Historically, older adults have been late adopters to new technology, but recent research shows that seniors are embracing digital devices like never before. According to a report from Pew Research Center, Americans ages 60 and older spend more than half of their daily leisure time on electronic devices such as computers, tablets, and smartphones—that’s more than 4 hours of “screen time” per day!
The report found that the increase in screen time among older adults corresponds with the rapid adoption of digital technology by this age group. While just 14% of adults ages 65 and older were internet users in the year 2000, in 2019, 73% of older adults reported using the internet on a frequent basis. Likewise, just over half (53%) of today’s older adults own a smartphone.
It’s clear to see that an increasing number of older adults are now using technology for communication, education, and entertainment. But how is new technology used to enhance the lives of older adults? What tech devices are used by family caregivers and retirement living communities?
Let’s take a look at some of the latest tech devices that can improve quality of life for older adults:
Smart home gadgets
Smart home devices such as Amazon Echo and Google Home allow users to control devices around their home with the ease of voice commands. These smart home assistants can be used to set reminders, create shopping lists, make phone calls, play music, get weather data and news, shop online, and even order food! They are also compatible with other “smart” devices such as smart televisions, thermostats, doorbells, door locks, and lighting. Because these home assistant devices are activated by voice technology, they are ideal for older adults who might have trouble using a smartphone due to low vision or limited dexterity.
Health tracking tech
Wearable technology is making strides in health monitoring, making it possible to keep track of our health in between doctor’s visits. These devices can be used to identify potential problems—such as high blood pressure, an irregular heartbeat, or poor sleep quality—before they become serious issues. Popular wearable products such as Fitbit and Apple Watch can be synced with a smartphone to track one’s activity level, heart rate, blood pressure, and sleep. These devices can also log information like water intake and eating habits, helping to promote healthier lifestyle habits.
There are a number of helpful apps that can be used to set reminders for taking medications and refilling prescriptions. Additionally, “smart” automated pill dispensers can dispense medication on time and alert a caregiver when the senior has missed a dosage.
Personal emergency response systems
Today’s personal emergency response systems are more advanced than ever before. Older adults living alone or in a retirement community can benefit from discreet wearable pendants and wristbands that alert care professionals when a button is pressed. Many modern devices are often equipped with fall-sensing technology that sends an alert for help when a fall is detected, even if the button isn’t pressed.
Video chatting devices
Today’s technology enables us to communicate with friends, family, and loved ones anytime, anyplace. One of the most popular methods for digital interaction is video chatting. Unlike a phone call, video chatting allows users to hear and see each other at the same time. For older adults experiencing hearing loss, video chatting makes it easier to keep up with conversations because it allows users to see and interpret the body language, hand gestures, and facial expressions of the person they’re speaking with. One recent study even found that video chatting can help to prevent loneliness and depression among seniors. While video calls can be made using smartphones, tablets, or computers, older adults might opt for easy-to-use devices such as the Facebook Portal or Amazon Echo Show that were made specifically for video chatting.
As you can see, today’s tech devices offer many benefits for older adults, whether they are used for education, information gathering, communication, health and safety, or entertainment. For older adults who aren’t yet comfortable using the latest tech devices, it’s never too late to learn. Recognizing that many older adults are still new to technology, some retirement living communities offer informal classes to help residents learn to operate computers, tablets, smartphones, and more.