More seniors are choosing to age in place, but that can present some challenges when their loved ones live far away. Fortunately, modern technology like smartphones, tablets, and apps can help your senior stay connected, safe, and find help when they need it. With a little preparation, you can both learn to use some of this technology to help them live an easier and fuller life even when you can’t be where they are.
Helping Your Loved One Embrace Technology
Most adults today use smartphones and tablets as part of our daily lives, and there’s no reason why our senior loved ones can’t do the same. Older adults may be hesitant or a little fearful about using new technology; teach them how to use these devices or help them find a local class where they can learn all they need to know. When you get your loved one a smartphone, there are special launcher apps to make their phone easier to use. The Huffington Post lists a few great options that make icons appear larger and most commonly used features more easily visible. Once your senior has the basics down, make sure they don’t upgrade too frequently, because upgrading often can cause confusion and issues for those who aren’t tech savvy.
One of the greatest benefits of your senior loved one using smartphones, tablets, and in-vehicle tech is the ability for them to easily stay connected with everyone in the family. Besides regular phone calls, encourage them to use Skype or other video messaging services. This visual communication will help you both feel closer even if you’re far away. Your loved one can also use social media to maintain relationships and make new online friendships.
A variety of modern technology is now available that also helps older adults manage physical and mental health. There are health monitoring apps like blood pressure monitors, heart rate trackers, and medication trackers. Social Media Scoop for Seniors lists some great apps that help seniors keep their minds sharp, such as brain games and video games to help maintain cognitive function. Your loved one can also find free online courses and even learn to meditate to maintain mental health.
Modern technology also puts important resources right at your love one’s fingertips. If they need assistance with something they struggle to manage on their own, they can use Google or special apps designed to easily find a service they need. For example, they may be mostly independent but face mobility challenges that make it hard to continue caring for pets.
A smartphone makes it easy to search for a local dog walking or dog boarding service.
Ways You Can Use Technology to Help Your Loved One
With all of the technology choices your senior loved one can use, don’t forget that you can also get involved. If they are resistant or still struggle with using social media, you can use search tools to find activities they can join in the area where they live. There’s also quite a bit you can do long distance to help with managing finances and paying bills online.
If your loved one’s safety is a concern, especially for someone who has Alzheimer’s, you may want to look into assistive technology. These tools use motion sensors and GPS, detecting a person’s patterns and sending you alerts when there are major changes. Once you have a system set up, your loved one can maintain their independence while you have peace of mind that they will be safe.
Driving poses additional risks for seniors, but there are a number of ways to make traversing the highway less of a threat. Voice controls and adaptive machine learning technology are easy-to-use tools that can help everyone on the road. However, many older individuals fear change, and especially when it involves tech (Watch Stanley Kubrick's 1968 film 2001: A Space Odyssey to get an idea of the way our predecessors were taught to regard reliance on computers and AI). Nascent mobile technology allows seniors to make calls without fumbling around with their phone -- a major distraction for all ages in today’s mobile world.
With more and more adult children moving away from their parents, it is more important than ever to help older adults embrace change. It’s often a challenge, but it’s a battle that might save a life...if your senior loved one is open to adopting new technologies.
Author: Karen Weeks with Elder Wellness
Photo credit: Unsplash
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