicating with family, friends and others via email.

They can use a traditional computer or a mobile device like a tablet or smartphone.

The challenge continues to be keeping them and their private information safe during their time spent interfacing with technology.

Email, especially, can be a source of scams and malware for all segments of the population.

Seniors, who are unsuspecting and give away more information than they should, can be even more susceptible. They are trusting and unknowingly too forthcoming with items such as social security numbers and passwords.

How to Keep Seniors Safe When Viewing Emails

According to recent Pew Research reports, such as those Barry often discusses with us, seniors in growing numbers are getting connected and active on the web.

Older adults are keeping up with family and friends via email not only on their home computers but now on smartphones.

Here are a few tips, really reminders, to stay safe when using email:

  1. Never open an email from someone you don’t know. It is very tempting, after all it came to the phone in your pocket, but don’t do it. These are all too often filled with scam offers and viruses that you don’t want.
  2. Don’t give any personal information out through email, including address, social security numbers, passwords or any other private information. Your bank or Credit Card Company should never contact you via email to get information. Don’t even share this personal information with family via email since it can end up in the wrong hands.
  3. Remember that emails are written in ink and can be forwarded to anyone. Be careful what you say because chances are the email you least want others to see will be forwarded all around. Think twice sending an email complaining about your neighbors’ misdeeds or your family arguments — it might just come back around to you.
  4. Don’t open attachments unless you know who is sending it AND you are expecting that from them. Attachments can infect your computer and may come in emails that look like they are from a friend or family member.
  5. Don’t be tempted to click on websites contained in emails. If you want to visit a website identified in an email, type the address directly in the browser because emailed links can mask the real destination and send you to a site with malicious intent.

Additional Resources

Seniors Learning What Social Media Can Mean to Their Lives

We have come to a point where using social media platforms has become commonplace for those of all ages.

It isn’t just millennials who use social media, older adults have adopted it and are enjoying spending time connecting with family, friends and other people around the globe.

Certainly we see many people using social media to express their unique viewpoints on Twitter, celebrities sharing perhaps too much on Instagram and lots of food on Pinterest! We also know about many seniors who are using social media, especially Facebook, to connect with long distance family and long lost friends.

We’ve seen great things happening for seniors who have begun using social media.

According to the latest Pew Research report on social media, “usage among those 65 and older has more than tripled since 2010, when 11% used social media. Today, 35% of all those 65 and older report using social media, compared with just 2% in 2005.”

Social Media Explained

What exactly is social media for those who may not be using it to its fullest? Social media is a term used to describe a multitude of online communication channels. It includes Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, Google+, LinkedIn, YouTube and many more. They are often referred to as social networking platforms.

Twitter

Twitter is used for short snippets of information because messages are limited to 140 characters per tweet (rumored to be increased soon).

People of all ages use it for communicating, expressing opinions, broadcasting information of all kinds, and companies use it for advertising and marketing.

Users need only set up an account for free and use “@” for account names called handles and “#” (hashtags) to find streams (or categories) of information you will find most useful. Hashtags can also be just for fun like #homesweethome.

Facebook

Many find Facebook to be a more interactive platform, with the ability to share more than is possible with Twitter. It is an easier way to converse compared to Twitter.

Each person sets up their individual profile and becomes friends with others, including family, friends, businesses, groups and community organizations.

This social media platform is the most widely used according to the Nielsen Group and other researchers.

Users can upload pictures, videos and messages of any length.

Instagram

Instagram is a way to share photos with others. It doesn’t use text for communication, just photos.

Pictures are tagged using “#” to describe thoughts surrounding the picture like #dogsofinstragram. Many are using a variety of photographic techniques or filters to augment their photos.

A new trend is to upload videos on Instagram.

Pinterest

Pinterest is used to share images (photos) and save them in ‘boards’ for future use. You can follow what others are doing and pin images you enjoy.

Many people use this platform for pinning craft ideas, DIY project guides and recipes.

Google+

Google+ is a social networking platform created by Google, though it has not caught on as strongly as some of the other platforms.

It is used by many to share with others in ‘circles’ you create and you can find a large variety of information, including social interactions, information and images.

LinkedIn

LinkedIn’s popularity is primarily in the business world. Working people – or those seeking employment – share information and articles of interest to their profession. They can link with others or network to find jobs, hire others or learn about new opportunities.

It also offers a forum for business people to discuss theories, new programs and the latest research in their field.

YouTube

YouTube is a hugely popular video platform, where users share videos they have created.

Businesses use this platform to share information and educational videos to teach us to do something new such as play the piano. People also share funny things to entertain us like cats dancing (YouTube is famous for cat videos).

Users can ‘subscribe’ to channels of interest, such as Senior Care Corner or the National Institute on Aging. Whenever a new video is posted you are alerted.

Social media is about creating and nurturing a community of people with whom you want to interact. The goal is to have a means to build relationships.

It can be a way to stay socially stimulated, with as little or as much time commitment as you desire.

Benefits of Social Media for Seniors

Using social media for our senior loved ones will often be a new skill. They need to be comfortable with technology. They will be using a computer, tablet or smartphone to access social media platforms, which takes some education for many first-timers.

Once they have learned the basics of computing, they are ready to connect there are benefits for them throughout their tech journey.

  1. Learning a new skill such as computing stimulates their cognitive capacity.
  2. Mastering this new skill makes seniors confident in their ability to learn.
  3. Re-connecting with long lost friends after 40 or more years!
  4. Being a part of the life of grandkids and great-grandkids sharing messages, FaceTime, photos and updates, or just feeling a part of the action instead of being isolated from the younger family members.
  5. Improving mood when being able to stay connected with loved ones. Being alone and isolated can lead to depression and sadness but being together remotely helps feelings of happiness.
  6. Some seniors stated that it ‘brought fun’ into their lives again
  7. Couponing! Seniors can get discounts to local retail stores, restaurants and groceries from national companies.
  8. Some seniors find connecting via social media invigorating to the point that they update their appearance to put their best face forward for connections.
  9. Gathering credible medical information and prevention tips for better health can help seniors improve their own health.
  10. Increasing social engagement has been shown to aid seniors to live more independently longer as they were able to lower their disability level when their social activity spurred physical activity.

Getting Them Started

Naturally it will take a little bit of convincing for some senior loved ones, at least at first, that this is something they will love. Once your senior has agreed to give it a try, it will take a little more of your time to get them going.

Getting the right device is an important first step. Help them choose one they feel comfortable using, one that is easy to manipulate for their aging eyes and hands and connecting them to broadband services.

Once you have the device in their hands, the apps installed and your senior’s security settings created, you can help them get connected.

We suggest you start with an email account. Once that is done you can start teaching them how to use social media.

Facebook is more enjoyable for many seniors, who enjoy seeing photos and updates from family members. Pinterest is also very enjoyable as there are unlimited friends to find, new and old, and images to sift through. They will love looking at recipes, get ideas to share with grandkids and reminisce about the past through photos.

Social media can educate, inspire, connect and just simply be fun for aging in place seniors.

It is time to get started!

Achieve Successful Aging in Place With a Little Help from Friends

Independently aging in place while living in the home of their choice is the stated preference of adults in all age groups in survey after survey.

Saying that’s what seniors want is a no-brainer.

What’s also desired is to be able to do what they want, enjoy the company of friends and family, and feel fulfilled.

Nobody wants to be a burden to anyone else. Instead, their desire is to have enough money to meet needs and keep from worrying about paying the bills each month.

In order to help our senior loved ones make those dreams a reality, family caregivers may need to make some plans with and sometimes even for them.

The Census Bureau estimates the number of seniors living in their own home by 2030 could be 68 million!

Our senior loved ones might need a little help to stay in their forever homes!

Seniors Help Seniors Stay Home

Seniors can be important in helping other seniors remain in the home of their choice in the community of their choosing. In doing so, they often help themselves as well.

While independent, most want to stay socially engaged. They also want to be in control of what happens in their environment and maintain their freedom.

There is one community, called Capitol Hill Village in Washington, that formed to achieve this goal. A group of seniors joined together to be each other’s support.

They volunteer to do what needs doing for each other, including transportation, home maintenance or repair, socialization such as book clubs and outings, gardening, and friendships.

They give each other assistance in areas where they have life skills such as handyman help or tech support. They call on each other before they outsource the job.

Sometimes It Takes a Village

Not only do they get help on a task that might be more than each could handle or afford on their own, but they also get the opportunity to help others giving them their own fulfillment — all while being able to live independently.

This is just one example of community dwelling seniors who are leaning on each other in order to successfully age in place.

Another way many seniors help their peers is by volunteering to help homebound seniors by performing tasks such as delivering meals and checking up on them as part of an organized program like Meals on Wheels.

Seniors living in NORCs (Naturally Occurring Retirement Community) across the country band together to offer help. It is estimated that 27% of seniors currently live in a NORC. They can lend a hand with referrals for services, providing maintenance, teaching a skill, giving transportation, and socializing.

They organize themselves in their village.

Staying Home Means Renovation

For many seniors, having a support network of friends, such as in the villages and NORCs, isn’t quite enough.

They will need home renovations and remodeling in order to stay in their homes, work that even they and their friends can’t accomplish on their own.

It’s often a good idea for family caregivers to help senior loved ones think ahead for future needs in a home that might need repairs, modifications in hallway or doorway size, updated appliances, step in showers, ramps and handrails at entryways, better lighting, and more safety features.

If your senior needs to remodel their home in order to make it accessible as they age and their mobility becomes a concern, it might be a good time to consider what technology innovations can be installed such as connected home features could be done at the same time.

Family Support for Home Improvements

Family caregivers may be the one responsible for home improvements to facilitate aging in place for their senior loved one.

A recent aging in place report published by Home Advisor indicates that more than one half of home renovations for aging-related items is done by people younger than 65 and 10% are younger than 50. They estimate that 70% of home remodeling involves aging-related improvements. Often the daughter is the one who contacts the contractor.

When the renovations are done, more than half request home automation, such as security and thermostats. 14% add assistive technology for ease of use, such as automatic drop down kitchen shelving for easy reach, and 10% install in-home health monitoring including fall monitoring.

It may be necessary for family caregivers and seniors to find home remodelers that can provide the necessary aging in place resources and knowledge. The report states that two thirds of the professionals don’t know the term ‘universal design’ and 72% don’t have materials related to aging in place improvements.

The most popular projects include installing grab bars and ramps or adding a personal alert system but there is so much more than can be done to help seniors live independently and safely!

Communicating to Stay Connected

One concern for family caregivers when their seniors are aging in place and living alone is isolation. Caregivers fear that their seniors are cut off from others and may not be getting the socialization that will improve their health and quality of life.

One way to help our seniors be connected with others in their community and across the country (even the world) is connecting them to social media technology.

Online communication with family, friends and new acquaintances with common interests through social media benefits our seniors.

It isn’t just about chatting or staying up on all the family news, but social media connections can also aid our seniors with valuable information in case of an emergency. They can get updates, shelter information, and safety precautions to help them weather the storm.

Seniors can also use social networking to reach out for help. In an emergency, a neighbor found and connected through social media may be the best person to help seniors in need.

Meeting Through Social Networking

Pew Research in 2010, reported that only 28% of us know a single neighbor by name. That can be changed through social media, at least as a first step. Seniors can find neighbors through community sponsored social media sites and connect with public safety agencies.

Technology can be so much more than keeping their Facebook wall pictures up to date!

Family caregivers can help seniors age in place by helping them find the right housing location, updating their dwelling to include universal design projects with important technology innovations and setting them up with social media.

Staying connected on all levels, physically and socially, is a goal we all share — not just for our senior loved ones but for ourselves!