More than ever, it’s vital for older adults who may be sheltering in place to stay connected with friends and family to lessen social isolation that can lead to declining overall health and well-being. But the technology that allows for distanced learning, socializing, and entertainment can be frustrating for seniors, especially those with cognitive impairment. Android phone and tablet users have a new tool at their disposal. An app designed to make it easier for those with cognitive disabilities to place a call, listen to music, or get directions.
According to a recent Business Insiders report, Action Blocks is a free app for Android devices available through Google’s Play Store. The app allows a loved-one to set up designated blocks that create user-friendly shortcuts to frequently-used actions. The buttons can be customized with photos and nicknames; placing a call or turning on smart-home enabled lights can be as simple as tapping a block.
In addition to Action Blocks, Google Maps has recently been updated to make it easier to find wheelchair accessible places. Live Transcribe is a newer Google feature that allows users to send text messages with just their voice. Live Caption will automatically caption speech on devices for people with hearing problems. Sound Amplifier works with wired or Bluetooth headphones to amplify sound in your environment. Android devices using 10.0 or later can also pair hearing aids with their phone or tablet.
For iPhone at iPad users, Apple has also incorporated more accessibility into their devices for differently-abled people. VoiceOver describes what is happening on your screen, and Larger Dynamic Type when activated makes text larger and easier to read. Live Listen connects with hearing aids and AirPods to amplify conversations or make it easier to hear clearly in a crowded room. With the digital assistant Siri, vocal commands can send texts and open and interact with apps. Connect with the HomePod and Siri can turn on enabled devices controlling lights, the thermostat, the blinds, music speakers, or the coffee pot.
As we lean into the fall season, people will be returning to work and school and older adults may find they are spending more time indoors alone. Before the days shorten further and the leaves begin to turn, caregivers and loved ones can help seniors stay more engaged by taking time to set up some of the tech tools designed to make life better. Learn more about how to get started with Android Accessibility here.