Technology for Seniors in Assisted Living: 4 Ways to Stay Active & Connected
At Regency’s senior communities in the Milwaukee area, our residents’ health and wellbeing is always top-of-mind, and in recent years, we’ve seen many seniors and their relatives and caregivers embracing technology in new and exciting ways regarding their health.
From fitness-tracking bracelets to streaming classic movies to playing simulated low-impact sports, there’s no shortage of ways to keep mentally and physically active using in-home tech—even for less-mobile seniors.
Here are a few fun ways we’ve seen residents embracing new technology in order to stay socially connected with loved ones, stay active and healthy, or stay plugged-in to the world.
1. Staying or Getting Fit
For so many reasons, ranging from limited mobility to mental wherewithal to general safety or health concerns, it can be tough for seniors to exercise and stay physically fit. Even if a senior is uninterested in fitness and merely wants to take on more responsibility for personal health, it can still be tough to find the tools to do so
However, strides in wearable technology from companies like Apple and FitBit have made it easier than ever to track basic personal health statistics. Think about getting the senior in your life a smartwatch that can track daily steps, activity/movement, heart rate, food and caloric intake, weight fluctuations, metabolism, and more.
You might also consider a sleep-monitoring app (such as the one built in to iPhones) or other devices that track hours, depth, and quality of sleep and provide personalized sleep suggestions.
Finally, if you know a senior who is fit and active and looking to increase his or her daily physical fitness, think about getting a Wii Fit (or another virtual-reality system), which offers simulations of low-impact activities like yoga, strength training, posture training, and balance/body awareness.
Some “exergames” also offer higher-intensity sports that still only require minimal-to-moderate mobility and movement, such as bowling, tennis, golf, dance, rock climbing, and even boxing, all of which can be done while standing or sitting.
2. Staying Socially Connected
Something as simple as a few minutes spent with friends, family, grandkids, or even care providers can make all the different in a senior’s life—especially when the conversation is accompanied by video.
Sign up your senior for Skype or another video-chat service and pre-load in phone numbers for the significant people in his or her life. Video not only makes a conversation feel more meaningful, but being able to see people’s faces and interpret facial expressions and body language can help a senior better follow and comprehend the conversation, especially if he or she has comprehension, memory, or hearing impairments.
If video chat isn’t an option, or you know a senior with a hearty appetite for socializing, sign them up for Facebook or Instagram and help them “follow” key people (or companies) in their life.
You might sit down with a senior, help them find friends and family, and, if he or she isn’t comfortable clicking, scrolling, and pinching, meet up 1-3 times a week and move through the social sites with them, finding pictures of friends and family, “liking” posts about important news or topics, and joining conversations that suit their interests.
3. Staying Informed
One of the easiest ways to feel more connected to and aware of the world is keeping up on domestic and international news.
Signing up for a digital subscription to the local newspaper or a national or international favorite can give a senior unlimited access to political, scientific, or entertainment news and help them feel current and connected in an always-changing world.
Plus, downloading the publications’ applications on a phone or tablet makes it quick and easy to access content—just be sure to increase the size of the app icons/buttons and move them to the home screen if needed.
If movement or visual impairments prevent a senior from using a device, you might also consider buying them a voice assistant like Google Home or Alexa, so they can ask about topics of interest and get the news and information read aloud, without the risk of straining themselves.
4. Staying Entertained
Setting up simple, easy-to-use music and movie platforms on a senior’s tablet or device is a great way to help them get started with digital entertainment.
These media-streaming services are relatively inexpensive, usually charging somewhere between $8–$20 a month depending on the package you select. Plus, many of them are designed to have easy-to-navigate interfaces so people can access a movie or song with only a few clicks/taps.
Consider using Spotify to find retro playlists or artists from the 1950s, 60s, and 70s, signing up for a Hulu account to access its many classic TV shows and films, or checking out the new Criterion Channel streaming platform with its vast collection of the highest-quality international films available since 1917.
You might also look into technology that makes old media new, such as machines that digitize songs from vinyl records or a computer scanner that allows seniors to re-visit and organize old family photographs for sharing with friends and family.
These four examples only begin to scratch the surface of technology’s potential for helping seniors maintain social connections and stay physically active as they transition to a senior living facility or as they move through the continuum of care.
Plus, as technology (such as virtual reality) continues to evolve rapidly, there will be a host of new applications that can make a person’s time in a senior care community more comfortable and fun.
Think about the wants, needs, and interests of a senior you know and consider whether they might enjoy trying out a fitness or health tracker, a media-streaming service, a low-impact virtual sport, or something else that can help them stay and live healthy.