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Getting Seniors Plugged In

Kimberly Fowler
By Kimberly FowlerFebruary 27, 2018

It’s hard to keep up with technology. Devices that were revolutionary a decade ago, now look archaic and out of date. In an industry that is ever-changing, it can be tough to keep up – especially for seniors. Technology can be both daunting and frustrating for a generation of individuals who can remember a time before television.

Helping Seniors Get Plugged In

Fortunately, there are many ways you can help a senior loved one access technology in their own home. These technological devices are easy to set-up and operate, which means that once working, you won’t need to act as a part-time help desk.

Consider using these devices to help your senior loved ones or parents get plugged in:

1. Customized Smartphones

Smartphones offer much more than just the capability to make a phone call. They can be customized for a senior to make them more easily accessible and a breeze to use. Customization can be especially handy for visually impaired seniors.

You can adjust settings on your device to allow the following:

  • Enable spoken audio feedback
  • Enable zoom magnification
  • Increase the size of icons and text
  • Make text high contrast
  • Set up endless voice commands

2. Education and Training

Technology is constantly changing, making it even more difficult for seniors to learn how to navigate and get plugged in. Classes are a great way for seniors to learn the basics of the Internet and technological devices, and more importantly, to gain the confidence they need to give technology a try. Educational institutions, retirement communities and senior centers often offer free classes and training seminars for older adults. A senior may be more open to learning about smartphones and technology from a kind stranger, rather than a well-meaning family member.

Learning how to use new technology will not only keep your senior loved one up to date, it is also an excellent skill for the brain and cognitive health. Learning new skills later in life has been proven to reduce symptoms of aging and may lower the risk of cognitive decline and dementia.

3. Online Safety

Teaching seniors how to be safe and protect themselves online is a critical element of education and training. Seniors are often targeted for online scams and ‘catfishing’ scenarios, leading to financial and emotional turmoil.

Information that is often covered in free online safety classes includes:

  • How to create strong and unique passwords
  • How to protect your personal information
  • Learning about spam and unsolicited email (do not click on the link!)
  • Social media etiquette – a.k.a. think before you post
  • When and how to report online abuse and suspected scams

4. Smart Speakers

Smart speakers such as Amazon Echo, Siri by Apple and Google Assistant are revolutionary devices that were designed to integrate technology into your home and every-day life. Smart speakers have the ability to pair with multiple smartphones and are voice activated, allowing a senior to control multiple functions with just the sound of their voice.

Depending on the brand, smart speakers can be set up in five or six simple steps. No complex instructions to read through or a mess of wires to try to navigate. Once set up, smart speakers can:

  • Access and surf the web
  • Adjust your home’s thermostat
  • Answer text messages
  • Control the lights in your home
  • Control the TV or home entertainment system
  • Draft a grocery list – and order the groceries online
  • Get weather updates
  • Make banking and financial interactions
  • Make phone calls
  • Play games and music
  • Play a guided exercise or meditation routine
  • Read the news
  • Set an alarm or timer
  • Set medication reminders

Amazon Echo and Google Assistant can go one step further and even distinguish between different people based on their voice. The smart speaker can then access specific calendars, music libraries or contact lists of the person speaking. Also (perhaps most importantly) there is an “ask my buddy feature” which acts as a common-day, wireless lifeline for seniors in distress. With Amazon Echo in particular, a senior can simply say “Alexa, ask my buddy to alert…” and the smart speaker will immediately contact your chosen person by text message and phone call requesting assistance. Overall, smart speakers have the ability to greatly impact a senior’s living experience and help them to remain connected and plugged in their own home.

Technology has the ability to connect seniors living at home to friends and family across the world. It can remind them of an important task to complete or medication to take. It can engage them with brain stimulating games and music. It can even connect them to immediate assistance in the event of an emergency. The benefits are endless. Help your senior loved one get connected today.

Do you have other tips on how to help a senior get plugged in? We’d like to hear your suggestions in the comments below.

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Kimberly Fowler
Kimberly Fowler
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