Researchers have been advocating senior technology use, including accessing the Internet, texting, emailing, or using apps, as a means of cutting down on the risk of isolation and depression. One researcher showed that computer use among retirees cut down on their risk of depression by more than 30%.
According to stats from the National Center for Assisted Living’s “Keeping Connected” National Assisted Living Week, senior technology use among adults over 65 years old is on the rise. In 2015, 35% used social media, 62% looked for news online, and over 50% exchanged emails on a typical day. Additionally, 27% owned their own smartphone, while tablet and e-reader ownership was also on the rise.
Whether your residents have smart phones and tablets of their own or your facility has community devices for resident use, here is a list of eight apps that are the best apps for seniors and helping them interact with technology.
Every 66 seconds someone in the U.S develops Alzheimer’s or another dementia-related disease. Keeping your mind and body fit leads to overall healthy aging and may even offer some protection against developing Alzheimer’s or other types of dementia.
About the app: Lumosity is a brain training app that includes over 25 cognitive games that challenge your memory and attention. The app was built by a team of scientists and designers who took common cognitive and neuro-physical tasks and transformed them into fun games.
As we age, there are several eye conditions that frequently develop. One of these is presbyopia, which is the loss of ability to see small print or close objects clearly. This can make it difficult to read books, newspapers, documents, or menus, especially in areas that are not well lit.
About the app: EyeReader helps seniors manage two of the most common visual challenges they face: print that is too small and reading in low lit areas. Holding a smart phone in front of a book, menu or other printed material, the printed text will show on the screen. The user can zoom in and enlarge the printed text. The app also incorporates an LED light that can easily be turned on and off, and also be dimmed.
Seniors in assisted living facilities often fear that they will become too isolated from their families. These feelings may intensify when family lives too far away or are unable to make frequent visits. Emails, cards, and packages are nice ways to stay in touch, but sometimes face-to-face connections go a long way to lift someone’s mood.
About the app: Skype, the program which originated with desktop and webcam use, has now gone mobile. Using this app on any mobile device, seniors are able to hold face-to-face video calls with their family and friends, either one-on-one or with multiple participants. In addition to video calls, Skype users can also send text messages and make voice calls to others who use the Skype app.
4. Dragon Dictation
Online communication is great for seniors and families that live far apart. Emails, texting, and even social media channels are a great way to keep in touch on a frequent basis. However, a lot of typing can be difficult for those who suffer from joint swelling or stiffness and hand fatigue. Additionally, it may be hard for seniors to navigate the small keyboards on many mobile devices.
About the app: Dragon Dictation allows users to create a text message, email, or social media post by simply speaking. The voice recognition software dictates what was spoken into written word. Messages can be created up to 5 times faster than typing on a keyboard.
Sixty percent of adults over 64 years old live what is considered a sedentary lifestyle. Exercise is important for the senior population as it helps fight the progression of certain diseases, builds immunity to fight infection, and improves muscle strength and balance to avoid falls.
About the app: This is the partner app that works along with the FitBit fitness band. Through the app, users can track their daily fitness and health goals. Senior users can use the FitBit program to track their daily step count, monitor heart rate, measure daily water intake, and analyze their sleep patterns. Users can connect with family and friends who also use the program to stay motivated.
One way to help assisted living residents feel comfortable in their new surroundings is to encourage them to continue the hobbies they love.
About the app: Pinterest calls itself the catalog of ideas. User can find endless inspiration for whatever hobby or interest they’re pursuing. Users can create individual “boards” where they can “pin” (or save for later) ideas for recipes to make, crafts to create, books to read, or plants to grow.
Weakening vision can be especially hard on seniors who were once avid readers. However, the advent of audio books allows them to enjoy new releases as well as old classics, through enjoyable narration and storytelling. Enjoying an audio book on a mobile device allows them to easily listen wherever they are.
About the app: Audible lets you download audio books and audio series that you can listen to anywhere. Over 180,000 titles are available.
8. Yesterday USA
Nostalgia can be good for the soul. It’s been credited with counteracting loneliness, boredom, anxiety, and helping with life transitions. It can also help with closeness when we can share our nostalgic memories and introduce something new with the people in our lives.
About the app: Listeners are transported into the years of their youth and young adulthood by listening to radio programs of the 1920s -1950s. The app provides nostalgic entertainment options, both pre-recorded and live, 24 hours a day, 7 days per week.
Plugging Into Technology in Senior Care
Tech-related activities can be used to enhance your existing activities program. However, care should be taken to ensure they do not replace group or physical activities. A good place to start is offering an introductory class on using tablets and apps. Residents may have lots of questions and may feel intimidated by that which they don’t understand.
There are limitless ways to incorporate technology into your community’s activities program in addition to those ideas. Communities that have been successful suggest activities such as:
- recording residents lip-syncing to a popular song such as “Happy” by Pharrell Williams
- hosting a Wii bowling tournament
- showing a TED talk on YouTube and leading a discussion afterwards
- using a birding field guide app to discover and identify types of birds and their songs
- taking residents on a virtual tour of a museum
To incorporate technology into training, check out our Clinical Considerations eLearning courses for licensed staff and management.