Technology doesn’t have to be scary for seniors. While technology changes rapidly and many of them are unfamiliar with the new gadgets available to them, there are so many benefits to getting connected.
Seniors who connect with others online will experience less loneliness, particularly if they are home-bound or have transportation challenges that make it difficult for them to socialize outside the home. While I don’t suggest forgoing human contact for online connections, it can definitely help to alleviate loneliness.
I had a client who was struggling with health issues and wasn’t able to get out of the house regularly. One of the things that got her through was a daily email she received from a friend who was checking in on her. She felt connected to someone even though she couldn’t see her friend who lived quite a distance away. She had resisted getting a computer until a group that she took a class with insisted she get one so that they wouldn’t have to call her with updates or schedule changes. It changed her life, maybe even saved it.
The majority of my clients were more than 85 years old. I would guess only about 1% of them had a cell phone. It isn’t entirely necessary for seniors to have a cell phone, since they usually have a home line and could usually get by on the kindness of strangers if they needed to call someone for a ride.
However, I had a few customers who had smart phones and had learned to text on their phones. It opened up a new way of communicating with their grandchildren. They could text their kids/grandkids and were able to communicate with them in their preferred format. Their grandkids also started texting them pictures, which they wouldn’t have been able to see since the grandkids weren’t printing cell phone pictures.
When selecting a cell phone, you may want to find an option that is senior-friendly. I know several seniors who have a Jitterbug phone. The buttons are larger and it is easy to use. I also had customers who had iPhones because they are relatively easy to use and they were able to take classes at a local Apple store.
Regardless of the type of phone, helping them ramp up to use the phone is critical. Most of my customers who had a phone kept their phone off unless they actually needed to make a call. Helping your parent get set up and know how to use their phone will help them connect better with family and friends.
There are a number of classes at the library and senior centers that can help get them started, or a teenage grandchild can set it up and show them how to text and communicate with them. If they don’t have the ability to attend a class or no one lives nearby, there are a host of companies that offer in-home tech training.
Tablets and iPads
A computer might be a bit much for someone who has never used one before, but a tablet is a great, user-friendly option to get online. They can use their tablet for video chatting with long-distance (or local) relatives, reading electronic books (they can increase the font), emailing family and friends and reconnecting with people online.
Health Tracking Software or Apps
There are so many new apps available to track everything from diet to exercise to when you take medication or how much water to drink. This site rates some health and fitness apps from the last year. You can also find them on your app store and they usually have ratings by users.
Home Monitoring and Home Assistance
Technology is so cool. You can set up your home – or your parent’s home – to operate through the touch of a few buttons. You can turn the lights on, turn on a home security system, even set up fall monitoring or monitoring outside the home. In addition to setting up safety in the home, you can also set up medication dispensation systems and there are now programs that can turn stoves on and off. As technology continues to advance, it may make aging in place more accessible.
Getting an elderly parent set up online will open so many doors for them. They can grocery shop online, access news sites, connect with old and new friends and even sign up for an online dating site with their contemporaries.
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