5 ways technology is shaping the lives of older adults

Technology has proven its indisputable value over the past few months – empowering family and friends to stay connected and informed during a time when being physically close together may not be possible. While everyone can stand to benefit from innovative technology, it’s especially important for older adults to consider the advantages digital tools can offer in their everyday lives.

Though many young people believe that older Americans aren’t digitally savvy, more and more seniors are adopting technology as a way to simplify daily tasks and keep in touch with loved ones near and far. In fact, one in seven adults age 50 and older own a home assistive device, such as Google Home or Amazon Alexa, according to AARP. With more seniors taking advantage of smart devices, technology companies are even looking to ageing experts to design new technology with their unique needs in mind.

“When paired with human touch, technology has the power to help older adults age safely, independently and with dignity,” said Lakelyn Hogan, gerontologist and caregiver advocate at Home Instead Senior Care. “Computers, smartphones and tablets are among the most valuable tools available to help older adults remain in their homes as they age.”

While no device can take the place of human interaction, the right digital platform can ensure older adults remain healthy, safe and socially engaged. Hogan shares five ways technology can empower seniors to live independently:

1. Social connection

Video chat platforms like Skype or Zoom and tablets such as an iPad or GrandPad can supplement social interactions when in-person visits aren’t possible. To reconnect with old friends or forge new relationships, consider creating a social media profile on platforms such as Facebook or Instagram.

2. Overall well-being

While social distancing can make it a little trickier to stay active, there are plenty of free tools online to keep your body moving. Fitness trackers and smartwatches such as Fitbit or the iPhone Health app can also help you stay on top of daily activity, sleep pattern and eating habits.

3. Independence

Delivery services like Instacart, Shipt and Uber Eats make it possible to stay safe at home while still enjoying your favourite meals or household essentials. These helpful apps allow you to choose the exact item you would like and when you would prefer the delivery to take place. With so many other things to focus on, knowing groceries and other supplies can be delivered safely to your doorstep can be a source of great relief.

4. Health management

Staying on top of your health has never been easier with direct-mail services like Simple Meds that automatically organise and sort medications, and apps such as RxmindMe that send quick reminders to prevent medication errors and reduce missed doses. Many doctors’ offices and insurance carriers are also offering telehealth options to obtain medical advice from the comfort of your own home. Home Instead’s care technology can also enhance the ageing experience with tools like the Home Care tablet. Virtual visits help keep seniors connected and engaged with their caregivers and providers, as well as ensuring safety in their homes.

5. Mental stimulation

Keeping our minds active as we age is critical to protecting against cognitive decline. For mental exercise, try online games such as Tetris (to improve spatial recognition), Trivial Pursuit (to improve fact recall) or Mahjong (to improve memory and matching). After you’ve practiced on your own, consider challenging loved ones to a friendly competition.

When it comes to integrating technology into our daily lives, there’s no one-size-fits-all approach. It’s important to consider which tools and programs work best for your preferences. And, even as exciting new gadgets hit the market, remember that no app or machine can replace genuine human interaction.