#TipsonTuesday: Technology and the Elderly

Technology and the Elderly - senior citizen with a tabletSenior citizens sometimes need help with technology, but it can enhance their lives. (Photo by Jitze Couperus)

An eighty year old today was born into the world in 1935, when gas cost $.10 per gallon, the average wage was $1,600 per year, and a new home cost $3,500. In a world so different from today’s, many senior citizens feel left behind by the fast advances in technology. Although seniors may want to learn how to use a computer, technology – including life-saving wearable technology, computers, tablets, and cell phones – for seniors, can be overwhelming.

Bill Temple Taught his Elderly Parents How to Use a Computer

Bill Temple’s parents were eighty-five years old and lived a thousand miles away. He was also an only child. Bill wasn’t able to travel to see them frequently, but he wanted to stay in touch and see how they were doing.

The solution was to Skype with them once a week, which made a big difference in all their lives. Much of the technology for seniors Temple’s parents had not tried before, so it was important to be gentle with his parents and answer all their questions, many of which were repeated several times, but never to discredit them. That way, his parents know what to expect when it comes to using technology.

Learning about computers, for senior citizens, can feel like a very large undertaking. Temple’s father was an open-minded man who had seen the benefits of computers since the early 1990s. Since Bill Temple had worked in the computer industry, Temple’s father felt more comfortable trying to learn about technology for seniors, because he knew he could get help from his son.

Temple recalls that when initially helping his elderly parents learn to use a computer, it required lots of patience and repetition. Temple points out that what many of us take for granted – the advent of all things technological – most senior citizens haven’t had a glimmer of for much of their lives.

After the father’s retirement almost thirty years ago, the father used his computer for spreadsheets, browsing the Internet, and email. Temple’s mother declared herself incapable of learning how to use a computer, and has never used it alone, but she never misses a Skype session. Both parents were eager to get help with technology, once they understood how close they could be to their son.

The Temple family continues to meet on Skype every week, for over two years now. They set up a standard time to connect on a personal level. Temple’s mother especially enjoys being able to see her son, as well as hear him.

Technology and the Elderly

Technology and the Elderly - Knight-Crane Convergence LabHelping a senior citizen learn to use Skype.
(Photo by 
John S. and James L. Knight Foundation)

Technology for senior citizens can be a real boon. With advances in home monitoring and wearable technology, helping the elderly have active and safe home lives is easier than ever before. Take the time to help a senior citizen learn how to use a computer and access the many specialized technology for seniors available, and you can help improve that elderly person’s daily quality of life.

 Assist Home Monitoring Devices

Home assist devices can provide a wide range of services, including medication monitoring, stove shut-off systems, and GPS monitoring to alert caregivers to the senior’s location.

Some assisted living home technology for senior citizens will alert a caregiver if the senior has not exited a bathroom within a certain time period, letting them know that the senior may have fallen.

For seniors with dementia or Alzheimers, the GPS Smart Sole is a wearable technology liner for a shoe, with a GPS tracking inside. Other technology for seniors allows relatives to check in to a senior’s home via video cameras, such as those from Virtually There Care. The cameras are placed in widely-used sections of the home and discreetly record the senior’s movements.

Tablets and cell phones for seniors

Cell phones for senior citizens can be a great safety device, allowing them to call for help, program themselves electronic reminders, and stay connected to emergency services. Cell phones today have larger numbers and speed dialing, which make them easier computers for senior citizens to use. Smart phones may also provide GPS coordinates, which can be helpful in caring for and helping elderly people.

Because of some seniors’ reduced mobility, it’s important to help senior citizens set up wireless Internet in their home, so they can use devices like iPads or other tablets anywhere to stay in touch. One of the biggest issues with senior citizens is the feeling of isolation and loneliness. Helping the elderly learn to use mobile devices, tablets, and other technology gives them a window to the world.

Social engagement is extremely important in the life of someone who lives alone, and by teaching a senior citizen how to use a computer, a smart phone, or a tablet, you are helping that person connect with their community and the world in a new way. Seniors can use mobile devices and tablets to look at photos, send email, search the Internet, engage in social media, and feel connected to their friends and loved ones around the world.

Digital activities for seniors

Although traditionally thought of as games for kids, video games and games for mobile devices, smart phones, tablets, and other technologies can provide a real boost in the lives of senior citizens. These devices make it fun to use games that can help senior citizens improve cognitive functions and exercise their brains. It is rapidly coming to light that the more seniors use their minds, the more mentally agile they stay.

The Nintendo Wii system, for example, offers games that use wearable technology, requiring the player to move around. Many Wii games simulate bowling, tennis, golf, and other popular games. People can actually feel as though they are participating in a sport, which can make these activities for seniors both engaging and low-impact. Playing games, following digital workout programs, and using other technology for seniors gives this population the unique physical and mental exercise they need, while keeping things fun.

Make Life Better By Connecting Everyone

The best way to provide help for the elderly in explaining technology is to show an elderly person you love the benefits of using technology: let him or her see that by belonging to social networks, you see what family is up to in the quickest way possible; let him or her see the pictures of the new babies; help him or her set up an email account; help him or her pursue hobbies.

To get started, check out this video, which has very helpful tips and is specially designed to help connect technology and the elderly:

“How to help your elderly parent get online”  by MyAgeingParent

Senior citizens may not understand that they can connect to other people who share their interests in the cyber world. Some seniors don’t understand that it is a new era, full of magnificent potential. Although technology and the elderly can be separated, it is we who help bridge the gaps. People who understand how to use technology must provide help for the elderly loved ones in our lives. We must help seniors live alone longer, avoid loneliness, and live a more fulfilled life, by helping elderly loved ones learn how to use a computer, tablet, smart cell phone, or other piece of technology, to connect with their loved ones.

Everlasting Footprint reminds everyone to celebrate life together. Join, connect, remember, and share.

About Cindy Readnower

Cindy Readnower, MBA, specializes in sales, marketing, and entrepreneurship. An award-winning certified Life Coach, business consultant, and publisher at Skinny Leopard Media, she helps writers produce and promote their books. She is a newspaper columnist, author of "Inherited Secrets," and a blogger.

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