When it comes to using technology, there is a world of benefits to explore.

How To Stay Connected Through Technology

Due to stay-at-home orders and a complete virtual shutdown of the economy, our relationships and routines have, to some extent, been put on hold. But staying connected is so important. The networks we have serve as protective factors; science has proven it. Research has shown that 'staying connected with people lowers stress and increases immune system functioning.' So, finding ways to maintain these crucial bonds is even more significant now that the pandemic has mandated social distancing. But just because you are staying safe at home, it doesn't mean you can't keep in touch with those you love.

Especially for seniors who may experience higher rates of loneliness and isolation, staying connected with family and friends is essential for mood and overall mental health.

One way for older adults to keep in touch is through utilizing various technologies. But don't worry if you're not an expert or don't think tech is for you. There are many apps and devices that cater to seniors' needs and can make your life easier and more enjoyable.

Benefits of Technology for Older Adults

If you're not used to using technology, you may be a little apprehensive, perhaps even fearful. But there's no need to be afraid of technology; once you get the hang of it, you will see the many ways it can benefit your life, especially in terms of keeping up with your loved ones.

  • Social connection – Various technologies allow you to catch up with your family. You can use Skype and FaceTime to talk to your grandchildren or email to send an instant letter to a friend. And Facebook and Twitter can be used to see what people are up to and share your thoughts or pictures.
  • Mental stimulation – Learning to master a new technology can provide mental stimulation and may protect your brain against disease.
  • Safety – Medical alert systems and cell phones can be life-saving technology to have on hand in an emergency.
  • Physical health – Technology has also provided advancements in the medical field – from cell phone apps that can remind seniors to take their medications to doctors' offices that use online programs to store medical data and coordinate care.
  • Exercise – One can find a host of exercise videos online depending on your activity level or engage in video games that encourage you to get up and move.
  • Fun – Whatever your hobbies may be, there probably is a technology that exists to allow you to explore your interests in greater depth.

How to Access Technology

Research has shown that technology usage in older adults has been increasing over the past 20 years. 'In 2000, 14% of those ages 65 and older were internet users; now 73% are. And while smartphone ownership was uncommon at all ages around the turn of the 21st century, now about half (53%) of people 65 and older are smartphone owners.' But the problem, for the most part, is not accessing the technology; the challenge comes in when trying to use various devices and apps.

If you have a senior loved one who is frustrated by technology, maybe you could designate a family member to be a 'technology liaison.' This person could perform several functions: help introduce your elderly family member to technology, coordinate virtual activities like Zoom meetings with family and friends, set up a What's App group to share with caregivers, and find out about your family member's interests and suggest options for relevant technology or activities.

Introducing Technology to Older Adults

However you decide to bring your family member on board with technology, you should be sensitive to your loved one's needs and patient with them as they are grasping new concepts.

  • Help to build confidence slowly – Many older adults get frustrated when using technology. And sometimes, when they are being taught, the instructor is going too fast, so the senior becomes discouraged about their ability to learn. If you are teaching your loved one, start slowly and let them know they can do this!
  • Begin with easy tasks – Actions such as how to view pictures, or the basics of swiping and scrolling on the screen are good points to start when teaching how to use technology.
  • Share the benefits of technology – Let your family member know about all the great things they can do with technology. Emphasize the ways it can make their life easier and more fun once they understand how to use it.
  • Get your loved one connected – Purchasing a tablet and securing an internet connection for your family member is an excellent place to start to get them set up for accessing technology.

Great Technology to Keep Seniors Connected and Engaged

As increasing numbers of older persons are accessing technology, companies have recognized the huge market and are developing products to meet this population's needs. Below are four technologies that are designed for older adults.

  1. Grand Pad – This tablet can help older persons stay in touch with select family and friends. Its design is senior-friendly, and no setup is required.
  2. StoryWorth – Another tool for keeping family and friends connected, this service allows persons to record their family history. The stories can be shared among the group and compiled in a book as a keepsake.
  3. MyndVR – This virtual reality experience allows seniors to explore through visiting places like outer space or the Great Wall of China or reliving old memories.
  4. Aura Frames – Family members can remotely add photos to a frame that their loved one has in their home, fostering a sense of closeness and reducing loneliness.

Different Virtual Activities to Try

Remember, the adoption of technology for your family member should add to their life. Similar to connecting face-to-face, you want to keep the senior as the focus. This means that virtual activities should center around the person's interests. Here are some suggestions for planning virtual activities with seniors:

  • Consider modifying in-person activities – Using online platforms, continue doing things together that the older person enjoys such as reading the paper, watching TV, or listening to music.
  • Plan a special time together – Perhaps you can enjoy a meal with your loved one. You could use Zoom for cooking some items together or allowing your loved one to watch you as you prepare the meal. Or just sit down together to eat and talk.
  • Schedule activities with family and friends – Get creative sharing a fun time with your loved one. Engaging family and friends for a game night, card party, or other activity can be a great way to spend an afternoon or evening.
  • Connect to faith activities – If your family member has a faith system, check out what type of services or outreach may be going on that your family member could participate in.

When it comes to using technology, there is a world of benefits to explore. If you're ready to check out how technology can help you stay connected to family and friends, try some of the resources mentioned above – you'll be a whiz in no time!

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