While some older adults shy away from technology, taking the time to teach them how accessible and approachable some devices are can really enhance the quality of life of seniors. This is especially true of those who are homebound or otherwise unable to get out much. It can act as a bridge between generations and help a vulnerable portion of the population regain some of their previous independence, confidence and sense of self-worth. As seniors age and become less independent, isolation can easily set in. Maybe they are not able to keep up with their former schedules and have started to withdraw from social activities. Or, perhaps a lack of transportation means they are traveling less and therefore visiting with fewer friends and family members. Following a few basics steps can ensure that seniors are able to stay connected with their families, friends and communities without leaving the safety and comfort of home.
- Choosing the Right Computers, Tablets and Cellphones
One of the first things you need to do is assess the needs and abilities of whoever will be using the device. Consider their vision, hearing and manual dexterity, as well as whether or not there will be a need for assistive technology. These factors will directly influence what type of device is best suited to meet their needs.
Laptops will have a nice combination of features, capabilities and durability. They will have speakers, microphones and webcams integrated into their design so you don’t have to worry about extra peripherals. They also tend to have larger monitors than most other options. This often makes laptops for senior citizens an attractive choice. Tablets are also popular, however. They have a screen larger than most cell phones but are smaller and more portable than most laptops. Some seniors are perfectly content to connect with a cell phone. There are several models that are designed specifically for older adults and technophobes, so be sure to look carefully at all the options before making a choice.
- Securing Reliable Internet Access
Having a device won’t help you and your loved one stay connected if they don’t have a reliable internet connection. There are myriad options in this area. DSL and cable are the most popular choices; however, satellite, mobile hotspots and tethering can all be used to secure a connection depending on what services are available in the area. The cost can also be a factor. Some internet providers have special programs and rates for seniors and many cell phone plans will allow you to add a tablet to your data plan for a minimal monthly fee.
- Practicing Online Safety and Avoiding Scams
Putting a senior on the internet without any training in safety can lead to serious repercussions. According to these online safety tips for seniors from AARP, a few of the things you should go over include:
- What is safe and appropriate (and what is not) to post on social media sites
- How to avoid scams, especially those that target seniors
- Best practices for creating and storing passwords
Technology can help keep otherwise vulnerable older adults connected and engaged. Finding a suitable device, arranging for a reliable connection and covering basic safety practices will help ensure it is a positive experience for everyone.