From medication management to grocery pickup to ride-sharing services, apps are making life easier for seniors.
When you think of app users, your teenage kids or their 20-something millennial counterparts may come to mind because they’re always tied to their cellphones.
But apps designed with the always-connected young in mind are increasingly finding favor with senior citizens, who are discovering valuable services available via technology.
“What we see is — everybody using them,” says Leslie M. Smith, president and CEO of SeniorNet, which teaches seniors nationwide how to use computers and other communication devices. “They’re not age-centric. … very young people and very old people are using apps.”
Nearly two-thirds of Americans owned a smartphone in 2015, according to the Pew Research Center. While the numbers are much smaller among Americans 65 and older (27 percent owned smartphones at the end of 2014), that group is beginning to embrace smartphones and tablets and the apps that go with them.
“The nice thing with apps is that you just press the button. It’s actually easier,” says Andrew Carle, executive in residence at George Mason University and chief operating officer of Affinity Living Group, which provides care and services for residents in several states. “The seniors benefit from these apps. … These can be life-changing services to them.”
Uber and Lyft, for example, which provide easy access to rides around town, can be a lifeline for those who don’t drive anymore. You can use smartphone apps to order groceries, find someone to do your laundry, talk to your grandchildren, navigate in unfamiliar neighborhoods, share family pictures and keep track of medications and doctor’s appointments.
“What it really comes down to is activities of daily living,” Carle says. “There are plenty of apps that can help you with cooking and groceries and takeout orders.”
And, of course, apps can also be used for email, online research, shopping, meal planning and nearly anything a desktop computer can do, often more easily with just the push of a button.
“[The apps are] all targeted to young busy people or maybe working moms and dads. I don’t know why they’re not targeting retirees,” Carle says.
While app creators may be waiting for senior smartphone usage to catch up, there has been an increase in the development of apps designed for senior caregiving and medication management.
A new service called GoGoGrandparent will let seniors use a regular phone to connect an Uber or Lyft car, then keep in touch with a family member about the trip via text. The service charges a concierge fee of 19 cents per minute while it’s monitoring. GreatCall, which produces the senior-oriented Jitterbug phone, recently partnered with Lyft to make it possible to get a car with a Jitterbug flip phone.
Here are eight types of apps useful to seniors:
Lyft and Ubber. Both of these ride-sharing services created as part of the millennial-inspired sharing economy can be a lifeline for seniors who don’t drive. Once you create an account and enter a credit card, you can summon a car to your home in less than 10 minutes with the tap of a button.
UberEATS, GrubHub and Amazon Restaurants. These are three of many apps that will bring you meals from your favorite restaurant. Most add a delivery charge, and some have a minimum order. Not all services are available in all areas. For those who don’t drive or find it hard to carry groceries, delivery can help them live independently longer.
Skype and FaceTime. These two video call apps are extremely popular with seniors, who can use them for face-to-face “visits” with faraway children and grandchildren. Both are free. “My kids here call their grandparents. They FaceTime them all the time,” Carle says. “Those video visits are very important. They weren’t invented for seniors.”
Shipt and Instacart. These two services will bring groceries to your door, for a fee. They hire shoppers who go into the store and personally fill your grocery order. AmazonFresh provides a similar service, as do Wal-Mart and some local grocery chains.
Fitbit and MyFitnessPal. Apps that monitor steps, blood pressure and other health issues are popular among older people as well as younger people.
Hello Alfred. This service provides a “butler,” a vetted person who comes to your home and can do any errands and chores you want, on a schedule you set. Membership is $99 a month, plus you pay for any service you request. So far it’s available only in a few cities, including New York and Boston. If it’s not in your city, you might try TaskRabbit, where you can hire someone to complete tasks such as cleaning your home, doing minor repairs or running errands.
Medisafe and CareZone. These apps help manage medications, doctor visits and other health tasks. They are among a number of apps designed to help with those chores. With CareZone, for example, you can enter medical appointments and get reminders about them. You can also keep an editable list of medications that you can easily show your doctors.
Google Maps and other navigation apps. Older people have embraced GPS technology, including navigation systems in cars and on their phones. Being able to easily access maps and directions any time on your phone is a good defense against getting lost or forgetting directions.