By Sarah Stevensen, aplaceformom.com
Forget learning how to program the VCR—the technology seniors have their eyes on today includes mobile gadgets, wireless connectivity and digital devices.
Is Grandma going gadget-crazy? Not quite yet. Yes, the number of older adults using the internet and related tech devices is increasing, with over half of seniors using the internet and owning cellphones, according to a 2012 survey by Pew Research. But there’s still a long way to go before we can consider our senior citizens to be fully tech savvy. The fact is, today’s technology can keep seniors engaged, connected, mentally active, and physically safe, making it increasingly important for our loved ones to keep in the high-tech loop. So what devices should seniors and their caregivers have their eye on?
Must-Have Technology for Seniors
- Tablets and iPads. From games that promote brain fitness to apps that track health information, a tablet can have a variety of positive impacts on seniors’ lives. Seniors can view photos, listen to music, read, learn languages—plus the devices are lightweight, their touch screens are easy to use, and font sizes can be adjusted for easier reading.
- Hearing aids. Having to wear a bulky listening device is no longer an excuse for older adults to go without hearing aids. The continuing miniaturization of devices and the improvement of wireless transmission methods like Bluetooth has meant great strides in hearing assistive technology. Hearing aids can be tiny, transparent, and nearly invisible—or even implanted inside the ear itself.
- Video and computer games. Whether it’s World of Warcraft, Angry Birds, or the Nintendo Wii, video games have been shown to improve cognition, mental agility, and even physical health for seniors, with devices such as the Wii Fit. Not only that, video games can promote social interaction.
- Skype. Speaking of social interaction, one piece of software every senior should get familiar with is Skype. Communicating with family long-distance is a snap, you can view your loved ones in real time, and it’s available for smartphones, tablets, and regular computers.
- Health tracking software. If your senior loved one has a computer or a mobile device, they should be aware of the wealth of software and apps available to help monitor their health, remind them of medications, and even track their nutritional needs, empowering them to take charge of their own wellness. It’s a branch of technology that’s invaluable for caregivers, too.
- Wireless internet. Most of the technologies on this list wouldn’t be possible without wireless internet. If you want your senior parent to take full advantage of these devices, make sure their residence is internet-ready. Even nursing homes are using wireless internet technology to make it easier for residents and care providers to communicate quickly.
- Smartphones. Cell phones are becoming more senior-friendly, with models that have larger buttons and readouts, as well as photo speed dialing and voice recognition to make usage easier. Not only are cell phones crucial to helping seniors stay connected with friends and family, they may also help perform critical safety functions like providing medication reminders and GPS locations.
- Wireless home monitoring. Home monitoring systems that employ sensor devices can be, literally, lifesavers for those seniors who live alone, either at home or in assisted living. They can detect emergencies such as falls, report unusual behavior, and even track vital signs—without intruding on privacy.
- GPS. If you’ve got a senior loved one who is concerned about getting lost, or who has dementia and occasionally wanders, GPS technology can immediately alert caregivers to their location if they leave their comfort zone. There are separate GPS trackers that attach to the wrist or clothing, as well as smartphone GPS apps.
- Home assistive devices. Assistive technology in the home can go far in helping seniors remain independent—and safe. Besides home monitoring and GPS, there are devices such as LED lighting, medication dispensing appliances, photo-enhanced phone dialers, and stove shut-off systems, all of which can help seniors with mild cognitive and motor impairment.
Which piece of technology has been the most critical for you and your senior loved ones? Do you think high-tech devices are necessary or is it an added financial burden? Join the discussion here.
About the Author: Sarah J. Stevenson is a writer, artist, editor and graphic designer living in Northern California. Her visual art has been exhibited around California, and her writing has appeared in a variety of web sites and print publications. In addition to writing about older adults, she also writes for younger ones–her first novel for young adults, THE LATTE REBELLION, was published in 2011 by Flux. For more information, please visit: http://www.sarahjamilastevenson.com