Technology has the potential to help older adults, especially those who are isolated from friends and family by distance or mobility issues, to stay socially connected, relevant, and valued as members of their communities. But if you believe some of the ads and guides targeted at older adults, it would be easy to accept that people over the age of 55 are unable to grasp new technology like smartphones or tablets and are best suited to military-grade flip phones that will take a beating when dropped or submerged underwater.
According to a recent Aging and Health Technology Watch blog, older adults who are encouraged to purchase flip phones are missing out on a host of features that smart devices offer. With a little assistance from store staff, friends or families, many smartphones can be set up to be simple to use while still providing access to email, text, video chat, and a non-tracking browser to follow news stories or social media posts.
Samsung’s Easy Mode, for example, can be set up with help in just a few minutes. For seniors with vision problems, the ability to access information using a voice-controlled assistant is a boon. The iPhone also has many accessibility features that can help support people with vision, physical and motor, hearing, and learning needs. With a little help and patience, VoiceOver, Zoom or Larger Text features can make a smartphone user-friendly for older adults and people with disabilities.
As so many discovered during the lock-downs of the global pandemic, technology can be a huge source of information and social interaction for people who may be isolated from others. Being able to order groceries and household goods online, play virtual games, or listen to the latest news and weather reports gives older adults a greater sense of self-esteem and independence.
According to the Population Reference Bureau, in 2018, there were 52 million Americans over the age of 65, and with the aging of the Baby Boomer population, it is expected that this number will soar to 95 million by 2060. Older adults are not only living longer, but this demographic is working longer, is becoming more diverse, and is more educated. And with Boomers holding more than half of the U.S. household net worth, they have the money to buy the technology that will help them age in place more successfully.
With a little extra time and a few tweaks, older adults can not only learn how to use the latest technology, but it can also help them live a fuller and more connected life with greater safety and independence.