It's easy to think of technology as the domain of the young. After all, kids' lives today are uniquely steeped in technology in a way that is almost inconceivable to previous generations. However, youth is not a prerequisite for harnessing the vast potential of technology into positive outcomes. One sector particularly well-positioned for the benefits of embracing technology? Senior caregivers- those who care for seniors professionally and/or personally. Here's a closer look at four ways caregivers can use technology to support senior health, wellbeing and overall quality of life.
1. Technology opens new windows to the world.
According to McMaster University, “loneliness and social isolation are important health risks in the elderly.” This is caused by a number of factors ranging from the loss of loved ones to mobility issues which impede the ability to get out and about.
While face-to-face interactions are important, they're not always possible. Enter technological advancements in the form of everything from email to social media, which can help bridge the gap by keeping seniors in touch with family, friends and the world around them.
Consider recently published research in the Journal of Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking linking social media usage not only with decreased levels of loneliness but also with increased physical and mental health, including reduced depressive symptoms, fewer chronic health conditions, and greater satisfaction with life.
2. Technology offers unique brain benefits.
From research indicating that merely searching the internet increases brain function among older adults to studies suggesting that playing videos games can reverse age-related mental decline, scientists are discovering new cognitive benefits to senior technology use every day.
The takeaway? Introducing technology can be an extremely useful tool for caregivers looking to help the seniors in their care stay sharp.
3. Technology can help get seniors up and moving.
The advantages of exercise for seniors are undeniable. Unfortunately, senior caregivers often face challenges when trying to get older adults up and moving. Technology can make the process something many older adults don't associate with exercise–fun! According to a report from U.S. News and World Report, even couch potatoes may find themselves getting fit with help from video games. In fact, research showed that seniors who played a bowling game on Wii got heart rate boosts of approximately 40 percent!
Meanwhile, wearable technology, including fitness trackers, motivates seniors by helping them set and track their fitness goals and progress. This, of course, is a direct benefit to seniors, but it's also helpful for caregivers as seniors grow more physically capable, confident, and independent.
4. Technology delivers unprecedented peace of mind.
Caregivers are faced with a breadth and depth of responsibilities. Is it any wonder that things sometimes end up falling through the cracks? Unfortunately, the persistent fear that something important will fall through the cracks can be just as stressful for overburdened caregivers. From medication management apps to cloud-based health information tracking systems, technology provides a critical safety net — not just for preventing accidents and oversights, but also for setting caregiver minds at ease.
Related: Top Medical Alert Systems for 2017
For caregivers of seniors who live alone, technology is also a vital part of managing their safety and wellbeing thanks to innovative Personal Emergency Response Systems (PERS), which now allow people to call for help with just the push of a button. GPS and motion detection technology, meanwhile, make even that button push obsolete as some systems can be programmed to automatically respond to changes to daily routines, such as if a senior falls or fails to get out of bed in the morning.
Telemedicine, meanwhile, ensures that seniors can be “seen” by doctors — even if the visit is an electronic one.
One last thing to keep in mind? While technology can vastly improve the lives of older adults and caregivers alike, there are challenges to adoption. Leading the list? Initial resistance from seniors who may fear or fail to understand the new technology. The more patient, supportive and empathetic caregivers are in teaching seniors to use technology, the more successful they'll be in implementing it into their lives. For more useful content on all things senior caregiving, be sure to sign up for our newsletter.