How often do we hear older adults say things like: “Learning to use the internet is too complicated! I can’t see the font! I’m afraid of getting scammed?” Let’s face it. There are a million excuses people come up with not to connect to the internet, but the fact is, there are countless benefits that technology can provide – from reconnecting with friends and family to beefing up brain power. So the truth is, no one should avoid using the incredible world of technology that can be so beneficial to all people of all ages.
BetterCaring.com recently stated that not only is the internet a great source of entertainment for seniors, but that it actually keeps their minds more active and engaged. Studies have found that internet use stimulates the brain and even lessens the risk of dementia and depression. By traveling the world with a click of a mouse, older adults can learn new skills and hobbies, watch movies, listen to music, and bond and play games with friends. And once they begin to navigate all the options at their disposal, they suddenly find that they are not as alone as they thought they were. No matter what one’s age, a person can continue to learn and grow from the comfort of their own home.
The main takeaway lesson from all this is that technology is a major, invaluable tool for helping seniors decrease feelings of isolation. Computers, for instance, can really be a great companion. In addition to the benefits already mentioned, accessing the internet and its ever-growing social media outlets allow seniors to connect with a wider range of society via Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Skype. In today’s world, where families often live half across the country or half a globe away, the internet makes it is easy for grandparents to stay in touch with their adult children and grandchildren. This can be an ongoing source of gratification and there’s nothing out there that can take its place.
The good news – and a way to get older loved ones excited about the possibilities – is to make them aware that the internet is easier to use than they may think. So the only real hurdle to get them over is their fear of technology. Once they get going, the rest will take care of itself. The best place to start is to tell your older parent or loved one to put their fears aside and just jump in. If they have trouble reading what’s on their computer screen, let them know that font sizes can be enlarged and that brightness can be adjusted so that they don’t even need to wear reading glasses. And if they have trouble hearing, they can adjust the volume as well. To offer further encouragement, tell them that when they are unsure or lost, they can get help at the push of a button. Tracking services, medical aids, and remote monitoring systems are all instantly available. There is also an iPhone feature that can allow them to quickly access information during a medical emergency, even when their phone is locked.
In a world where people are learning to “Age in Place,” it is nearly impossible to do so without technology. According to AARP, technology is in fact a key factor in making it possible for seniors to remain self-reliant in their own homes. In the past, this might not have been an option. For example, people can now install sensors in the home that regulate temperature, turn on lights as you enter a room, or tell you when a garage door or refrigerator has been left open. These devices can provide peace of mind as well as real security for seniors and their loved ones, making it more likely for that person to be able to remain in their home and live independently.
Skype is another great outlet for seniors. Not only does it keep people in touch in real time, it can also be a great resource for medical consults. Instead of constantly running to the doctor’s office, people can schedule “video-call” visits that allow the physician or nurse to remotely monitor things like blood pressure, glucose and weight. The readings can be shared and documented without the need for onsite visits, which leaves more time to do more pleasant things.
Here at the Kaplen JCC on the Palisades, we maintain a thriving Computer Learning Center that provides one-on-one classes, where senior adults can learn a wide range of programs and skills, all at their own pace, which allows them to gain the computer literacy they need to overcome feelings of isolation and remain connect with others. Each student receives personalized attention from caring and competent instructors who help everyone overcome their fear of technology so they can live with greater confidence and personal satisfaction. No one wants to feel alone, especially as we get older, and technology can provide much of the comfort we are looking for.
You can find more information on the JCC Adult Computing web page.
Written by Marlene Ceragno, MA, CPG, CDP, is Program and Caregiver Services Coordinator for the Senior Activity Center at the JCC. She holds a Master’s in Gerontology and Management of Aging Services from the University of Massachusetts. She is a Dementia Care Practitioner and Credentialed Professional Gerontologist. She has worked in the JCC Senior Department for the past eight years.