Technology, and specifically the internet, plays a central role in connecting people to health resources, news and information, social networks, and entertainment.
While the younger subset of the U.S. population has been quick to adopt the technology, according to a 2014 Pew Research report, less than 60% of adults 65 and over had used the internet, and even less had access to high-speed connections.
Non-users of the internet expressed skepticism about its true benefits and even fear over the challenges they would face in learning new technology without help.
The matter of the fact is, technology has immediate and long-term benefits for your aging loved one, and with a little exploration and encouragement, their lives could be enhanced greatly by it. Here’s why:
Technology contributes to social connectedness: Aging seniors are living in an unprecedented age of connectedness and digital communication. Introducing technology to your elderly loved one gives them a toolkit for fighting feelings of isolation and loneliness, and for empowering them to reach out to others. Social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest help retirees connect with family, old friends, and new acquaintances with like interests. Your loved one can send messages, share photos and comment on others’, keep up to date with what is going on in their community, as well as learn about local events and organizations. Free video chat technologies including Skype, UberConference, and Google+ also encourage your loved one to connect and speak with their family face to face more, even if they live far away.
Technology and social senior activities like volunteering seem like they might not go together, but free services like VolunteerMatch.org and CreatetheGood.org were created to help anyone, young or old, find opportunities to serve their community. Help your aging loved one find a volunteer job based on their own interests, availability, and location – and count on the act of helping others to lower stress and anxiety levels, and make them feel good about doing good.
Technology helps aging senior live safer, more independent lives: Assistive technology emboldens aging adults by giving them ways to succeed despite visual or hearing impairment, mobility issues, or other illness. Being able to complete even simple tasks on their own bolsters feelings of confidence and self-reliance as adults get older. For example, Take ’n Talk products support aging seniors with cognitive decline and memory loss by providing voice-recorded and sensor-activated tools that help them learn and remember through actions they take. Additionally, technological innovations like digital Medical ID bracelets help keep your loved one safe, no matter where they are, by storing vital health information (like drug/food allergies and medical conditions) in a low-impact USB device they can wear.
Technology provides unique ways to make money: The cost of retirement isn’t always an easy pill to swallow, and with rising healthcare expenses, the need to make a supplemental income is a stark reality for many aging adults. Technology paves the way for unique and creative avenues for seniors to turn a profit – from online tutoring to finding simple part-time jobs, even selling stuff you no longer use. Websites like TutorMe.com and wyzant.com connect students with tutors, right from the convenience of their own home, and services like rover.com and dogvacay.com do the same thing, except they connect families with potential pet sitters. Looking to sell some of your aging loved one’s gently used things they no longer need? Forget yard sales and flea markets – use craiglist.com or ebay.com to set up a profile, list your item, and securely receive offers from people looking to buy.
Technology helps maintain hobbies: Technological devices like e-Readers and tablets have completely revamped the way people enjoy their hobbies. If your aging loved one is no longer able to hold a book, read small print, or write steadily, e-Readers and tablets are here to help. On e-Readers, your elderly parent or grandparent can read their favorite book, newspaper or magazine with options to enlarge fonts and brighten the screen – making it easier to read (and preventing eye strain). Games like Sudoku, Scrabble, Word Jumble and crossword puzzles all have their own digital apps too, which allows your loved to play games and strengthen memory and critical thinking without having to hold a writing device or small game piece. In this way, technology is literally combating dementia and Alzheimer’s by assisting with mentally stimulating activities the are believed to boost brain blood flow and cell growth.
Technology promotes continuing education: Where in the books of old age does is say you never have to stop learning? Simple access to the internet opens a world of educational opportunities for your aging loved one. Free (or subsidized) online classes in a wide variety of subjects are often offered at local universities for older adults not seeking college credit. Look online or contact your local senior center for more information. Digital social platforms like Youtube are filled with DIY, fitness and crafting videos for your loved one to learn from too. Curious about learning to crochet? There is a free video for that! Computers and mobile devices also give your aging loved one access to audiobooks and podcasts which make listening and learning as easy as pressing “play”, great for seniors with mobility and dexterity issues.