It is easy to feel overwhelmed by all the advances and changes in technology. But there are numerous ways that these advances can bring new joys and make life and caregiving easier.
Today’s senior is embracing technology and expects to use it in their daily lives. The secret behind a good design is that it must be simple and easy to use. If you can’t figure out how it works, it won’t help you! Check out how technology can help seniors in all aspects of life.
If you’re a long-distance caregiver, use technology to help someone from far away. This can help you feel more confident in their safety and social engagement.
Here’s the best of technology in 2018 for active seniors, elders and people living with dementia.
Technology For Exercise Motivation
Exercise is a vital part of staying active and healthy. Exercise keeps both our minds and bodies healthier. New devices coming onto the market can help with both mobility and motivation. There are wearable electronic devices like Fitbit that can help you keep track of how much you are moving and encourage you to set new activity goals.1 Fitbit is now 10 years old, and an “old player” in fitness.
Even tracking very small increases in the number of steps can help people who are frail or recovering from illness. One doctor told us that he encouraged a woman to increase movement after a stroke. “Just walk 10 more steps every day,” he advised. She welcomed the challenge and loved tracking her small – but meaningful – accomplishments.
Wii games can be helpful for people with dementia. Wii fishing provides fun, gentle exercise, and a way for former fishing enthusiasts to stay involved. Wii Golf offers PGA tournaments, and a retractable lightweight golf club is available for a more realistic feel.
What was once considered science fiction is now becoming tangible with robotic exoskeletons.2 A robotic exoskeleton is an external suit or brace that can be used to provide stability and boost stimulation to tired muscles.3
Technology For Remembering to Take Medication
Keeping track of when you last took your medication can be a challenge; especially when you are taking more than one. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that among the 65 and over age group, 40% of people are taking 5 or more medications a day. There are now apps available for use on your smartphone that will sound an alarm reminding you to take your medications. Some apps such as Pillbox will also show you a picture of all the pills you should take at each time.
A more advanced system such as PillPack will synchronize your prescriptions and supplements with both your physician and your pharmacy. Your medications are then pre-packaged into daily packs which are labeled and delivered regularly to your home. The system also keeps track of when your next refill is due and contacts your physician before you run out.4
Technology For Strengthening The Brain
How you interact with your environment and what is important to you as a consumer is driving new developments in products for maintaining and improving brain health. Designers and developers are realizing that the over 65 population is drawn to and wants to engage with new technology in creative ways. Products are being built that help to improve both the daily care and quality of life for seniors. These tools can be used either by an individual or with a caregiver.
Technology For Improving Memory
BlipIQ is a program designed for people who experience memory loss. The program allows the user and family members to upload and engage with various forms of memories. Through stories, videos, audio, pictures and texts you can engage with others family and BlipIQ helps to keep the puzzle pieces of memory active.6 Even virtual reality is being used as a means for improving your brain health! While wearing a virtual reality headset the user can choose to participate in a variety of activities. From experiencing the natural wonders of the world like Yosemite National Park to travelling virtually to explore the pyramids of Egypt. The virtual reality headsets can be synced so multiple people can experience the adventure together, leading to great conversations from across the globe.
Technology For Staying in Touch With Friends
Loneliness and isolation are two of the biggest health problems facing seniors today. Technology such as smartphones, tablets, and computers allow seniors to stay connected with family and friends. There are a multitude of devices, programs and apps that help to keep you connected.
Once considered the domain of the under 20 crowd, texting, Facebook and picture sharing has taken off with seniors.
Lyft is a ride-sharing company that offers people a comfortable and convenient way to travel even when they no longer drive. Recently, Lyft (and other ride-sharing companies) have partnered with healthcare facilities to assist seniors with transportation to the doctor’s office, medical appointments, grocery stores and visits with friends and family.7
The explosion of new inventions, technologies and devices can be exciting as you discover how you can use these innovative designs to improve quality of life for yourself or a loved one.
Technology That Communicates and Entertains
An AARP survey showed that 38% of adults over 50 play video games on a regular basis. Most play games on their computers or smartphones. The majority play at least weekly.
One of the best way to play games is on an easy-to-use digital tablet for seniors. The tablets have funny videos, vintage music, games, classic TV shows and more. Simple icons lead users to the content they want. If they need help, a caregiver can offer reminders or access the desired content for them. While the senior is enjoying their tablet, the caregiver can get a much-needed break.
The Grandpad by Consumer Cellular is a tablet for older adults. It has entertainment content and can be used as a phone. Users tap the “phone” icon to see photos of their family and friends. One tap on a photo calls that person. Family and friends can also send photos and videos to the senior through the tablet.
A Michigan woman named Ann has severe dementia. She was very anxious and rarely spoke to anyone. One day her caregiver used a Grandpad to play a Doris Day song. Ann began singing along. She knew every word, surprising herself and the caregiver.
“It’s all about reducing isolation and loneliness,” says Grandpad founder and CEO Scott Lien.
Tech and Activities for a Person With Dementia
Joy and Agency in Deva World
Deva World is an entertaining activity for people with dementia. To play this 3-dimensional game on a tablet, users follow a character named Julie as she walks around her house and yard. Tapping on objects makes them come to life – cats meow and doors open. There is no goal or competitive angle, and it creates a sense of agency – the ability to act independently, make choices and see their outcome.
Deva World is fun and soothing. The user can easily select paintings, books, music and settings that are relaxing, enriching and entertaining for the mind.5 Deva is a joint activity between care partners – you and your loved one. Download Deva World from the Apple App Store or Google Play.
Calm Anxiety in Dementia With a Robotic Pet
Robotic pets are a great aging-in-place technology for people who aren’t able to care for a cat or dog. Robotic pets provide comfort and companionship without the care of a real animal. They also help to ease loneliness. They can stimulate memories and conversation. People with severe dementia often talk to the pets, caress and cuddle them.
Joy for All Companion Pets have soft fur and leathery foot pads like a real dog or cat. They move, make noise and respond to human attention. The Golden Pup has a heartbeat and barks playfully. The cat purrs and meows. Both provide comfort and entertainment for people with dementia.
A woman gives her husband a Joy For All cat when she needs a break. He holds the cat, pets it and talks to it. She is able to step away from him and get some time for herself. When his grandchildren visit, they enjoy the cat with him.
“Loneliness, social isolation, and cognitive decline are reaching epidemic levels for older adults. We are inspired every day knowing that our companion pets are having a positive impact,” said company CEO Ted Fischer.
Virtual Reality Technology for a Travel Experience
Virtual reality allows anyone to enjoy realistic travel experiences in their own homes. Special goggles block out the real world and show videos of the virtual world. Users can tour a historic building or visit the beach in Hawaii. They can even “attend” distant family events.
Virtual reality is a useful technology for elderly people. It can distract them from physical and emotional pain. “Visiting” a familiar place from their past can comfort people with dementia.
A range of virtual reality products are available. Cheaper ones use a smartphone inserted into the headset. More expensive units connect to computers or video game systems. Lenovo provides a stand-alone headset “Mirage” that can access apps including exotic travel. A separate camera allows you to record 3-D memories for viewing in the headset. They provide a much more realistic experience.
Tips for Introducing Technology to People Living with Dementia
- Sidestep a resistance to new things. Find something that your parent will like about the technology and start with that. For example, find their favorite music on a tablet.
- Remember that each day is different. Your parent may want to use the technology one day but not the next.
- Suit the technology to the person’s needs. If they need to be calmed, try a robotic pet. If they need entertainment, a tablet might be best.
- How Fitness Trackers Can Improve Your Health
- Robotic Exoskeleton Can Prevent Falls
- Startups for Souped Up Senior Care
- Design Thinking Can Help Improve Care for the Elderly
- Deva World, by Mentia
- BlipIQ How it Works
- Baby Boomers, Ride Sharing and Technology
- Father Plus Son Equals Grandpad
- Video Games: Attitudes and Habits of Adults Age 50-Plus
- Supporting Optimal Aging through the Innovative Use of Virtual Reality
- Toy Company Develops Companion Pets for Seniors
- Anne’s Story of the Joy for All Robotic Cat
About the Author: Crystal Jo