Help Grandma Help Herself: Advanced Tech Support for Seniors
Many older adults happily embrace technology as a way to improve their quality of life. In fact, Americans aged 60 and older spend more than half of their daily leisure time (a little over 4 hours) on their TVs, computers, tablets and other mobile devices.1 Still, logistical issues and personal apprehensions can sometimes be a barrier. Lack of education, assistance and technological support often leave older people feeling frustrated and disconnected. They may also suffer from visual and auditory limitations that make smartphones and other mobile devices harder to use. Helping older relatives overcome these challenges allows them to benefit from technology’s many conveniences, some of which are uniquely suited to their needs.
Overcoming unfamiliarity with evolving technologies
Lack of familiarity is a major obstacle for seniors adopting new technologies. Low technological literacy means that much of the time, even the basics that have become second nature to younger smartphone users can be a stumbling block. Plus, many platforms and programs designed for older people fail to consult older users during the design process. Clearly, a device’s user experience must prioritize older adults’ needs and wishes to be successful, but merely educating older loved ones on the basics – how phones work, what common terms mean – can still go a long way.
Ensuring accessibility to health & emergency services
The advancement of smartphone accessibility features empowers older adults to use their devices for more than just entertainment. Technological accessibility can help aging family members get assistance during an emergency, monitor their health, access support groups and more. If you have an older loved one who could benefit from mobile health and emergency services, be sure to educate yourself on how to turn on and customize device accessibility settings.
Hearing aid compatibility
Devices that are compatible with hearing aids can make life significantly easier for older adults who suffer from auditory limitations. Hearing Aid Mode produces better audio quality for hearing aids and increases the quality of conversation, allowing people with hearing impairments to stay connected to the world around them. Smartphones with hearing aid compatibility, like the Samsung Galaxy S20, make it easy to turn on those features via the phone’s settings.
Accessible emergency calling features on mobile devices provide a fast, easy way to contact authorities in the event of an emergency, and they can be a crucial lifeline for older people when landlines are down, especially when they live on their own.
Devices with voice assistants can also prove valuable in emergency situations. During a power outage or an accidental fall, aging adults can use a voice assistant to ask for help or contact nearby relatives or emergency services. Even in non-emergency situations, voice assistants offer a simple, hands-free way to stay connected.
Smart watch heart monitoring
The rise of 5G networks is making wearable devices faster, smarter and more effective. Helpful features like heart rate monitoring allow people with heart issues – including many adults over 60 – to keep an eye on any unexpected changes or shifts in their day-to-day activities. Smart watches provide real-time alerts if an irregular heartbeat is detected, reminding seniors to stay active and make proactive decisions about their heart health.
How smartphones are improving older adults’ lives
Once older adults overcome knowledge and accessibility hurdles, common tech features can offer a wealth of benefits to their daily lives. Here are just a few of the ways seniors can leverage smartphones and other devices to live their best lives.
Connected home technology
Connected technologies and advancements in the Internet of Things will make it possible for more older adults to age in place, maintaining their daily routines and quality of life by remaining in their own homes. Even voice assistants like Alexa and Siri are making it easier for seniors to check the weather, make a call or find a recipe. Meanwhile, telehealth services provide essential healthcare access for those who might otherwise have difficulty getting to the doctor. Older adults can also stay connected and socialized via online support groups, helping them feel emotionally healthy.
Location sharing is another great way that technology can help older adults be prepared in case of an emergency. Smartphones allow users to share their whereabouts continuously, offering family members extra peace of mind if an older relative doesn’t respond to calls or texts. Of course, the phone works both ways: location sharing is a simple way to let loved ones know where you are too.
Adjusting screen settings to account for visual impairment is one of the easiest ways to make smartphones more accessible for aging adults. Most smart devices come with customizable screen settings, including the ability to increase font size, adjust brightness, organize apps by usage and label folders. These small adjustments go a long way toward making technology friendly to users of all ages.
- Livingston, Gretchen. “Americans 60 and Older Are Spending More Time in Front of Their Screens than a Decade Ago.” Pew Research Center, Pew Research Center, 18 June 2019, www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2019/06/18/americans-60-and-older-are-spending-more-time-in-front-of-their-screens-than-a-decade-ago/?utm_source=Pew+Research+Center&utm_campaign=041770d7ae-Internet-Science_2019_06_27&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_3e953b9b70-041770d7ae-400310621.