Three technology tools to help seniors combat isolation and loneliness
If a senior in your life is feeling lonely and isolated, they are not alone — social isolation is a widespread problem that affects more than eight million older Americans and has been identified as a public health epidemic by the medical community.
But there is hope. Recent innovations in interactive technology can help seniors increase their engagement in life; socialize more with family, friends and peers; and avoid health risks that accompany increased social isolation. Here are three potentially life-changing technologies.
Voice-enabled speakers can be extremely helpful for seniors with vision issues or lowered mobility, or who are intimidated by unfamiliar technology. Seniors who get flustered in the face of a new computer program, app, or web platform often find that voice-activated devices like Amazon Echo and Alexa can help them regain mastery over their everyday activities.
These voice-activated speakers and similar devices allow users to access the internet’s trove of information, just by speaking out loud. People can seek answers to their questions, access the news, play music and video content, receive prompts to take medication, call family and friends, and even reach out to emergency services.
A 2017 review of the literature on socially assistive robot (SAR) technology noted its potential to improve health and social care for seniors. At home, robotic companions can help seniors reassert their independence and combat the psychological stressors of too much time alone.
Similar to voice-activated speakers, domestic robots and robotic companions help seniors with daily tasks and keep them company along the way. One example is designed by Intuition Robotics. The ElliQ proactive social robot serves as a social entity that anticipates the user’s needs and responds with suggestions based on data. Samsung’s personal domestic Ballie robot is designed to follow the user around the house and connect to various smart home or mobile devices.
Another robotic product gaining popularity are pets. Available from a variety of companies, and designed as cats, dogs, or even seals, robotic pets are best used by seniors with memory loss or Alzheimer’s, or mobility issues that make it difficult to care for a pet. Toy company Hasbro was one of the first to offer robotic pets with realistic movements, textures, and mannerisms that mimic a live animal.
Social media and networking websites
Social media sites like Facebook and Instagram, video messaging platforms like Skype, instant messaging services like Yahoo, and website forums can also benefit seniors. Platforms like these can help your loved one forge authentic personal connections, whether their goal is finding a local companion friendship, meeting a friend who enjoys similar interests, or interacting more with family.
These virtual relationships can help sustain seniors during times they are unable to get out socially. And the proof is in the data: over the past several years, smartphone, tablet, and social media use has increased among older adults aged 74 to 91, according to the Pew Research Center.
An important note: if the senior in your life regularly uses the internet on their own, make sure they know to reach out to a trusted family member or friend if an unknown party asks for their personal or financial information, and encourage them to use caution if they decide to meet an online acquaintance in-person.
Technology: a gift for seniors
The loss of regular social outlets is the natural result of late-life events such as retirement, declining health, and mobility limitations, but luckily, there is more digital assistance technology available than ever before. Talk to your loved one today about what options might be right for them.
Wingate Residences at Haverhill is located on a full continuum of care campus offering independent and assisted living options, along with memory care suites and skilled nursing options, should individual needs change. Schedule a tour with us or call us today at (978) 912-9250.