Extra time on your hands? Brush up on your technology skills.
We’re all faced with a significant challenge to “Stay Connected” in our current state of “Stay-at-Home.” And for many, this lifestyle change means increased use of modern technology in order to stay in touch with family and friends. Technology trends may be disconcerting to seniors—but it doesn’t have to be. Think of this downtime as an opportunity to dig in, learn a new computer skill and discover innovative ways to connect with friends and loved ones—electronically. We’re going to address a few basic technology trends for seniors and tips here and give you additional resources to research on your own, but, first, let’s consider why keeping up with technology is so important these days.
Grandkids starting to call you “Techie?” Not a bad thing!
You’re in good company! Numerous recent studies show that technology usage among older adults age 50+ continues to climb in some areas you’d expect—home computers, laptops, smartphones—and in other areas you just might find surprising—virtual reality, home assistant devices, and smart TVs (one that’s digital and Internet-connected). In 2000, 14% of those aged 65 and older were internet users; now 73% are. And while smartphone ownership was uncommon for all ages around the turn of the 21st century, now about half (53%) of people 65 and older are smartphone owners.
This increased usage is having a significant impact on the American economy, too. The AARP predicts that by 2030, nearly 132 million Americans ages 50+ will spend upwards of $84 billion a year on technology products. The AARP’s interesting and colorful infographic tells the story by the numbers.
But sometimes I get so frustrated!
Technology is used in every facet of life because it can provide the speed, connectivity and efficiency to make tasks easier. You may be saying right now, “But sometimes I get so frustrated with technology. I want things to be easier and faster, and I DO try to get better at it. The fact is, I’m unsure of my ability, and this leaves me unmotivated to keep at it.” DON’T LOSE FAITH! As an older adult, it’s important not to underestimate how technology can help you as a senior.
Researchers at the University of California-San Diego tell us that programmers and software developers recognize the impact seniors are having on their marketplace and are scrambling to find ways to make their platforms and tools helpful and more user friendly for seniors. Wearables and apps for smartphones can now monitor everything from blood pressure to your pulse and CPAP; activate your lights at night, your thermostat and your iRobot vacuum; adjust your satellite dish, turn on your fireplace, and lock and unlock your doors.
Here are additional useful things you can do with a computer or smartphone:
- Browse the internet for information, travel and fun.
- Manage your finances
- Play games
- Download and watch movies
- Listen to music
- Stay in touch with friends and family (via email or social media, such as Facebook)
- Video chats (Skype, FaceTime or Zoom)
- Share photo albums
- Shop online
- Write letters
So, where do I go to get computer help?
Many seniors today left the workforce before technology was integrated into daily work, leaving them without the vocabulary or basic skills needed to function in the digital age. To increase your familiarity and comfort, first learn a few terminology basics—like types of computers (desktop, tablet, smartphone, laptop) and WiFi, as well as what is meant by IoT (“Internet of Things”—a device that can connect to the Internet to send and receive data—like that new water bottle of yours that not only holds water but keeps track of how much you drink each day and sends it to an app for recording).
Now, for getting help, family members—especially the grandkids—and computer-savvy friends are an obvious choice for the basics. There are lots of other places, too:
- Check your local library for “How To” and “Getting Started” manuals for seniors.
- Research online services and instructional videos that allow you to go at your own pace (Try: GCFDLearnFree.org or TechBoomers.com)
- Watch for local classes or workshops in your area. Many communities have great lifelong learning programs open to seniors.
Finally, the old “trial and error” method really does promote learning. Just save yourself a little time each day to get on your computer, iPad, laptop or smartphone and just hunt and peck around. You’ll be amazed at what you’ll learn—all by yourself!
BLOG BONUS: Want to learn how to ZOOM?
You can be assured that Emerald Heights works diligently to ensure the safety, health, and wellbeing of residents and staff every day of the year, but especially during these challenging times of social distancing. As a society, we’re all learning a lot about the importance of staying connected and leaning into new ways to help us do so.
One communication tool that certainly has everyone talking is ZOOM Video Conferencing. As more and more people are working from home, it’s being used for multiple corporate meetings and presentations. The girls from The View are using it for “5:00 Wine Time” and staying in touch with their friends. Families are using it for reunions and birthday parties suddenly canceled because of COVID-19. Visit Senior Planet to take their short tutorial on Video Chat with ZOOM and plan your own party or ZOOM experience. And Netflix has established its Netflix Party Chrome Extension so you can watch your favorite movies and shows without being totally alone. Follow this LINK to find out how.
Culture and arts
Most of us are spending a lot of time at home, and while nothing can replicate the swell of a live orchestra or the refreshing solitude of an art gallery on a Saturday morning, there are countless online cultural experiences at your fingertips to make your time indoors more artful and imaginative. CNN Style summarizes five opportunities—along with schedules—for programs by The National Theatre at Home, The Alvin Ailey Dance Theatre, and shows at several galleries, including The National Gallery of Art.
Those crazy kids from SNL!
Everyone needs a good laugh, especially today. Here’s a fun video treat that pays homage to smart home computer technology. Enjoy NBC’s Saturday Night Live cast as they parody life with ALEXA!
A final thought
Now that we’ve given you a little encouragement, comfort and inspiration that has hopefully put you on your way to becoming completely computer savvy, please know that you can stay in touch with Emerald Heights, too, by virtually exploring our website, interactive site map, photo galleries & videos, and Facebook page. And, once we can all get together and meet again face-to-face, we’d love to give you a personal tour of our special community. Call 866-822-0916 or fill out our online form.