Technology as a tool for seniors and their caregivers
- Author & Caregiver: June Duncan
The meaning of the word “technology” has undergone a change in recent years occasioned by the rapid growth in things everyone takes for granted, communications and labor- saving devices that play a significant role in the lives of people both young and old.
Technology is no longer a tacit reference to cell phones and gaming systems, hallmarks of a youth culture that prizes instant gratification above all. Today, it’s a blanket term describing tools designed to make life easier for people of all ages. The people who care for seniors have benefited substantially from technology that improves everyday life and gives caregivers advantages that improve quality of life in ways that would have been unimaginable not too long ago.
Who would’ve thought that Facebook and other social media venues would be useful tools for preventing depression in senior citizens. The Journal of Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking recently published a study which found that using social media to communicate with others reduced feelings of loneliness and boosted physical and mental health and wellbeing. The 2016 study also determined that chronic health conditions were less prevalent among seniors who used social technology on a regular basis to communicate with friends and family. That’s good news for caregivers helping those in their care battle loneliness and depression; it seems that a few minutes on Facetime with grandchildren does more good than many medications.
Boosting Brain Health
Technology can also be used to help keep seniors cognitively sharp. Caregivers who enjoy video and computer games of all sorts can do the loved ones in their care a favor by sharing their gaming interests. In fact, just conducting Internet searches increases brain activity in seniors. Such activity helps counter some of the functional changes that take place in the brain, such as reduced cell activity, atrophy and other developments that impair cognition. Computer technology can be an effective tool for caregivers looking for ways to keep an elderly person mentally active.
Fortunately for seniors, there’s more to technology than keeping in contact with relatives or whiling away the time with a game console in hand. Getting seniors to stay physically active can be a caregiver’s biggest challenge.
Fortunately, Wii games are a great way to get someone moving around. Wii’s popular bowling game, for example, can boost heart rates by as much as 40 percent according to U.S. News and World Report. Seniors may also enjoy tracking the number of steps they take each day with a Fitbit, and setting new goals based on the previous day’s results.
The number of monitoring devices and systems designed to keep seniors safe at home has grown considerably in recent years. For stressed-out caregivers, technology that can monitor a senior is a worthwhile investment. Health information tracking systems and medication management applications can help caregivers protect seniors from careless accidents. Technology also makes it possible for seniors and caregivers to interface in real time with medical health professionals.
Technology, shopping and transportation services can be a tremendous benefit to seniors and the caregivers who assist them. According to this article: “...these services are an attractive option (for seniors who need basic assistance and want to remain at home). And, depending on the amount of care required, they can be a more affordable option as well. For example, in Washington D.C., a resident could spend $3,000 on care services and $2,787 on their mortgage, and still spend less than the $5,933 it would take to live in an assisted living facility.”