The Tech Trend
Over the last few years, older adults have made up the fastest growing segment of the online population. More and more people over the age of 60 are going online and connecting with the world through outlets such as Facebook, Google, Yahoo and Youtube. They are emailing, texting and even blogging, and it is having a positive impact on their lives, allowing them to communicate with family more often, reconnect with old friends, keep up with community developments and stay connected with others who share similar interests.
As a matter of fact, social connectedness has even been linked to health and well-being. The health risks for those who remain socially disconnected have even been compared to the dangers associated with tobacco smoking and obesity. Older adults who lack social connections or report frequently feeling lonely also tend to suffer from higher rates of illness, infection, depression and cognitive decline.
On the flip side, research from the National Institutes of Aging shows that social relationships are consistently associated with good health, better outlooks on life and higher satisfaction with life, as well as lower levels of certain risk factors for Alzheimer’s disease, osteoporosis, rheumatoid arthritis, cardiovascular disease, and some forms of cancer.
With technology readily available today, it’s even easier to keep seniors connected and potentially healthier. From social media to education, here are six ways technology can help older adults stay connected with loved ones, meet new people and remain active:
1. Create a social media profile – If you’re one of the 52% of seniors who don’t currently have a Facebook page, you’re missing out. Facebook and other social media channels allow you to instantly connect with and talk to family and friends from around the world no matter where they live. Through these platforms you can send messages, view photographs and keep yourself updated on what others are doing.
Recent studies have shown that the aging population has become especially receptive to social media. According to PEW Research Center’s Internet & American Life, nearly 47% of baby boomers actively maintained a profile on the social web in 2016, up 15% from 2008, and so do 36% of people between the ages of 63 and 75. That same report found that social networking has almost doubled for people ages 50 and older, growing from 22% to 42% over the past year.
2. Join an online community – Through social media websites such as Facebook, a number of online communities have emerged which allow you to stay connected with others who share similar interests. There are online groups in which users can talk about and share opinions on a wide range of topics, from film and television shows, music, crafts and hobbies, sports and countless more. In addition, there are a number of online communities dedicated to smaller, more personal groups of people, such as hobbyist groups, high school graduating classes and family circles.
3. Place a video call instead of a regular phone call – Smartphones, tablets, and most computers now have the capability to place a video call for free so that participants on both ends can physically see who they are talking to during a call. Services (apps) such as Facetime, Google Hangouts and Skype are free and can be used directly from your device anywhere that you have internet access. The visual aspect can add another layer to your conversation and makes for a more personal exchange.
Video calls are better than text messages and emails because you see the person you’re talking with and they see you in real time. Take time to learn/teach the necessary technologies to use video chats and webcams.
With this technology, you can even have family meetings where everyone can see each other or hear from one another even if they’re across the globe. This is especially important for adult children. You can see how your loved one is doing by analyzing how they look and what they sound like. You could then talk to their caregivers about your concerns or plan a trip to see them in person.
4. Play interactive games to keep your wits sharp – In addition to mindless fun, smartphones, desktops, and tablets now offer games created for the sole purpose of encouraging a brain-smart lifestyle by boosting critical thinking, memory building and strategy skills.
Popular games for seniors include “brain game” apps such as Lumosity and CogniFit, games that challenge your problem-solving skills such as Jigsaw Puzzles Real or Sudoku, and games that challenge memory and language skills, such as Wurdle or Words with Friends.
5. Find the right apps – Phone applications represent major advancements in technology that help both seniors and caregivers in a number of ways. With any basic smartphone, seniors can now keep track of things like whether or not they’ve taken their medication, monitor vital signs such as heart rate and respiration, as well as keep track of their location and help them navigate where they want to go. To search for and install these applications, all you have to do is open the device-specific “store” (e.g., Apple’s App Store or Google’s Google Play), search for the kind of app you’re looking for and then download it – likely for free.
Just as important, though, apps are quite helpful for family and caregivers. The information they collect can be transmitted to doctors and include information from their mobility to how certain medications affect them. Apps also allow family members to keep track of their loved one’s location, which can be particularly useful if they notice a decrease in the family member’s activity.
In their simplest forms, apps also help keep seniors occupied. A study found that most seniors like to fill their time with reading and “pursuing religious activities.” There are endless apps that help seniors stay informed with news, and other apps allow seniors to read their favorite books.
According to The Senior List, the 10 must-have apps for seniors include:
- Park ‘n’ Forget ($.99/mo)
- Luminosity (basic is free; other plans vary)
- Pandora (Cost: Free, Ad-free versions vary)
- SKYPE (Cost: Free, plans up to $13.99 per month)
- The Weather Channel (Free)
- WebMD (Free)
- MediSafe Medication Reminder (Free)
- Goodreads (Free)
- Find My iPhone (Free)
- NPR One (Free)
6. Take advantage of classes – Many assisted living residences, senior centers, and public libraries offer classes and training where technology experts provide tips and tricks on how to make technology work for your lifestyle. These classes will show you the basics and also give you tips on how to stay safe online (online scams unfortunately do exist).
Feeling connected is an important part of getting older, and as technology continues to improve, there become more ways it can benefit our lives. By experimenting with technology, you can connect with your loved ones and learn something new every day.
You can call (972) 468-6208 to contact The Legacy Willow Bend and RSVP for their next Tech Class or visit thelegacywb.org to learn more.
Staying Connected at The Legacy Willow Bend
At The Legacy Willow Bend (our Life Care Retirement community in Plano, Texas) and The Legacy Midtown Park (our Rental Retirement community opening 2020) we are committed to offering our residents access to the latest technology. Offering free Wi-Fi, computers for residents’ use, as well as classes on various technologies and social media platforms, The Legacy Senior Communities makes sure that our residents have access to everything they need to stay connected.
To learn more about how The Legacy Senior Communities integrates technology to improve the lives of residents, or to request information or schedule a tour of The Legacy Willow Bend, simply call (972) 468-6208 or visit https://thelegacyseniorcommunities.org/ today.
- Anderson, M., & Perrin, A. (2017, May 17). 1. Technology use among seniors. Retrieved July 30, 2018, from http://www.pewinternet.org/2017/05/17/technology-use-among-seniors/
- Ways Technology Has Improved Senior Care. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.aging.com/7-ways-technology-has-improved-senior-care/
- 10 Best iPhone Apps for Seniors. (2018, January 29). Retrieved July 31, 2018, from https://www.theseniorlist.com/2017/11/10-best-iphone-apps-for-seniors/