Comedians have been making jokes about older people and technology for quite a while, not realizing that adults age 55 and older are the fastest-growing group on Facebook. Technology use by older adults has skyrocketed in the past few years and is expected to increase.
The marketplace for technology to assist aging adults is expected to grow sharply from $2 billion in 2016 to more than $30 billion in the next few years, according to a report by Aging in Place Technology Watch. The report adds that it is more likely to be based on customization of standard software than creation of senior-specific products.
Senior technology challenges or marketplace challenges?
Stereotypes about seniors and technology have been partially true, not because older people are frightened of technology, but because manufacturers, until recently, have not made gadgets easy for seniors to use.
Although only 27% of people age 65 and older own smartphones, a Pew Research study found that part of the reason is that phones may be difficult to see or not work with hearing aids or have too-small keypads.
Eyesight, hearing, hand-eye coordination, and mobility are all challenges many seniors face. Now, however, manufacturers realize that if they make it, seniors will use it. A host of new gadgets are now available and designed especially for older adults.
Senior technology that works
Here are some designed especially for the needs of seniors:
- Cellphones designed for seniors have larger keys, bigger displays, and easier accessibility. Many are hearing aid-compatible. Some even have the option of letting a remote user make changes to the phone, such as increasing the sound of a ringtone. Some also let remote users, such as an adult child, check on the parent’s location. GreatCall’s Jitterbug, with its larger display and buttons, is one of the most popular.
- Talking watch. Push a button, and you can hear the date and time. Prices start at $13 for a basic model.
- Medical Alert Watch. Lively offers a personalized emergency response system, medication reminders, and daily step counting. You can add home sensors to track where your loved one goes in the home.
- Personal navigator. Sure, you can download an app. However, there’s something to be said for a device that’s designed solely for one purpose. The Breadcrumbs Personal Navigator can store up to 5 locations, so you can find where you parked. If you’re in a strange town, you can save your hotel, parking, bus stop, and restaurant locations.
- Rendever connects the homebound and those with dementia with the outside world via virtual reality. For example, families will be able to use a 360-degree camera to film special events; then, the viewer will feel as if they’re there.
- TV Listening Headphones. You can find devices, many of them wireless, that permit you to listen to the TV without deafening your spouse.
- Flashing Door Chime helps the hearing-impaired know when someone’s at the door. You can get ones that work when the phone rings, too.
- Cellphone Sound Enhancing Devices. From a pad you place over your cellphone to one that plugs in, you can find devices that send the sound from your cellphone directly to your hearing aid.
- Automatic Medication Reminders come in many forms, from an alarm clock-like voice reminder, pill containers with sections that glow and phone apps.
- Talking Thermometers verbally tell you your temperature. There are thermometers with large displays, too.
- Key and Wallet Trackers. Just program the items using a cellphone app, then place the trackers on your keys or in your wallet. You’ll never lose them again!
- Personal Emergency Response Systems no longer require wearing an ugly necklace. The Lively watch is one example, designed after the company’s owner wore a personal emergency response system on the streets and received negative attention. Another is personal safety device Cuff, which notifies your designated contacts with the press of a button.
- Everplans is an app that stores everything your family would need if something happens to you, such as wills, insurance documents, contracts, passwords, advance directives and more.
- Dating has never been easier for folks 50 and older than with Stitch. It operates similar to Tinder, using swipes to find matches. You can download the app or use it online.
- Fitness Trackers range in size from a ring to an armband and can track heart rate, pulse, steps, and more.
- E-readers or tablets give folks with vision problems the option of increasing text size and contrast. Breezie offers tablets without all the usual bloatware and with a simplified user interface. There are even e-readers that translate print into audio. But even if your e-reader doesn’t offer this added feature, you can purchase and listen to books via audible.com.
- Video games are not only fun, they can boost your brain power, improve your hand-eye coordination, decision-making, and auditory perception, studies show. The best video games for cognitive ability are NeuroRacer, War Thunder, and World of Warcraft. The NeuroRacer study showed improved cognitive ability and short-term memory for up to 6 months after players stopped playing. Physical therapists are now using the Wii to help people recover physically.
With manufacturers making technology more accessible for seniors and innovators designing technology especially for seniors, older Americans are sure to benefit.
Does technology free you?
Perhaps it does. However, at Sugar Hill Retirement Community, residents don’t need technology to have fun. They can take the daily bus to Wolfeboro or enjoy drinks during social hour or participate in an exercise class. And because our residents each have their own homes, they can enjoy technology as much or little as they want. Explore the freedom of life at Sugar Hill. Call us at (603) 569-8485 or email.