Last Updated: February 26, 2018
While many people think that the baby boomers are computer illiterate, this is simply not true. Today’s seniors are now catching up with their young counterparts and are embracing the world of technology in assisted living.
Learn more about our conversation with Belmont Village Senior Living about their technology program and the many benefits it offers to seniors.
The number of older adults using the internet and related tech devices is increasing, with four-in-ten seniors now using the internet and owning smartphones, more than double the share that did so in 2013, according to a survey by Pew Research.
Many senior living communities have integrated technology programs into residents’ daily routines as today’s technology can keep seniors connected, mentally active and physically safe. It’s no wonder seniors have Facebook accounts to connect with their grandchildren, or use iPad apps to play Scrabble, Solitaire and other games to keep their minds engaged.
Activity Program Coordinator, Donna Field, at Belmont Village Hunters Creek discusses the benefits of having our senior loved ones to in the high-tech loop.
“At Belmont Village Hunters Creek, our goal is to provide experiences that enhance our residents’ intellectual, physical, artistic and spiritual well being. Until recently technology was not often utilized to bring about those enhancements as we used whiteboards and pen and paper to work puzzle challenges, create artistic representations, write and share poems and stories. However we have discovered that technology has its strong points, and it has become an integral part of how we learn, have fun, and engage our residents in programs and activities.”
By engaging seniors and helping them to continue learning as well as socialize with family members and friends, technology has helped improve quality of life for many. In fact, many older adults have enthusiastically adopted technology to keep up with the times as well as their old acquaintances and younger family members. Grandparents are becoming proficient in Facebook and Skype — and are liking it! Technology has become a healthy emotional outlet and word of its benefits has spread like wildfire among the elderly.
Ms. Fields notes, “Recently, we were discussing backyard birding and were able to demonstrate an app from The Audubon Society that allows you to see what birds have been spotted in our zip code, what their songs sound like and how we might add pictures of our own bird sightings. When we have art lessons we bring up images of subject matter on Google that can be used as templates for our own pictures. We can visit The Museum of Modern Art on the web for MoMA art modules and have mini-art history lessons. Our senior residents have really enjoyed this type of entertainment and learning.”
Here are a few other ways technology has helped improve the lives of residents:
Whether it’s “Angry Birds” or the Nintendo Wii, video games have been shown to improve cognition, mental agility and even physical health for seniors, with devices such as the Wii Fit. Not only that, video games can promote social interaction.
From games that promote brain fitness to apps that track health information, a tablet can have a variety of positive impacts on seniors’ lives. Seniors can learn languages, listen to music, read, view photos — plus the devices are lightweight, their touch screens are easy to use, and font sizes can be adjusted for easier reading.
Large flat screen televisions or Smartboards can make it easier to engage residents because the larger picture is easier to see and the sound can be adjusted to accommodate hearing loss. On a large flat screen of any type games like “Jeopardy,” “Spot the Difference,” “Wheel of Fortune,” “Word Jumble,” “Word Mining” and WWII games make learning come alive. Donna Field comments, “Many of our residents have led full lives that included travel but are no longer comfortable with long trips away from the daily care they need. PBS Houston has amazing travel videos that are about twenty-five minutes long and leave room for discussion and exploration of different cultures. When you weave that in with special international menus and reminiscing of their own experience in another country it enriches those memories that are shared with others.”
Every senior should get familiar with is Skype as it can increase social interaction with friends and loved ones. Communicating with family long-distance is a snap, as you can view your loved ones in real time. Skype is also available for smartphones and tablets making it available and easy to use. Belmont Village Hunters Creek actually “Skyped” a resident into their grandchild’s wedding. Field discusses:
“One happy resident was unable to attend a family wedding in Florida and asked if we could set up Skype for him. Our “My Gait” technicians arrived that Saturday, and not only did our resident see the wedding, but the bride, groom and family members were able to see him. He was not physically there, but virtually he was present-priceless!”
Wireless internet offers many benefits which many technologies require. If you want your senior parent to take full advantage of technological devices, their assisted living community should be internet-ready. Many communities are using wireless internet technology to make it easier for residents and care providers to communicate quickly. Belmont Village offers “My Gait” computers for seniors that have large buttons and easy-to-read screens. Local school kids even join the residents, on occasion. According to Field, each resident is given an account, an email address and the capability to use the internet. “We helped one resident establish a Facebook account,” she says. “He sent a friend request to his daughter and got a surprising message back, ‘Dad, is that you?’ The ability for seniors to connect with their loved ones, even if it’s just online, makes their day.”
Which piece of technology has been the most critical for you and your senior loved ones? We’d like to hear your thoughts about technology in assisted living in the comments below.