Technology and Seniors

smart phoneContributed by Renée Bellefeuille, RP® I recently returned from a trip to New York to visit my 82 year old mother.  I usually visit two times a year, a long weekend in the Fall, and a long weekend in the Spring.  Since my dad passed away a few years ago, my mother has determined that the 4 ½ hour flight from New York to Phoenix would be too confusing for her if she were to travel alone.  I personally think she is capable, but it is easier for me to travel – so I don’t argue. 

I usually have no delays; however my last flight left New York about 4 hours late and I finally arrived at my home in Mesa close to midnight.  The next morning my husband and I were discussing the annoyances of flying.  He suggested maybe travelling to NY only once a year and staying for a longer period of time.  His other suggestion was to use technology to stay in touch throughout the rest of the year.   My mom does not use the internet, so this would be a big challenge. I would need to involve my tech-savvy niece and nephew, who live close to their grandmother. While my mom enjoys looking at pictures that her grandchildren show her on their i-phones, I do not think it will be an easy task to get her to embrace technology to stay in touch.

However, this got me to think about technology in general and how it has changed over the years and how it could benefit many seniors.    If you are reading this blog you are obviously  a technology user, but perhaps you have an aging parent or know a senior who, if they learned a bit about the current technology available could benefit from it.   The goal of most seniors is to age in place – in the comfort and familiarity of their own home.  Technology is getting easier to use, and incorporating its use into a senior’s lifestyle is possible.  When introducing technology to a senior it is important to keep things simple.  It’s also very important to emphasize the benefits of the technology rather than just show the senior how the gadget works.    There are classes at libraries and senior centers offering computer classes for older adults.   Additionally learning from peers that are already using technology seems to work well.

Here are just a few examples of how current technologies can benefit seniors.  Using an iPad and an application like Skype or FaceTime can help seniors stay in touch with family and friends when visits aren’t possible.  Many seniors find it hard to keep track of medications; there are many smartphone apps that are available that do this. There are apps that keep track of doctor appointments, prepare grocery lists, magnifying apps… the list could go on and on.  Computer video games such as Nintendo Wii sport can keep seniors exercising and moving.   There are computer crossword puzzles and word games to keep challenging the brain.  Homes can be automated to make locking doors and shutting lights as easy as pushing one button.  Shopping on-line and having items delivered is very convenient if driving is no longer an option.

While no technology can take the place of human interaction and certain situations may require a caregiver, technology should be used to make the lives of seniors easier and more enjoyable.  Consider reaching out to a senior you know and discussing the many benefits.

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