Social isolation has long been a challenge for seniors living independently. Many clinical and psychological research studies have produced evidence that social isolation and loneliness significantly increase the risk for premature mortality, and the magnitude of the risk exceeds that of many leading health indicators.
Now with COVID-19, the impact of social isolation is magnified 10-fold. Seniors have been confined to their homes while facilities are on lockdown, creating an even more profound sense of isolation. All of this combined makes it much more challenging to care for aging family members and adds even more stress and emotional drain to caregivers’ daily lives. However, new technology is available and can play a significant role in supporting caregivers and giving hope to seniors.
In an age of smartphones and iPads, there are many apps designed to enhance well-being for seniors. Journaling and meditating at the start or end of a day allows us to be mindful and grateful for our life, so apps that promote those practices can be particularly helpful. Other apps for gaming and puzzles also provide us with the necessary stimulation that helps to entertain and exercise our brains. All of which contribute to boosting serotonin levels, which is a happy chemical in our brain!
However, not all seniors are comfortable using smartphones and tablets. Most of the devices are not designed for older adults, opening a need for technology that can be adapted so that seniors find it easy, intuitive, and engaging. In parallel, family members are looking for peace of mind through a technology that enables ease of communication with their loved ones and the ability to monitor their daily activities. All of which reduces the feeling of social isolation for the senior while having a very positive effect on overall health and wellness.
Sensors, voice activation, GPS, and Bluetooth vital can tell you how your parent is doing without being intrusive. If something seems out of the ordinary (i.e., your Mom does not get out of bed, skips her medication or wanders out of the house), you can be alerted immediately. Technology is also often used to coordinate care, share concerns, and update others.
For Mom, what looks like a snazzy piece of jewelry can actually be a camouflaged medic-alert like gadget that summons help. Mobile devices and computers can monitor and transmit a family member’s vitals (called “Telehealth”), reducing the need for doctor appointments and heading off a potential crisis. “Wearables”—pendants, wrist devices (AppleWatch, Fitbit), and clothing—deliver health and fitness information.
Through the Internet, Dad can read the news online, listen to opera, tune in to a TED Talk, search for health information, meet others on a forum, check-in with family and friends, watch a cooking show, take an online class or order a book (or pretty much anything else) from Amazon and even find a date! Some tablets are designed with seniors in mind (smartphones can be user-friendly for any age).
When we think about the people and things we value and how much we can appreciate life, parents want their independence, and adult children want peace of mind. Technology is a way to honor both wishes.
Guest Contributor; Jake Levy ~ Claris Companion