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Helping the elderly with technology

30th November

Life expectancy has increased significantly in recent decades and the number of people in later life has grown rapidly. There are currently almost 12 million people aged 65 and over in the UK, with 3.2 million aged 80 and over. It’s estimated that by 2036, one in four of the population will be over 65.

We are working to drive the changes that are needed to respond to this shifting age demographic. This will require radical approaches across society including housing, health, communities, and workplaces.

Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic many of us are relying on technology a lot more but not everyone has access to these tools to support their daily living and wellbeing at home.

Since the start of the pandemic, I think it's safe to say most of us are relying on technology a lot more than usual. Technology is our main source of communication – work meetings held via Zoom or Teams, family/friends chat via WhatsApp or Facetime. More of us have taken to shopping online due to closure of shops/restaurants during lockdown. We have seen the closure of banks so online banking is also more used than ever before. The pandemic has left many elderly feel vulnerable so may fear going out as they used to.

This may have left the elderly in a difficult position as they were not using technology or did not have access or the knowledge to change their way of communicating. There is also evidence that the elderly remain less likely to use social media and the internet.

In this blog, we will talk about helping the elderly with technology, discussing certain questions around the topic such as; ‘Why don’t the elderly like using technology?’, ‘How could technology help the elderly’, ‘What devices could help the elderly?’ and ‘How is technology helping the elderly right now?’.

If you care for a loved one but they need some care, get in touch with Swarthmore residential care home today.

Why don’t the elderly like using technology?

Evidence shows that they don’t want to discover their options for the following reason:

1.    Self-confidence – lack patience with technology     and low confidence as     they perceive themselves as being         inovices. A     generation of not being     brought up with     technology, therefore,     they don’t see the need for it either!

2.     Some were fearful that they would break a device, do         something wrong     that couldn’t be rectified

3.     Worry about privacy issues.

4.     Physical barriers – such as sight if the device is too small.

5.     Communication – don’t like the concept of not being able to sit         with someone and talk face to face. Don’t really like the way         people communicate via         social media.

6.     How do we introduce technology to our loved ones? Can we         provide instructions or a device to support their needs?

How could technology help the elderly?

The reliance on technology during the pandemic will bring the ‘digital divide’ to the fore as many will continue to rely heavily on our devices. The elderly unfortunately are the ones that may be left behind whilst others communicate through social media, which is why helping the elderly with technology is a must.

Although the number of older people who are digitally connected continues to rise, there are still around 5 million people over the age of 55 who are not online.

When it comes to modern technology for older people, the internet might seem like a daunting place to start. However, an understanding of the internet can make such a difference to your life. The internet is still fairly new, compared to the era that the elderly have grown up in. The internet isn’t as scary as you may think! It can open a whole new world for you.

Examples of what you can do to make your life so much easier:

● Order your weekly food shop

● Video chat with your friends and family

● Share photographs and updates referring to holidays

● Play games, crosswords or puzzles

● Online banking

● Watch movies through streaming

The intervention of introducing and helping the elderly with technology can open up so many opportunities to keep the mind stimulated and help ease boredom. Keeping the mind stimulated can help deter such illnesses as dementia.

Helping the elderly with technology- What devices could help?

Mobile phones - technology is becoming more important for older people as a society. It’s an easy communicator using pictures, calls or messaging. There are many options without having to choose a super all singing all dancing phone.

Tablets - There are lots of options here: iPad, touchscreen tablets or a mobile phone. The iPad is the most popular device in the UK household. The design is a midpoint between a laptop and mobile phone. You can rest it on your lap and visibility is much better than a mobile.

Fitness Trackers - as we all know, keeping fit and healthy is very important, regardless of age. This will hopefully help you avoid common medical conditions such as heart disease and diabetes. Technology can also step in here too, you can wear a Fitbit which tells you your heart rate, how many steps you have walked through the day and much more. Some devices, such as the Fitbit Surge, come with GPS technology and can connect to your Android or Apple mobile phone. Some devices are also waterproof so that you can use them while swimming, with battery ranges varying between three to five days.

Lifeline Alarms – ways of staying in touch when you are not feeling to good. Pendants can be worn around your neck or on your arm for easy access. This also gives your loved ones the security of knowing that help is at hand in an emergency. It is also possible to have a GPS enabled device for anyone who may be experiencing a sense of forgetting where they are and needing assistance if they go missing.

To help combat loneliness, we also need to ensure that the elderly can take advantage of benefits that technology provides, this may be staying in touch with family and friends. Here at Swarthmore we have introduced many devices to our residents. Of course, during the pandemic the most used service was probably WhatsApp video calls, Zoom or Facebook. This was the main source of families and residents keeping in touch during lockdown.

Is helping the elderly with technology working right now?

With the advancement of technology in recent years, there are new innovative ways in using technology that is useful. Some elderly people use these devices already and is having a great impact on mental and even physical health:

Virtual Reality – virtual headsets which allow you to interact inside museums and discover a different world from the seat in your own comfy chair.

Wii – virtual games on a TV Screen with handheld or foot operated devices. Game of tennis or an afternoon at the bowling alley with your fellow residents. This is also good exercise, and you are moving your body to interact in the game.

Mobile Phones – some residents have their own for others who don’t own a phone. We have a phone that everyone can use. iPad – play a puzzle, jigsaws, sudoku, research on areas of interest, read a paper – the options are endless

Alexa – voice recognition device which you can speak to ask her the weather, play a piece of music, listen to the radio and so on Netflix - watch a movie of your choice through

Netflix - watch a virtual tour on YouTube – visit a country you are no longer able to, all from your seat in our lounge.

Zoom – meetings with local groups, friends or family or other areas of interest. We have the chance to speak back to them so questions can be answered.

There are many links on the internet that offer help and lessons to give insight to the internet and how to use such devices. You need patience and time as we all have experienced ourselves at times!

Thank you for reading our blog ‘helping the elderly with technology’. If one of your loved one is in need of some extra care, get in touch with Swarthmore residential care today.

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