As we age, at any time in our lives, there is a natural inclination to be fearful of new things. This is especially true as it relates to technology. The tendency for the youth to embrace new technology can be a scary reality for parents and grandparents, as they choose to stick with what they know rather than venturing out into the world bytes and bits. And while the hottest apps or tech trends may not be applicable to most seniors there are several pieces of technology that are a mainstay and will give seniors the ability to stay connected to colleagues, family and friends.
In addition to the benefits of staying in touch with those most cherished, there is a ton of research that supports health as we age and the dedication to lifelong learning. Research has shown that simply being active socially does not support brain and mental functionality in the same manner as actively learning a new skill. So, even though the fear of technology is an understandable concern, seniors should seek to learn, at a minimum, basic technology, which promotes both long-term health and connectivity to those most important.
(*Note: We have elected to focus this article on more niche forms of technology beyond simply stating that it is important for seniors to know how to use a computer, smart phone or modern television. If you would like more information on technology read our article on the Basic Technology for Seniors.)
1) Facebook – The youth have certainly inspired an age of connectivity, with social media occupying the majority of their time. For seniors that means needing the ability to communicate directly with their friends and family via these networks, and Facebook might just be the most important tool for seniors to utilize. The ability for seniors to stay connected to family and friends, past and present, via the social media network is unparalleled. Given the ability of the network to store photographs and videos, share memories or capture an individual’s mood in an instant, it should be widely used by seniors to stay in touch with those sprinkled across the globe.
You can learn more about best methods to help a senior get on Facebook by reading our Ultimate Guide to Facebook for Seniors article.
2) Video Chat – Perhaps one of the greatest achievements of modern technology is the ability to transport yourself, in real time, through video chat applications like FaceTime or Skype. The introduction of video chat has meant seniors are no longer removed from the biggest life events of their children or grandchildren. By utilizing video chat, seniors can stay visually connected to newborn grandchildren, talk face-to-face with old friends or maintain meaningful dialogue with their children. To sweeten the deal of video chat, most services are free and typically come installed on a new smart phone or computer.
3) Blogging – The wonders of the internet and growing capacity of technology has given people, and especially seniors the ability to tell their stories in their own words. In prior times it would have taken either money or extreme luck to be able to find a writer, publisher or videographer willing to paint the picture of your life with words and videos. These days, seniors have the ability to set up their very own blog within a matter of minutes and start sharing instantly. Powerful tools such as WordPress, Medium, Squarespace, Vimeo and YouTube, offer free tools that allow you to seamlessly design your blog and simply post your words or videos. As far as leaving a legacy for those most important to you, blogging, with words or video, is an everlasting piece of history for generations to come.
4) Music – There is nothing more comforting for seniors than being able to relive a memory through music. These days being able to find your favorite song or musician is within the tips of your fingers, and not by thumbing through old record stacks or CD cases. Services like Spotify, Apple Music and Pandora give you the power to search for a song or artist and press play right on your computer, phone or tablet. So now when the urge to dance kicks in, you are able to pull up your favorite music and let loose for a while.
5) Streaming – The companies are names that everyone is familiar with, but just how to access them can be a tad bit tricky for those new to streaming television options. Netflix, Hulu and Amazon Video are the predominant players in the streaming business, but as the industry grows more and more mainstream networks are jumping on board with a la carte offerings, many of which will be cheaper than subscribing to a traditional cable provider. And for seniors this means being able to pocket a few extra dollars and save some time to enjoy the indulgences of retirement and family. As an added benefit to streaming services, seniors are able to reminisce with television and movies from the past by simply pressing a button.
6) Digital Health – It may seem like an unnerving proposition for seniors to have their entire health record stored digitally and shared across providers, pharmaceutical companies and health organizations. But, the advancement of digital health is moving beyond what many would consider record management and into a full health tracking industry. Seniors can take advantage of this trend by utilizing health monitoring technology, home monitoring systems, self-care management tools, online communities and forums, digital health records and online healthcare navigation. Each of these tools provide seniors with the security and ease of use to handle their most important needs, often times within leaving the comfort of their home. Further, by many estimations it is believed that people will soon be able to receive full medical care or checkups without need to enter a doctor’s office. And for the technologically savvy senior, this will become a huge time and money saver in the future.
7) Photography – Every picture tells a story and they all tell a thousand words. Which is why it is so important for seniors to learn about all of the tools available in photography today and just how simple they can be to use. For starters, the advancement in camera technology in cell phones has been tremendous. There is very little need for a more powerful camera than the one sitting inside of your device, and the ability to sharpen images or play with various settings is wide. Additionally, photo sharing services and online picture book tools give seniors the ability to forever capture their loved ones.