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Seniors Get More Connected

By MARIYLN SOLITS
Computer consultant Dave Davis works two days a month at a
retirement facility, coaching elderly residents to develop their computer skills. Some people surprise him. “One man keeps an excel spread sheet of bingo scores. Any office excel worker would say ‘really?’ It’s complex,” he says.
  
Of course, not all of Davis’ students are that proficient but many of them are regularly engaged in email, online shopping, and social networking to keep track of the grandkids.
  
Computer use among Americans 65 and older has doubled over the past ten years and internet usage has more than tripled according to the Pew Internet Project. Forty two percent were online in 2010. Thirty one percent were viewing video-sharing sites like YouTube in 2011.
  
Davis says he is surprised by how many iphones and ipads he sees among the residents at the Presbyterian Homes in Evanston and Lake Forest where he works—about 40 percent. “The ipad lacks confusion—you just tap on the icon,” he says. The new iphone 4S with Siri voice recognition has been invaluable to a man whose sight became severely impaired. “A blind person can find weather, ask about stocks and send texts to family members. It has brought a certain amount of joy into his life. The phone ties in well with the elderly” says Davis.
  
For adult children trying to coax resistant parents to get into technology, Davis recommends they initially give them an older machine so the parent doesn’t feel obligated to use the new object just thrust into their life. “It takes some of the pressure off. Ask them what they want to do. They don’t know what the computer can do for them. For example, they can start using Peapod if shopping is difficult for them,” he says. To start, write down large letter, complete instructions like: 1) Tap icon.  2) Password. “They may have no frame of reference for these things,” says Davis.
 
For Dave and Katy Donovan, an active couple in their 70s at Presbyterian Homes, apple products have been part of their lives for years and they have recently updated to an ipad and new macbook. “We wanted to keep up-to-date with the grandchildren—four teenagers and a preteen. We do email, word processing, photos, Facebook, YouTube, a few games, shopping, bill paying and banking. “We use Google and Mapquest to find the grandkid’s basketball, soccer and baseball games. My husband uses his ipad to do all of the paperwork connected with the three boards he is on. He gets the New York Times online and takes his ipad on the train. We love not having it delivered. It’s nice not to have to recycle everything,” says Katy.

Aging in Place
 
Most seniors want to stay in their homes as they age and the cost of retirement communities is out of reach for many. New advances in senior care technology are paving the way for older people to stay in their homes with a greater degree of safety and assuaging anxiety in children who may live far away. New technology uses tablets with simple icons to track health conditions, list medications, important reminders, phone books and weather. Some can track health conditions and share them with family and health providers.
 
MemoTouch is a device that requires no computer skills. The device boasts simple icons that display information that sufferers of memory loss may forget such as current day, frequently called numbers, medication schedule and important reminders. Seniorama has basic computer applications tailored for elderly users with large, clear interface. It simplifies computer use and is helpful to anyone with visual problems, learning difficulties, or cognitive impairment.
 
The 2012 International CES, the world’s largest consumer technology tradeshow, debuted some new devices for elderly parents and those living independently.
 
Sonamba® by pomdevices, LLC enables technologically challenged seniors to interact, with simplified communication features. It also tracks activity levels through motion sensors and has optional 24/7 personal emergency response call center services.
 
For people with diabetes, there is a meter with wireless technology that does not require a cellphone, carrier contract or fee. The Telcare Wireless Diabetes Meter automatically transmits readings to an online database that can be accessed by patient, doctor, caregiver, or family member.
 
Independa, Inc. has plans for a Health Measures platform available early this year that uses cloud-based services to allow caregivers and senior living facilities to record weight, blood pressure, temperature, pulse and heart rate and then submit the data where it can be merged with other data for a complete view of the person’s information.

Rating the technology
 
The website eldergadget.com ranks all of the new gizmos according to their senior friendly features like easy to see, easy to hear, easy to use and easy to understand. It has guides to elder-friendly online games, tablets, TVs, cameras, alarm clocks, cell and smartphones, you name it. Extensive reviews explain features and benefits and new technology and gadgets are quickly rated and reported.

Published: February 12, 2012
Issue: February 2012 Issue