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Faced with growing social distancing measures, elderly family members may be experiencing a crisis of loneliness, alongside a lower quality of living due to decreased availability of assistance. Aside from helping to solve issues that come with mobility and sensory impairment amongst older folks, technology is a great tool that can help to close the gap between seniors and their loved ones. Here are some featured tech products and apps that can improve day-to-day living for the elderly and help to build better communication between them and the ones they love.
Bridging the gap has never been easier. Sharing text, voice, image, and video messages can be done at the push of a button with WhatsApp and Voxer. While Skype is one of the most popular online call services that closes the distance between families, the older generation has never been more active online. Even social media platforms see a ton of users from the baby boomer generation and above, with up to 73 percent of Americans aged between 50 to 65 now using sites like Facebook and Twitter, according to Pew Research.1
Better living starts at home, and there are a number of “smart home” apps and devices out there that can help to transform the quality of our living quarters. Getting up to turn on household fixtures like lights, thermostats, kettles, and televisions can pose a nuisance or even a challenge for those with mobility troubles. With only a simple utterance, Amazon’s voice-controlled digital assistant Echo can help to make adjustments to all the above, operated by users within the house as well as remote users.
In ensuring safety, an August Smart Lock can trace who leaves or enters the home, all whilst allowing for doors to be locked or unlocked remotely. When paired with wearable activity trackers, family and close ones can be alerted if worrisome activity patterns are registered, allowing medical help to make its way there efficiently if accidents were to occur.
Aside from steering us to places we need to be, GPS devices can be useful for the visually impaired to navigate their immediate surroundings. The GPS-based BlindSquare aurally guides users to specific addresses, both indoors and outdoors, whilst apps like TapTapSee can be utilised to identify objects all around the user, allowing them to “discern” do from don’t.
The user simply has to take a photo of the items they have trouble making out, and no matter the angle, the app will verbally translate what the subject of the photo is. Gone are days of magnifying glasses lying everywhere and bumping into things.
For seniors who are hard of hearing, wearable tech can be upgraded with apps like Halo, which introduces functions like automatic volume adjustments based on noise levels. It can also save the settings for specific locations to help the user automatically situate themselves without having to tune in all over again. Enabling easy contact, Halo directly streams phone calls to the user’s hearing aid to adjust for clear and comfortable conversations.
In 2015, Apple, in partnership with IBM, released iPads with specially tailored apps for seniors with lessened sensitivity2. To combat the issue of lower nerve responsiveness in the fingers, the apps were designed with large, easily visible buttons, alongside adjustable settings that can help family members with eyesight or hearing difficulties to smoothen their process of getting acquainted with the online world. Adapting handsets to register a slower response time can distinguish between a swipe and a prolonged tap as well.
Subscription-based game Peak is an app that trains older brains to improve cognitive skills like memory, mental agility, problem-solving, and communication. Developed by the University of Cambridge, the app has been shown to improve the memory of patients in the early stages of dementia3, making it an equally powerful preventative tool that maintains mental agility.
Everyone needs a little push here and there when it comes to small tasks, and some of the minuscule things that slip our minds can actually be really important! For senior family members on a medicated schedule, apps like Round Health can be helpful for setting up reminders to take medication at specific times, in addition to leaving notifications for scheduled doctors’ appointments and check-ups. Round Health can be synced up to their accompanying “smart bottle” through Bluetooth with the simple assistance of a smartphone. It can help to set reminders for when prescriptions need a refill.
New technologies are being released every day. For elderly family members, a beneficial app or good device can bring them closer to loved ones, all while helping to improve their health and well-being in simple yet significant ways. Acquainting older family members with accessible appliances is the first step in facilitating smooth communication between the generations, bringing together the whole family and fostering a closer relationship.