These days, technology is everywhere; even babies are using iPads now! Yet many seniors resist using modern technology in their daily lives. Whether it is because of a fear of the unknown or a lack of education, it is possible for your technophobic parent to start taking advantage of the innovations of the internet and technology in general. There are so many ways that seniors can benefit from technology that opening their minds to the possibilities is worth the effort. Some of the areas in which seniors can benefit from technology are:
One of the most important ways technology has improved all of our lives is by giving us the ability to talk to and even see our loved ones, even when they are across the globe. For seniors, staying socially connected in essential for their quality of life and health. Yet many seniors find themselves increasingly isolated as they get older. In-person human connection will obviously never be replaced, but using technology to better connect seniors to others is a wonderful way of keeping them connected to the outside world. Seniors can video-chat their friends and family via services like Skype or FaceTime, stay in the loop via social media platforms like Facebook, and instantly connect with their loved ones via email. The Internet and the devices with which seniors can use it may intimidate them at first, but once they realize how much better connected they can be, they will love it.
It is understandable by the majority of seniors wish to stay at their home as they age. While this is not realistic for all seniors, technology enables certain seniors to stay at home while still remaining safe. Seniors living alone would benefit from Zanthion, which is a medical alert system that uses wearable technology and the Internet of Things (IOT) to detect falls, track behavior like walking, anticipate the future with the use of big data, and allow seniors to instantly get help in the event of an emergency. This allows both seniors and their loved ones to feel at ease with them staying at home for longer.
An additional safety concern for seniors that can be aided by technology is for those who have Alzheimer’s or other forms of dementia. Even seniors with Alzheimer’s who live in assisted living facilities or with family have unique safety concerns, namely wandering. In a previous blog, we went over why wandering is such a problem for Alzheimer’s patients, and what tools you can use to help prevent this dangerous behavior. One we went over is GPS technology, which is allowing caregivers the ability to geofence seniors, alerting them when they get outside of a certain boundary. Clearly, taking advantage of this innovative technology offers unique safety benefits that we have not been able to access before.
There is an abundance of ways that seniors can use technology to improve, monitor, and maintain their health. First, staying active is an essential part of everyone’s health but it is especially important for seniors. A great way to provide seniors an outlet for exercise is through technology. For example, some assisted living communities have already starting using Nintendo Wii’s sports games, which use motion control and virtual reality to give users a workout. This way, seniors can participate in moderate physical activity without leaving their living room. Additionally, using a streaming device such as Apple TV or Roku can allow seniors to access YouTube on their TVs, where they can play thousands of free exercise videos. As far as mental exercise goes, technology also has much to offer seniors. Playing trivia, memory, or word games on their smartphone or tablet is a great way for seniors to keep sharp.
Another significant health concern that can be addressed through the use of technology is medication management. As seniors get older, they often have more medication to take while remembering to take it gets harder. There is only so much that pill boxes can do to serve as a reminder to seniors to take their medication. This is where technology comes in! There are many medication management apps for seniors on the market that serve to remind seniors to take their meds, as well as when they need to refill their prescriptions. These types of apps reduce missed medication incidents to ensure seniors stay healthy.
How to Talk to Your Senior Parent About Technology
So now you know the abundance of reasons why seniors should get on board with technology, how exactly do you approach these conversations? For some seniors, they are afraid of embracing technology because they worry that they won’t be able to use it. We often take for granted that certain aspects of technology may seem intuitive to us, but is actually difficult for anyone who lacks any technological experience to learn. For example, double-clicking, tapping on icons, and swiping may all be difficult for seniors to master, particularly if they have arthritis. Some seniors may get frustrated or lose interest if you simply show them how to use the technology. To get them to engage with it, try keeping their interest with these tips.
Make it Relevant to Them
For your senior parent to adopt technology, it is important for them to care about it. While they may not see the point of switching from paper to electronic news, they may be motivated to get on Facebook if it helps them stay connected to their grandchildren. Think about what your parent cares about, and that will be their source of motivation for using technology.
Preteens may be all about getting the latest technology, but chances are, your parent has very little interest in the status associated with having the latest iPhone. Seniors are more interested in tangible, practical benefits. Emphasize the way that technology can be used to improve their day-to-day lives, such as through medication management or step counters. When you make sure they understand the practical benefits of technology, they will be more open to using it.
Keep it Visually Appealing and Simple
Many products for seniors are boring and clunky, making them unappealing to anyone. Look for devices for your senior parent that are both aesthetically pleasing and easy to use to engage their interest. AARP has recently introduced a tablet called the RealPad, a device specifically designed with seniors in mind. With better readability, a simpler interface, and video tutorials, the RealPad can be a great way to introduce your senior parent to technology.
Your senior parent may initially be hesitant to dive into the technology pool, but with your help, they can soon take advantage of all that it has to offer. For more information on this issue, please check out some resources below.