Technology and Touch: Bridging the Divide

senior couple on computer

Technology is everywhere and fast becoming indispensable for our lives. For seniors, it can be overwhelming navigating the latest technological gadgets. But just because you were born before the digital age doesn’t mean you can’t unlock it’s potential. Here are some ways technology can keep seniors safe, independent and connected and tips on how to help older adults bridge the tech-touch divide.

Safety. Technology offers some great solutions to keep seniors safer in their home environment. GPS technology can alert family and caregivers if a loved one with dementia has wandered from their safe zone. There are a number of trackers that can be attached to the wrist, clothing or favorite shoe. They communicate with a smartphone or in-home safety console. Personal emergency response systems (PERS), which can summon help in an emergency situation at the press of a button, now have fall detection alerts as well, which can flag risk factors for falls.

Independence. Smart home sensors can often bridge the gap and supplement family or caregiver hours by serving as your “eyes and ears” when you’re not able to be physically present. Used in conjunction with in-person oversight, smart home sensors can be a powerful and cost-effective way to monitor care and safety while promoting independence. Home sensors detect patterns of daily living such as opening the refrigerator or removing medications from a pillbox. Smart cameras can give families some peace of mind that their love one is safe if they insist on living alone. These devices can trigger interventions for in-person care if dangerous patterns of behavior are detected. Voice activated Bluetooth technology can remind seniors to hydrate, take medications and turn connected devices that play TV, radio or audiobooks on and off. Home lighting can also be adjusted to voice commands and night lights can be set to automatically activate, reducing falls risks.

Connection. While technology will never replace one-on-one human interaction, it can play a role in reducing social isolation. Seniors can engage in intergenerational group activities with like-minded people in social games like bridge, chess, checkers, mahjong or scrabble. Social networking sites, like Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest, can connect seniors with networks and communities that share their passions. Email and voice-activated texts can enhance connectivity and communication. Seniors can learn new activities through “how to” You Tube videos and there are now even dating apps especially geared towards seniors!

Now do it! To get started on exploring how technology might work for your older loved one, start by doing an inventory of current technology equipment in the home and identify what needs might be bridged with the creative use of technology. Start with one technological solution at a time so as not to overwhelm the senior and start slow to build on successes. If you yourself are not technologically inclined, consider getting a home technology consult with a reputable company or engage the services of an aging life care professional. Or even reach out to a smart grandchild who would probably be delighted to help!

Written by Anne Sansevero