Many seniors today suffer higher levels of loneliness than generations past. Before the invention of speedier transportation options, many families dwelt within easy walking or riding distance of each other, making trips to grandma’s house a more regular part of life. Grandparents were often considered sources of wisdom (as well as handy babysitters for date nights!).
Now, many families scatter to the four winds after high school or college graduation, leaving the older generation behind. As age advances, losing the independence to do things such as drive isolates the elderly even further. Sadly, older people who are lonely are three times more likely to have depression than those who are not. Depression is also the second leading cause of disability worldwide.
It’s crucial that we get to the root of fixing this problem, especially when seniors are often already struggling with physical disabilities on top of mental health issues like depression. Fortunately, technology may provide answers to solving the ever-growing phenomenon of loneliness among seniors.
Keeping Distant Family in Touch
Since many families today dwell in different parts of the nation or even other areas of the world, getting together regularly means travel, something difficult for many older adults to manage comfortably. Fortunately, technology makes it possible for loved ones to connect in several ways.
- Facetime: Facetime technology transforms the weekly check-in call into a virtual visit with distant relations. Grandparents can watch the next generation grow up in real-time, not only in photographs. Absent the ability to share hugs; Facetime provides the next best thing to an in-person visit.
- Social media: Social media offers another avenue for family members to keep in touch across the miles. Senior family members can share in the everyday joys and triumphs of those they love.
- Cellphones: The sound of a loved one’s voice means the world to many older individuals. Today’s cellphones go a step further by allowing seniors to share in adventures as if they were taking part in them in real-time. GoPro technology lets them virtually tour the new home their children just purchased or share in their grandchild’s first visit to Disneyland.
Even though many older adults feel intimidated by technology initially, many take to it quickly once given basic instructions. Additionally, devices specially designed for ease of use by the elderly make learning new tech tasks easy, interactive and fun. For example, GrandPads are tablets created with seniors in mind, as are simple phones and plans like Jitterbug and Consumer Cellular.
Learning how to operate new tech gadgets helps keep seniors’ minds healthy as well. Many community centers offer classes that teach basic computing tasks and safe online practices to the elderly. Organizations such as AARP offer classes and workshops that teach vulnerable older adults how to recognize online scams and avoid becoming victims.
Protecting Elder Independence
In addition to keeping seniors in touch with those they love, technology likewise helps them live more independently. Most older adults prefer to live out their golden years in the comfort of their own homes, but safety concerns lead many to the nursing facility even if the individual in question doesn’t truly need that level of care. Devices such as Life Alert allow the elderly to remain in their home while enjoying immediate access to emergency personnel if needed.
Technology also benefits seniors by keeping them physically active. Many older adults suffer from painful chronic conditions, such as arthritis, that make exercise difficult. Specially designed lifts help the elderly safely enter and exit swimming pools, where the added buoyancy of the water supports joints and allows for greater freedom of movement. As exercise is vital in staving off many mental and physical diseases, anything that helps older adults move more pays off big time in better health outcomes.
Elderly adults residing in rural areas often need to travel considerable distances to get access to medical specialists, which presents a challenge to those who no longer feel safe behind the wheel. Telemedicine services allow these seniors to consult with specialists on the other side of the country if need be. Those who receive proper medical treatment enjoy higher energy levels that make socializing more comfortable.
Furry Friends Who Need No Rehoming
Pets offer a valuable resource when it comes to tackling the problem of senior loneliness. The companionship of a dog or a cat provides emotional support for older adults. However, many hesitate to adopt, fearing what will happen to their beloved pets when they pass on.
Robotic pets provide older adults with canine or feline companionship without the need to even scoop the litter box. Some nursing homes have provided such pets to residents who seldom get visitors and found the patients reported lower levels of loneliness. While such tools may prove cost-prohibitive to some individual consumers, as technology advances, prices will fall.
Keeping Seniors Connected Through Tech
Loneliness in the later years turns what should be a joyous, relaxing time after a life of labor into a slow and empty descent into despair. By utilizing technology to keep senior adults connected, active and safe, more Americans will enjoy living out their golden years basked in love and fellowship.