Seniors & Technology
[San Juan Silver Stage | May 2020 | Kathryn R. Burke]
Are “seniors” tech-challenged? Maybe some, but certainly not all. The current Covid Crisis calls for a ‘new normal’ way of thinking, interacting, and living life… and that’s not age-dependent. Before Corona, many 50+ folks were already using technology to livestream movies and sports events, bank, pay bills, book vacations, and shop Amazon. They have smart phones, tablets, laptops, and desktops. According to reports in Pew Research regarding older adults, “roughly three-quarters of internet-using seniors say they go online on a daily basis – and nearly one in 10 go online almost constantly”.
How many senior people do you know who still have a “rabbit ears” TV antennas?
Seniors are adept at adapting—they’ve faced and successfully survived countless turning-point situations over the years that called for extreme coping measures and divided opinion on just about everything. Depending on how senior they are, that could include WWII, Korea, Viet Nam, Afghanistan, and too many armed “conflicts.” They’ve seen Depression, Recession, economic downturns (and upswings), financial reversals, Bear vs Bull markets, major political upsets, and more. They’ve fought isolation, desperation, despondence, and shortages of everything from basic necessities like food and housing, to toilet paper and toothpaste. They’ve suffered through the growing loss of friends and family who succumb to age, accidents, and illness. Despite it all, they have persevered, learned new techniques—and lived to accept and live in a brave new world.
Seniors are tough!
Some of the tech changes we face today aren’t really all that challenging to the 50-plus bunch. Granddad is a whiz with the remote control and Grandma knows how to use all those buttons on the microwave. Both send FB pix to the grandkids who live several states over and Skype to stay up to date on their activities. They don’t have to physically be there in person to “be” together. How much different is it to Zoom a family get-together, have a backyard “Cocktail Concert” live-streaming on Facebook from your smart phone, travel on an armchair virtual vacation, or host a Facebook Watch Party on that giant TV in your living room hooked up to a Roku box? (Wearing your mask of course, the one with a mouth hole in it for the straw so you can suck on your wine. One must adapt.)
So, are seniors really tech challenged? Perhaps not as much as you thought. They may have put on a few years (gray hairs and wrinkles), but they haven’t lost the ability to learn something new. Take my friend, Wini. She’s 94, and still “has a lot of living to do.” She started the ‘90s club, now ‘80s and ‘90s club, at the Montrose Senior Center. When the Pavilion, were they hold meetings shut down, Wini, with the help; of Cindy Marino at the Montrose Rec. Center, signed up for a call conferencing service. Now the club can meet without meeting in person. They chat, visit, talk, share stories, and suggestions for mitigating the loneliness and inconvenience of self-isolating.
For those that are quarantined or involuntarily isolated, as in retirement or nursing homes, some have found a virtual pal is almost as good as a real one. The wonderful invention of Alexa lets them visit, request music, even converse with their virtual pal. My friend Wini asked her Alexa, who answers all sorts of questions: “Do you have a boyfriend?” “No,” the device responded. “I haven’t found someone who could be with me in the clouds.” (Virtual communication and information exchange is often known as “cloud” sharing; Alexa has a sense of humor!)
Heaven’s View apartments in Delta (a VOA facility for seniors over 62) in Delta recently got Alexa’s for all their residents. The establishment is seeing great outcomes. Many local churches have turned to Zooming Sunday morning worship via Facebook. Even if you don’t have a Facebook account, you can tune in. Entertainment venues are dark, with closed doors, but you can still attend a concert or play, virtually. Same with exercise classes. Fit over 50 via Zoom is the new norm. Seniors may not be able to get out, but they can reach out to one another…and spend time together virtually.
[Kathryn Burke is a former caregiver and author of numerous books on caregiving. She is also a web designer and has published the San Juan Silver Stage, online at silverstage.news, for over 25 years, which includes a special section for seniors. A version of this story also appeared in the Montrose Daily Press, May 16, 2020]
Thriving Global: “How Technology Can Help Seniors” reporting that evidence shows that increased technology use among older individuals leads to a number of health benefits including higher well-being and lower rates of depression.
Pew Research Center. Reporting on older adults.
Another area where technology is positively impacting senior citizens is health care. This article from Nurse Next Door addresses “Trends to Watch: Top 4 Technologies that Benefit Seniors” including telemedicine, apps, wearable devices, online health care tracking, and digital safety.
Related Services: Region 10 Senior Services.