For many of us, paying our bills online, ordering a grocery pickup, or having a doctor’s appointment by video chat is second nature. But some older people face obstacles that keep technology out of their reach. They may lack internet access, basic computer skills, confidence to learn new technology, or an understanding of what devices and online services offer. But seniors have shown, especially during the pandemic, that they can successfully adapt to the ever-changing tech landscape.
If your goal is to stay in your home as long as possible, planning on ways to incorporate and feel comfortable with technology will help you stay independent, live more easily, and stay safer. With advancements in the active aging industry, technology innovations can detect falls, encourage physical activities, improve home safety, reduce social isolation, and schedule transportation. And innovative solutions for older adults are constantly evolving to meet more needs.
Getting comfortable with connecting and communicating with others through technology is key to independence. Social engagement is critical for the mental health of seniors, and it’s only a click away. We live in a connected world that can bring family and friends face-to-face in a video chat on our computer or smartphone. You can now access your therapist, physician, or nurse practitioner with online appointments for better healthcare. For seniors with mobility issues, online connectivity can make them more socially active. You can connect with others through social media or feel connected to a larger community when you attend a virtual religious service or join a group of fellow birdwatching enthusiasts on Facebook. With internet access, you are no longer confined to your immediate surroundings.
Why Independence is Important for Seniors
Independence means having the freedom to make decisions and control your life. Often, older adults who feel a sense of autonomy enjoy better mental health, lower rates of cognitive decline, retained strength and balance, and longer life. The importance of independence does not diminish over time. In fact, as we get older, independence is even more valuable to our happiness, sense of self, and positive mental wellness. Finding purpose in life has often been shown to be a key in leading a happier, healthier life and can help one continue to be independent.
Most aging adults view independence as being able to remain in their homes as they age. But it’s more than that. Aging in place includes your physical and mental health, safety, and quality of life. As you plan for retirement, make plans and take steps to integrate technology to create a home where you can not only live but thrive.
If safety, mobility, and health concerns are hindering your ability to live on your own, home care and virtual support programs can help you with daily living. Bringing in a professional, accepting help from a family caregiver, or connecting online with medical care professionals or social programs can relieve daily stress and allow you to push past your limitations to enjoy life. Outside help should not be seen as a loss of independence. Quite the opposite, these are tools to help you remain in the home of your choice and continue living an active and purpose filled life.
Set Realistic Technology Goals
Many older adults feel that adapting to and integrating new technologies into their life is overwhelming. But technology has proven to help many seniors maintain their independence, and it may help you too. To reduce anxiety, ease yourself into the digital world. It doesn’t have to happen overnight.
5 Ways to gain independence through technology:
- Set a Goal. Look at the current technology you are using. Start with one device, like your phone. Are there features that you are not using that can be explored? Start with a small goal, like learning to text or setting up a contact list. Once you have mastered one goal, move on to your next.
- Find the benefit. Identify areas in your life or home where technology might provide value. Perhaps your loved ones do not live close by, and you would like to enhance communication. If you no longer drive, download a mobile app to get groceries delivered directly to your doorstep or sign up for a food delivery service. So, you don’t miss an appointment, use telemedicine to see your doctor from the comfort of your home. Technology can help with everyday tasks to make your life easier.
- Ask for help. Getting an introduction to an online task or new device from someone you know may be less intimidating. Perhaps family members, friends, or grandchildren can help you learn the basics or answer questions where you might be stuck. And most companies offer free tech support services for their products to help you get started and answer questions.
- Teach yourself. Devices today are much more intuitive. If you have a new phone or computer, take some time to explore it on your own. Also, look for online tutorials, guides, and setup videos, or watch a how-to video on YouTube. Videos are helpful because you can easily rewind a section if you get lost and need to hear it again.
- Take a class. Getting an introductory course can be low-cost and, even, free. Look for basic computing classes at your local senior center, community college, library, or community center. You will get hands-on experience while meeting others.
The Dawn House bed system is another tech tool that helps with better sleep and can improve your quality of life. The technology behind these beds monitors vital health indicators throughout the night, so you can detect changes in your health and sleeping patterns before they become a significant issue. Underbed lighting, adjustable bed height, and stylish support rails make getting in and out of bed safer. Having the choice to share your in-app health reports with loved ones or a physician can give them comfort and peace of mind. Technology, like the Dawn House bed, can help you live independently in your home longer.