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Senior loneliness is a massive problem in the USA and beyond. Many older adults can go days, or even weeks without having contact with another person, and this can be incredibly difficult.
However, we live in a technological age where there is no need for anyone to suffer. With a range of tech devices that could go a long way in combating senior loneliness, our elderly friends and family members no longer need to suffer.
How Can Technology Help With Senior Loneliness?
A lot of people from the older generations frown upon technology because they see it as something we used to live without and so is completely unnecessary. However, it’s important that we come out of that mindset and look at how technology could benefit the senior members of our community. Especially when you consider that studies have shown positive outcomes in terms of social wellbeing for older adults who use technology.
With more than a third of people over the age of 45 feeling lonely, this isn’t a problem that’s going to go away on its own. What’s more, we have to consider the physical impact of loneliness since it has been proven to increase the risk of premature death and can lead to health conditions such as heart failure and dementia.
The longer that loneliness goes on, the more it might affect a person’s ability to interact socially in the future. So how can technology aid in the fight against this?
Keeps Them In Touch With Loved Ones
So many of us lead busy lives that it’s not always easy to drop in on an elderly parent or friend. This can lead to seniors spending a lot of unnecessary time on their own. However, through technology, they are able to keep in touch with friends and relatives even if they cannot be with them in person.
Things like social media, FaceTime and even a simple phone call can reduce those feelings of loneliness. Not only this, but older adults will feel more included in the family by regularly seeing photos and updates from those they care about.
Helps To Maintain Hobbies and Activities
As we get older, it isn’t always as easy to do the things we once did. For example, if you were once an avid cyclist, physical limitations in old age might mean you can no longer take part. However, through the use of the internet, you can join forums and groups that allow you to share your wisdom and chat with like-minded people.
What’s more, if there are specific hobbies you used to enjoy but can no longer do, it’s almost always possible to find virtual versions of these through the internet and apps. So you can still enjoy your favorite activities.
For many seniors, technology is totally alien. But when they learn to operate a tablet, computer, smartphone, or any other device, this gives them a sense of achievement and can drastically boost self-esteem which is quite often lost when feeling lonely.
Almost anything can be done online these days. From banking to shopping, booking appointments to paying bills, there’s nothing that you can’t do. In the past, a lot of housebound seniors would have had to rely on others to complete these seemingly menial day-to-day tasks. But through the use of technology, they’re able to continue looking after themselves and can retain some independence.
Technology Devices to Avoid Senior Loneliness
The world is certainly not short on choice when it comes to technological devices. With a range of devices to suit different needs and different budgets, you should be able to find something that can be of benefit to the senior in your life.
Tablet computers have pretty much all the functionality of a PC. You’d never have believed it, even just a few years ago, that a handheld device could perform so many functions. What makes them even better is that they’re so portable, even compared to a laptop, the tablet wins a thousand times over.
They are lightweight and incredibly easy to use. One of the main benefits for seniors with the tablet computer is that it’s operated using a touch screen so there are no complicated controls to learn. What’s more, a tablet will fire up in seconds as opposed to having to wait for a traditional computer to load so the senior will not have to wait around to get started.
There are so many things you can do on a tablet including making video calls to friends and family, playing games, enjoying social media, and surfing the internet. For older adults who might struggle to see the small screen of a smartphone, a tablet is a viable alternative as the screen is much larger.
GrandPad is a tablet designed especially for seniors so right from the off it’s easy to see why it’s a better choice than some other tablets. What’s great about the GrandPad is that the device comes ready connected to phone and 4G internet as part of your purchase so the user can get started right away.
The user interface is incredibly simple and easy to get to grips with; no complicated controls and the icons are large enough even for those with vision problems. However, should your senior loved one have any issues, there is a dedicated, built-in support system that puts them in touch with a specialist 24/7.
One of the issues that a lot of older adults face is falling victim to fraud and scams. However, the GrandPad protects against this by automatically filtering out robocalls and scams.
Once the senior is connected, the rest of the family can download the GrandPad app allowing them to directly connect with their loved one via messaging and video calls. Your loved one can always be part of the action even when they have to stay at home.
Smartphone & Cell Phones
For many of us, smartphones are an essential part of modern life, but for seniors, they can feel intimidating. For this reason, it’s important to educate our seniors on how to properly use a smartphone and how to stay safe online.
Once we have achieved this, seniors can benefit from a smartphone that connects them not only to their nearest and dearest but to the rest of the world. With the option to access social media, older adults can connect to anyone, anywhere. What’s more, there are tons of forums and groups where they can meet like-minded people and discover what’s going on in the local community.
Of course, the primary use of any phone, including a smartphone, is to make calls. The great thing about smartphones is that you can audio and video call from one device. There’s even an option to send audio messages to loved ones that they can listen to at their convenience so there’s never a reason to be out of touch.
With a range of apps, a smartphone is a more compact version of a tablet computer and is ideal for seniors who don’t want something so bulky. However, if they frequently use a tablet, then a smartphone may not be necessary. If you do purchase a smartphone for an older adult, keep in mind that the icons are much smaller. This may require the settings to be altered to increase the size of icons and text on the screen or the use of a stylus to make selecting on the screen easier.
The cost of a smartphone can be a little scary but the good news is that seniors on a low income may be able to claim a free phone through the Federal Lifeline Assistance Program.
Jitterbug Smart3 Smartphone
Some smartphones can be too complex for older users with no previous experience with this type of device. But the Jitterbug is a great alternative as it’s designed with a senior user in mind. Instead of lots of complicated icons, there is a simple list with touchscreen access to each of the main features. The Jitterbug is designed to be simple and easy to use.
What’s more, the Jitterbug has a larger-than-average screen making it much easier to see for visually impaired users. If the user would find it difficult to type on a smaller screen then the voice-to-text feature will come in useful when sending emails, text messages, and typing on social media.
The Jitterbug 3 smartphone has many of the same features as other smartphones including GPS maps, the ability to surf the internet, and video calling. But what’s impressive in terms of how senior users might benefit is the instant access to emergency assistance. There is a red urgent response button that instantly puts you in touch with emergency aid should you ever need it. Not only is that super-efficient but it will also give family and friends peace of mind that their loved one is safe.
Smart Voice Assistants
Many of us take our home assistants for granted since they’ve become such a common feature of the modern household. But for older adults, they may function as much more than just something that turns the lights on or tells a joke when we’re feeling bored.
Seniors can benefit from smart home voice assistants like Google Home or Amazon Alexa as they can increase independence. A lot of older adults have decreased mobility which makes it difficult to do things around the home that many of us take for granted. Turning up the volume on the TV when the remote is on the other side of the room, adjusting the temperature of the house, and even locking doors can all be done through the use of these smart technologies.
What’s wonderful about it is not only does it make life easier for seniors but it also doesn’t require them to learn about an entirely new device. Since everything is voice-controlled, all the senior needs to do is speak to the device.
There has been a suggestion in research that the mere act of hearing another voice could help to combat some feelings of loneliness for seniors. While it’s not ever going to replace the physical presence of another human, it can be a suitable filler.
In addition to this, if the older person finds themselves bored, there are plenty of voice-activated games and quizzes that they can play with their assistant to pass the time.
Amazon Alexa Echo Dot
Amazon’s Alexa Echo Dot is potentially one of the most popular home assistant devices. For seniors, one of the main benefits is that these devices are really simple to set up and use. There is a compatible smartphone app that allows you to set up the device in a few simple steps. If the seniors don’t have a smartphone or tablet, it’s possible for you to connect via your phone and then all they’d need to do is start talking to Alexa.
Pretty much any type of smart home technology such as smart lighting, locks, thermostats, sockets, and other things can be connected to Alexa. This means that the senior’s home can be set up to be completely voice-activated.
It is also possible to connect one Alexa device to another in someone else’s hub via the Care Hub. This means that the older adult can stay in regular touch with their loved ones without having to lift a finger.
Amazon Echo Dot allows you to hear audiobooks, listen to music and play games all by using voice controls. There are even upgraded versions of Alexa that come with a screen for watching TV and movies.
Virtual Reality Devices
Studies have shown that 9 out of 10 older adults reported feeling more relaxed after a VR session. It doesn’t matter how old we get, there’s still an inner child inside us all so engaging in virtual reality games, exploring virtual worlds, and seeing photos of loved ones surrounding us is something that will always be magical.
Through the use of virtual reality headsets in care home settings, seniors have been able to reconnect with their peers through their shared experiences. These sessions have also been shown to reduce the level of depression and anxiety in older adults.
What’s truly amazing is that there are even virtual reality devices that allow you to connect with friends and family even when they’re on the other side of the world. Even better, you’ll feel as though you’re right there in the room with them.
Oculus Meta Quest 2
This VR headset includes everything the senior needs to get started with virtual reality. It’s possible to buy the headset on its own or you can purchase a full starter kit. In any case, you’ll get touch controllers included, and setting up is super simple. However, it is worth noting that you will need a Facebook account to get started so this is something that a senior may need help with.
The Oculus Mete Quest 2 has a simple user interface and lightweight controls that are ideal for elderly users. There are no wires which is ultimately safer for any user but especially an older person.
There is a range of apps you can install on the headset although it is worth noting that some of these can be rather expensive. But one of the best things about the Oculus Meta Quest 2 is that it allows the senior to stay in touch with loved ones as you can connect with friends and family on the platform. Once connected, you can come together to play a variety of games in a huge number of settings eliminating boredom and loneliness.
Robotic Companion Pets
Having a real pet is a lot of responsibility and not something that a lot of seniors would want to take on. This is especially true if the person is suffering from Alzheimer’s or dementia when looking after an animal would not be possible.
With that in mind, we cannot ignore the fact that there is some therapeutic benefit in animals for patients with conditions like dementia. Robotic companion pets allow for these benefits without the need to care for a real animal.
Studies have shown that interacting with these robotic pets, which sound and feel incredibly lifelike, can decrease symptoms associated with dementia such as depression and anxiety. Robotic pets provide seniors with a low-responsibility sense of connection that can reduce loneliness.
Joy For All Cat Companion Pet
Made by Hasbro, the Joy For All cat companion pet is a realistic and low-responsibility option for seniors that can no longer take care of a real animal. What’s amazing is that these pets have an actual heartbeat which adds to how realistic they are and with soft fur, they feel like the real deal.
The Joy For All cat interacts with the person according to how they pet it. When you stroke the cat, it will respond by purring; when the pet wants to be fussed, it may meow or move into a position to show you where it would like to be petted; such as rolling over for a belly rub!
The cat also comes with a grooming brush, so it’s very similar to taking care of a real animal. Not only this but grooming the pet can be incredibly calming for older adults with dementia.
One of the great things about the Joy For All cat is that it has a sleep and wake mode so it won’t disturb the senior during the night. In a choice of colors and with super lifelike movements, seniors can still enjoy the perks of being a pet owner without the actual responsibility.