There has been significant growth in technology for seniors over the last few years. Some examples of these include cell phones designed specifically for older adults, software used to make their devices easier-to-use and personal monitoring equipment for fall prevention that is less intrusive and more effective. There are even tablets with built-in technical support. Many of the devices available today rely on the Internet for their core services, which is available for most people but not used by everyone.
Despite some of these advances, technology adoption is not happening as quickly as some would like. Though there are differing schools of thought as to why the adoption is slower than desired, the facts remain that it is. Especially, in terms of the Internet or products that use the Internet.
The reality may be that there are barriers for some seniors, such as difficulties learning new technologies, being skeptical of its benefits or even physical challenges. Couple that with the fact that more than half of Americans aged 65 or older are Internet users, but only 47% have a high-speed connection at home. And, 41% don’t use the Internet at all, according to a 2014 survey conducted by the Pew Research Center. Many of those that overcome some of these barriers, find that technology becomes an important part of their lives.
Examples of practical technology for seniors
If technology for anyone is going to be adopted, it has to be useful in their lives. And, in creating something for older adults, it should have practical application. There are plenty of examples out there that are neither of those; some that are. If you find yourself or a family member falling into the skeptical group when it comes to using technology in your daily life, here are a few practical applications for technology available right now.
Please note that any brand or product names mentioned are not endorsements by me or AgeInPlace.com. They are examples of products that are available. We have no relationship with any of the brands or product companies mentioned here.
Keeping in touch with family
Access to the Internet provides seniors with an important tool for keeping in touch with family and friends. With many families living hundreds or even thousands of miles apart these days, in some cases, it’s the only interaction they would have. Some are also using social media to find old high school and college friends or to keep up with what is going on in their extended families. Of course, many are using applications such as FaceTime or Skype to video chat with their families. This helps make the distance easier and provides real-time interaction with their children. (And grandchildren, of course!)
Keeping the mind active and engaged
The Internet offers a myriad of ways to help keep the mind active and engaged, whether it’s by learning something new like a new language, playing a game or conducting genealogy research. Seniors can take courses online, read online books and articles too. Studies have shown that continuously challenging the mind can help prevent cognitive decline. There are apps for smart phones and tablets as well. You can find brain games at sites like Luminosity or the AARP, and language learning at Rossetta Stone or the Duolingo app.
With the Internet’s wealth of information at our fingertips, seniors can research to find out ways to improve their day-to-day lives. They can search for volunteer or part-time job opportunities, save money by taking advantage of promotional opportunities and special online sales, or even opt into or access financially beneficial programs, such as the one between AARP and The Hartford, which allots discounted insurance rates for AARP members.
Caregivers and seniors can benefit from today’s technology by using the Internet or apps to help with caregiving tasks. For instance, by taking advantage of apps such as the MediSafe Project, which prompts users to take their medicine with reminders via their smartphone, a caregiver can help ensure that medicine is taken on time and at the proper dosage. If the patient doesn’t confirm they’ve taken their pills, the software notifies the designated caregiver.
Another example would be using a home monitoring product to help ensure your loved one is safe. For example, the BeClose is a wireless, sensor-based home monitoring system that allows an elderly person to live independently longer. It connects them with a caregiver remotely, who can check in on them at any time using a private, secure web page. If there is any disruption in daily life, the caregiver is alerted in real time by a text message, email or phone call.
The downsides of technology
Technology advances can be a huge help to seniors in their everyday lives and also help to enhance the abilities of caregivers. At the same time, it can leave some seniors feeling more isolated, without that important person-to-person contact they used to have. For example, seniors in the U.K. are being encouraged to order groceries directly online rather than from Meals on Wheels. For many, the service was the only social interaction they might have in an entire day.
Internet scams are a particular concern for seniors who haven’t had a lot of experience with the Internet. One of the most common scams are emails that promise thousands, or millions, of dollars in return for just a “small investment.” While most people can easily spot these, seniors that aren’t aware may be tempted to hand out their personal and/or financial information, taking the email at face value.
It probably goes without saying that you should make sure you do your research before purchasing or getting involved with any products or services. We all know that some products are better than others and if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
Why do you think older people do or do not use tech products? Do you know of some great products others should know about? Leave a comment and let me know.