Technology has changed dramatically over the course of older adult’s lifestimes. Rotary phones gave way to wireless versions in today’s world. Tape recorders, telegrams and transistor radios are non-existent. This age group has witnessed so much; men landing on the moon, dramatic medical advances, and the rise of an Internet-dependent society.
New technology can significantly impact quality of life for older adults. Innovative gadgets can help keep your loved ones safe and socially connected while making caregiving tasks less stressful for family members.
1. Social Connections – Video Chat and Social Media Help Stay Connected to Loved Ones
Staying socially engaged is just as important to healthy aging as genetics and maintaining a healthy body. Visits from friends and family are not always possible, or are infrequent, especially if they don’t live nearby. While no technology can take the place of in-person human interaction, video chat services like Skype, or Internet-based communication channels such as email and social media, help people stay connected. My 88 year old friend, Barry, who lives alone far from family says “My grandchildren facetime me once a week which feels like a “real” visit; we talk, laugh and catch up – it’s great”.
2. Safety – Get Help with the Push of a Button
Surveys consistently show that 80 to 90 percent of aging adults want to stay in their own homes in their later years. Can you blame them? It’s comfortable and familiar. Luckily, a number of technological solutions can make doing so safer for them. An aging individual that lives alone should have a Personal Emergency Response System (PERS) which allows the wearer to call for help with the simple push of a button. Knowing help in an emergency is easily accessible can provide peace of mind for both the individual and their family.
Safety is also a paramount concern for those who suffer from Alzheimer’s disease or other dementias, especially those prone to wandering. A number of GPS tracking devices are available that can monitor a senior’s location and send alerts. GPS gadgets for Alzheimer’s wanderers.
3. Exercise – Video Games Get Seniors’ Bodies and Minds Moving
Many health facilities geared toward seniors are already aware of the recreational and exercise benefits that Nintendo’s Wii sports games offer for elderly adults. The games offer a fun opportunity for seniors to engage in light physical activity from the comfort of their own living room. Those living at their own could also benefit by owning a Wii or other video game system controlled by motion. Great birthday or holiday gift!
Tetris (spacial recognition), trivial pursuit (fact recall), and mahjong (memory and matching) are great games for mental exercise. We encourage our older friends to practice on their own, then challenge their grandkids.
4. Medication Management and Health Tracking with Smartphone Apps
Keeping track of medications is hard for older adults,especially those who take more than 5 different prescription drugs daily. Which pills need to be taken with food and which without? Should they be taken in the morning or evening? Which medications should not be taken together? One woman I know takes 19 pills every day! Keeping all the medications straight can be very challenging.
Pill boxes help, but technological solutions that provide reminders and “time to refill” alerts can be helpful. Older adults and their caregivers might benefit from medication reminder smartphone apps such as MyMeds or MediSafe to reduce missed medications and prevent errors.
Do you have suggestions for additional types of technology to benefit older adults? We’d love to hear from you!