Technology for Seniors and the Elderly
Seniors today are faced with a dilemma. They did not grow up during the era of computers and the internet, yet this age group now depends on this technology. As a result, seniors are learning more and using technologies for the first time. In general, technology is helping to give senior citizens an improved quality of life through increased connectivity and a sense of community.
Seniors and the Internet
The senior population is rapidly accepting the use of the internet. In fact, internet adoption has more than tripled in the past two decades. The Pew Research Center reports that only 14 percent of seniors had internet in their homes in 2000. As of 2017, that number has increased to 67 percent for adults over 65. In addition, 51 percent have high-speed internet known as broadband.
Across the age spectrum from seniors 65 to over 80, the younger segment is more likely to have internet. Eighty-two percent of seniors 65 to 69 have internet, while only 44 percent of those over 80 have internet in their home. For seniors who do use the internet, 71 percent are going online daily.
What are seniors doing online? Forty-six percent were reported to use social networking sites, such as Pinterest or Facebook, according to Pew Research in 2014. As a side note, only three percent of seniors were using Twitter. Another major reason why seniors use the internet is to find information.
In fact, a whopping 94 percent agree that the internet makes finding information far easier. The Advanced Communications Law and Policy Institute reports that 53 percent of seniors use the internet to find information about health care and medical issues. Other top motivators for internet use among seniors is to shop online, search for bargains, keep up with community news, and watch videos.
Seniors are also increasingly more confident with banking online, visiting government websites, and using video chat services like Skype. For instance, seniors can connect with counselors or nurses using video conferencing if they are unable to leave their home due to an illness. Caregivers can also utilize the internet to help them provide better care for seniors. They may control appliances, home security, and lighting in a senior’s home even when they, the caregiver, are not in the home.
Internet technology can also help seniors improve their livelihood. For example, they can watch exercise videos from their home or use the internet to download e-books and e-magazines. Seniors can also play video games, such as virtual reality games on the Nintendo Wii, that provides physical activity and mental stimulation.
Internet Service Providers for Seniors
One roadblock for seniors who want to have internet in their home is affordability. Internet costs can easily exceed $50 to $100 a month just for wireless connectivity. For seniors on a fixed income or low income, this cost is prohibitive. Fortunately, there are options to help senior citizens get internet including broadband access.
Freedom Pop offers 100 percent free high-speed internet service with some exceptions. This includes internet for the home, as well as mobile internet. You can get 500 MB of data for free, but if you want more data or mobile access you will have to pay starting at $4 a month. For 2 GB of data, you will pay $20, increasing to 10 GB of data for $75 a month.
In other words, this type of service is only for seniors who do not use the internet a lot. If you go online daily or watch streaming videos, then this would not be a good option. Another concern is the service area. While most states in the Eastern US are in the Freedom Pop coverage area, those in the Midwest do not have service availability.
The next place to go to find cheap internet for seniors is to individual internet providers. Check with the local internet companies in your area to see if they offer special rates for seniors. Most major companies do. For example, AT&T offers a low-cost wired internet service for low-income households. To qualify for the program, you need to receive Social Security Income benefits or be in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. If you are eligible, you can get internet for $5 to $10 a month.
Using the Internet to Find Senior Care
Whether you are a caregiver or a senior searching for senior care services, the internet is a gateway to tons of information. In fact, it can be quite overwhelming if you aren’t sure where to start or how to begin. If you are searching for information about how to choose senior care, such as independent living or hospice care, you can find this online. Here at Senior Living, we offer everything you need to know about finding senior care including:
- Information about different types of senior housing, such as continuing care retirement communities and active senior apartments
- How much senior housing costs
- How to save or pay for senior living
- Where you can find senior living in your area
- Basic amenities and services to expect in senior housing
- Specialized care for seniors with health issues, such as dementia via memory care
All of this information is compiled here for your benefit. Thanks to the internet you can search and read senior living resources at your convenience. In addition, here are some other great resources for finding senior care near you:
- Volunteers of America owns and operates senior living facilities
- US Government housing for senior citizens and other resources—scroll down the page for information
- Medicare assistance for seniors
You can also go to your state’s government website and see what kind of state programs are available for seniors.
Using the Internet to Help Pay for Senior Care
After you have used the internet to find senior housing and senior care resources, you will need to find a way to pay for them. While some seniors have retirement funds and investments for paying for senior care, not everyone is that fortunate. If you need help paying for senior care, use the internet to find the information you need. This saves you the hassle of having to find transportation to and from different agencies for assistance. For seniors who are not able to afford transportation, the internet opens the doors for information.
Here are sites for seniors searching for ways to pay for senior care:
- Find out if your Medicare coverage pays for your type of senior care
- Learn about long-term care coverage available by the US Department of Health and Human Services
- The National Council on Aging provides the BenefitsCheckUp tool, which can search for benefits programs in your area or according to your specific needs.
Using the Internet to Find Elder Law Help
One area that is most troublesome in the senior community is elder abuse. This age group is most susceptible to elder abuse and financial scams because they are likely to have a large amount of money saved for retirement. At the same time, seniors are more likely to suffer from age-related memory loss or some form of health issue that could leave them vulnerable. In addition, seniors often have to depend on other people, such as nurses, financial planners, or caregivers, to help them take care of daily activities. This opens up the doors for criminals who want to find ways to scam, steal from, or otherwise abuse seniors.
When an elderly person is scammed, stolen from, or abused in some way, this is a crime. Unfortunately, in the past seniors did not have access to many resources to help them combat this issue. This is where the internet offers great promise for seniors. As a senior, you can look for everything from reporting scams to finding an attorney thanks to the internet.
- If you think you are being scammed financially you can search online for accurate information about common senior scams via the National Council on Aging.
- If you have been scammed you can report this to the FBI.
- Find an attorney specializing in elder law at the National Elder Law Foundation.
- Learn all about topics of elder law in the US and internationally, and find organizations to assist you at HG.org.
- Locate contact information for elder abuse hotlines, state government agencies, and elder laws in your state using the National Center on Elder Abuse resources.
Virtual Retirement Communities
For seniors who are still active and require a low level of care, virtual retirement communities are a viable option. This type of senior living allows individuals to live in their own home. The virtual community is staffed by a team who organizes a multitude of services and programs for members. These may include transportation, assistance with medical appointments, grocery shopping, organized group outings, and aid with applying for benefits. This type of senior care is similar to independent living facilities, with the exception that seniors can remain in their home.
Another major benefit of a virtual retirement community is that it gives seniors a way to connect with other people their age. So how much does this type of senior living cost? It is actually one of the most affordable options out there, with the understanding that seniors will have to pay for their own housing. Virtual retirement communities cost an average of $450 a year or $600 for couples. If you have already paid for your house and have minimal utilities and living expenses, this can be the cheapest form of senior care available.
Senior Technology Products
With the advent of the internet, we have also seen an explosion of technologies that are geared at electronics, automation, and connectivity. Most of these technologies, such as security camera systems, tablets, and smartphones, depend on internet connectivity to fully function. Seniors who have access and an understanding of technology can reap the rewards. Let’s jump right in and discuss the different types of senior tech products and how they are being utilized by this age demographic.
Tablets and E-Readers
Tablets, such as iPads, have opened the doors of computer technology for all ages. As a senior who did not learn how to use computers in school, the invention of the keyboard-free laptop with easy-to-use icons as apps is a life changer. At the same time, a tablet can be used to do anything a computer can, from creating a document to printing out photos with a wireless printer.
Seniors are able to play games that stimulate their mind. They can connect in chat rooms and on social media using a tablet. In addition, a tablet bridges the generations. Seniors can use the same tablets as their children and grandchildren, which helps these age groups bond with each other.
Using technology, seniors can have an entire library at the tips of their fingers. E-readers including the Kindle and Nook products allow seniors the ability to download content to read inexpensively. Most public libraries now provide free e-book rentals including magazine downloads on e-readers. This allows seniors on a fixed income to learn and stay connected to the world at large without spending any money, beyond the initial cost of the e-reader. In fact, tablets have e-reader apps available so that seniors can purchase a tablet and use it for computing, online social activity, and reading.
Cell Phones and Smartphones
According to the Pew Research Center, four out of 10 senior citizens have a smartphone in 2017. Eighty percent of seniors over 65 own a cellphone of any kind. The largest group of seniors to have a cellphone are those between 65 and 69, whereas 95 percent have a mobile phone. The smallest group is those seniors over 80 with 58 percent having a cellphone. Having a phone as a senior offers benefits as well as challenges.
These mobile devices give seniors the ability to stay connected with loved ones and caregivers. They can talk or text whenever they are feeling lonely or need assistance. More importantly, in the event of an emergency, they have a way to make a call no matter where they are at, as long as they have access to their phone.
At the same time, with updates and changes to cell phone technology, this can be difficult for seniors to keep up with. Often seniors need help from caregivers or cell phone technicians to understand new features to their devices. In addition, seniors may struggle with using certain types of cell phones that do not offer accessibility features. These include increased font sizes, magnification, speech output, and hearing aid compatibility. Seniors may have trouble finding phones that provide such features or understanding how to access these on their devices.
Senior Citizen Apps
Along with increased smartphone use is the growing demand for apps. These cell phone programs offer an array of benefits for seniors who may need help remembering, keeping track of medication, or finding their parked car. Here are a few recommended apps for senior citizens:
- Pill Reminder by Medisafe to remind seniors to take medication, while alerting family or caregivers if meds are not taken on time
- Doctor on Demand connects seniors with board-certified psychologists and doctors who offer medical advice via live video calls
- Mimi Hearing Test to test your hearing in seconds
- VocalEyes AI that speaks aloud and tells you everything that is on the phone screen
- Magnifying Glass With Light to improve sight for individuals with vision loss or age-related macular degeneration
Best of all, these apps are free to download and available on most devices.
Best Communication Apps for Seniors
Transportation and Technology
Seniors who are unable to drive can benefit from the use of technology and apps for transportation. Two of the most popular and most common of these services are Uber and Lyft. The way these transportation services work is you download an app on your smartphone. You enter your destination and the app alerts you to their drivers who are nearby. Payment is made through the app, by using your credit or debit card information. This transportation service is ideal for seniors who want to remain independent and on the go but may lack the ability to drive.
Food Delivery Services
Technology has evolved food delivery services into much more than just pizza delivery. There are dozens of food subscription boxes on the market including:
- Hello Fresh
- Blue Apron
- Green Chef
- Purple Carrot
These food subscriptions provide consumers with boxes of ingredients and recipe cards for a set number of meals each week. Some subscriptions let you choose your recipes while others surprise diners. At the same time, some subscription services are focused on healthy eating, like Green Chef, while others send out recipes that are quick and easy, like Plated. If you love to cook for yourself, but lack the mobility to go grocery shopping, these food delivery services are popular options. Keep in mind you will pay top dollar, as a single meal for one person averages at $12 a plate.
Wearable Technology for Seniors
Wearable tech includes fitness tracking watches, but offer a lot more for seniors. The most common wearable technology for seniors is a medical alert system. These systems feature necklaces or bracelets that are connected to home phone or cell phone lines. In addition, there are daily activity wearables for seniors that are more like the Fit Bit. These devices monitor the wearer’s vitals, such as their blood oxygen level or sleep activity.
Assistive Technology Devices
An assistive technology device (ATD) help seniors feel and be safer in their home, whether they live in an assisted living apartment or their own home. These senior living aids help individuals perform daily activities, such as walking through their home or using the toilet, with decreased strain. Here are some of the most common types of ATDs for seniors:
- Power wheelchairs and scooters
- Hearing aids
- Amazon Echo and Google Home devices
- Doorbell video cameras
- In-house video monitoring systems
- Roomba vacuum cleaners
- Reminder Rosie, a voice-controlled clock
- Bed and Chair Fallguard to protect in case someone falls out of their bed or chair
- Remote controls with super-sized numbers
- Computer screen magnifying devices
Another ATD that is highly needed for seniors with vision loss is lighting. This can be as simple as adding reading lamps to desks and dining tables, and standing lamps in hallways and dark areas of the house. It just goes to show that sometimes the simplest of technologies can remain as effective in helping seniors live a healthy and safe life.