It is widely accepted that mobile phones and devices go hand in hand with modern living. Advertising further promotes this idea and it appears that younger individuals use their devices for practically everything. Gaming, streaming, and shopping apps have made the need for face-to-face communication practically obsolete. The US Census Bureau estimates that about 80 million citizens will be over 65 in 2040.
Since late 2020, seniors have become more reliant on technology to connect them to the outside world than ever before. There was no longer a grandchild or young neighbor readily available to assist whenever errands and tech tasks were required.
How do technologies help the elderly age at home?
With a growing aging population, the probability of that group continuing in a family residence is growing. Technologies can help seniors with many tasks.
#1. Staying in touch while isolated
When it is difficult to leave the residence, and there is no longer a free flow of movement in and out of the elderly’s spaces, technology helps seniors to communicate on various levels. Home shopping is an obvious starting point, especially for food items and other daily essentials.
The other need is for communication and social media apps. The elderly, who could not be bothered before, now rely on social media platforms to connect with their social circles of family and friends.
Research conducted by Penn State University found that adults aged 65 and older are the fastest-growing demographic on Facebook; many older Facebook users use the social media site to communicate, engage and connect with their families and friends. The devices are also used to access entertainment, and many a senior play games online.
#2. Delayed moves to care facilities
Research is underway to design technologies that complement support and enable individual autonomy for seniors. This is being undertaken by an interdisciplinary program at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, called CHART (Collaboration in Health, Aging, Research, and Technology).
The program’s foundation is to work with seniors to understand their needs and incorporate their abilities to develop “home-based technologies to make life easier, safer, and more interesting for older adults.”
#3. Technology-driven healthcare
From specially designed cameras that can take pictures of wounds and connect the elderly with telehealth advisors, to robotic arms to pick up and move around objects, there are moves to assist seniors in their own homes or those in frail care. A team of researchers is looking into the effects of the brain-training Lumosity to help improve cognitive skills such as memory, verbal fluency, and attention.
How can we help the elderly with technology?
In addition to the research that is currently underway, there are many local technology programs to increase digital literacy by teaching older adults in new technology. Nonprofit organizations supply funding to assist the area agency on aging with virtual technology instruction, assisting people seeking technical support, and even financial relief for internet access.
The AARP’s virtual community center regularly hosts webinars on topics to help seniors at home with issues such as social media, online safety, smartphones and tablets, and more.
#1. Devices to use at home
In the past year, seniors’ technology purchases made up a significant portion of overall sales. In addition, other gadgets that aid in health monitoring was also sold in large quantities. This was necessary for the elderly to access telehealth services and social media platforms.
For seniors who are not able to afford to buy their own devices, organizations such as Rhode Island’s digiAGE program provided iPads in 2021.
#2. Access to broadband
One of the main obstacles to using digital devices was overcome by expanding broadband access. Angela Siefer, executive director of the National Digital Inclusion Alliance, an advocacy group for expanding broadband access, described their work “as a matter of life and death”.
This may sound dramatic, but the purpose was to highlight the fact that those without access to fast, reliable internet were seriously affected by the shutdown of face-to-face services.
The US government provided a $3.2 billion Emergency Broadband Benefit Program for low-income individuals, which became available recently. That short-term program provides a $50 monthly discount on high-speed Internet services and a one-time discount of up to $100 for the purchase of a computer or tablet. This benefit is available on application by older adults.
#3. Teaching and mentoring
Older adults usually rely on family members and senior centers to help them learn new technology. Many organizations offer technology training, though, assisting older adults to become comfortable pursuing online training.
- Generations on Line is a Philadelphia-based organization that provides an online curriculum for smartphones and tablets, new tutorials on videoconferencing and telehealth, and a “family coaching kit” to help older adults with technology. During the pandemic, demand for Generations on Line’s services rose tenfold.
- OATS (Older adults technology services) – affiliated with AARP – expanded the reach of its digital literacy programs. It runs a national hotline for people needing technical support. OATS operates senior Planet to offer technology training at centers in Colorado, New York, Maryland, and California.
- Cyber-Seniors pairs older adults with high school or college students who serve as technology mentors, and has trained more than 10,000 seniors since April 2020 — three times the average of the past several years. Services are free and grants and partnerships with government agencies and nonprofit organizations supply funding.
- Candoo tech which launched in February 2019, works with seniors directly in 32 states as well as organizations such as libraries, senior centers and retirement centers. For various fees, Candoo Tech provides technology training by phone or virtually, as-needed support from “tech concierges,” advice about what technology to buy and help prepare devices for out-of-the-box use.
- Get Set up’s model relies on older adults to teach skills to their peers in small, interactive classes. It started in February 2020 with a focus on tech training, realizing that “fear of technology” was preventing older adults from exploring “a whole world of experiences online,” said Neil Dsouza, founder and chief executive. For older adults who have never used digital devices, retired teachers serve as tech counselors over the phone.
- SeniorNet offers digital training to seniors over the age of 55, the disabled, and war veterans.
Digital literacy programs significantly improve the technology and online experience of older adults. After all, everyone should be able to play on the best $5 deposit casinos without having to feel confused and clueless. That is why it is one of the few casinos in the world that accommodate usability for the elderly.