Seniors Online, Connected

America’s seniors may be late to the game, but are now finding their way online in significant numbers, according to the Pew Research Internet Project’s latest findings. The data also points to the fact that tech adoption varies within the senior population, with younger, more educated and affluent seniors using internet and at-home broadband at “rates approaching—or even exceeding—the general population.”
The study shows that  six in ten seniors go online, and just under half are broadband adopters. Once online, seniors make the internet a part of their daily routine. Many older adults that use social networking sites like Facebook to keep in touch with friends and family. Interestingly, those that socialize online are more likely to regularly socialize with friends offline as well, in person, or over the telephone.

In which I get my mom hooked up.

I wake up at four in the morning worried about my mother. She lives only 5 miles and 20 minutes away but I know she’s alone (by choice) and maybe lonely. When I voice my concerns, she assures me she wasn’t lonely, she was asleep, and I don’t need to worry about her as she “has gotten used to” living alone. She prefers to age at home, even if it means living a certain level of isolation. I wish I could see her. Today. Right now. Have breakfast with her (well, I’d wait until she was up.)

If only there was some sort of technology that would make it easy to look at the person to whom you were talking. It would be great if you could talk on a television-like device like they did in old sci-fi movies. Oh, right.

My 83 year old mother has Skyped.  She’s watched the videos I’ve posted of her grandchildren on YouTube. We’ve talked about getting broadband into her home to make it easier for her to connect with us and with her family in Europe. Over the next few weeks, I’ll share with you the process of getting my mom online.

First step: determine need and level of tech comfort.

The extent of my mother’s ownership of technology begins and ends with her cell phone (not even a smartphone.) She has used my laptop to Skype, so she’s comfortable with and enjoys that application. So in determining the best hardware to purchase, we have to look at what she will be utilizing and how. Let’s face it—she’s not creating spreadsheets and newsletters.

Family photos and videos
With family scattered all over the world, photo and video sharing is one way we can all catch up. Full screen, high resolution images make it possible for her to see without her glasses. Headphones or amplified speakers will make sounds easier to hear.

Video calling   
Like the aforementioned Skype, video communication would get a lot of use here. I would much rather see her when speaking to her. And since she’s not getting on a plane to her homeland anytime soon, it’s great when technology affords her the ability to see and speak with her 78-year-old baby brother.

E-books
She loves to read, but we are exhausting all the large-print titles in the library. An e-book reader, where font size can be increased to reading comfort, would open a whole world of reading that she would otherwise find impossible. And no more late fees!

Internet access
I’m not sure about how important this is. She’s used to getting her news and weather from television. It would be interesting to see if those habits would change if she had access to information online.

Social networking
Facebook, maybe. Twitter, no. Pew found that 46 percent of those 65 and older use social networking sites, although just 27 percent of internet users over 80 access social networking sites. Many senior websites including AARP have their own online communities, however, I think my mother would be most interested in socializing with family and friends rather than joining forums, but I might be wrong.

Senior caregivers, this is where I’m starting. I know there are stand-alone computers made especially for seniors, where the keyboard buttons are big and the set-up and operation is easy and stress-free. I’m going to start my research there and see what they have to offer. Next week I will let you know if a desktop model like Telikin or portable tablet like Claris Companion fits the bill for this family.

If you have any suggestions for hardware, software, or other technology for seniors, or want to share stories of getting your senior online, please leave them in the comments.

Facebook Paper App Connects Caregivers with Friends and News: Caregiverlist Senior Care App Review

As a leading social network, Facebook connects us with out loved ones no matter how close or far away they may be. Last week, to celebrate their 10 year anniversary as a company, they launched the Facebook Paper app to combine the Facebook newsfeed with the world of online news. 

Caregivers can use Facebook to help their senior clients connect with their loved ones. Whether a caregiver helps a senior client run their own profile or simply adds a few of their senior clients' relatives on their own profile, they can use Facebook Paper to share updates and pictures just in time for Valentine's Day. Senior clients may be missing their friends and family around this holiday if they're not nearby, so using social media to write a little message and see a few pictures can help them feel the love.

The layout of Facebook paper offers clean and simple browsing. When new users log in for the first time, the app requests that they choose which categories they would like included in the app and the order of importance. The categories include Headlines, Pop Life, Tech, Cute, Flavor, etc. The various options give Facebook Paper the feel of a customizable magazine. Users first see their regular Facebook newsfeed stories from their friends when they log in. Then, if they swipe from right to left, they are taken to their highest rank category, such as Headlines, to read the latest in that area. The stories come from popular and reputable sources, such as TIME and CNN International. As users continue swiping from right to left, they browse through more categories of their choosing.

For the newsfeed section of the app, Facebook will display various recent pictures across the top half of the screen in a slideshow fashion. This gives your senior clients the opportunity to easily view photos shared by their loved ones without having to go directly to their profiles. Senior clients can also set up their own category preferences for the rest of the tabs in the app. One recommended category that's fun and light is the Cute category, which features adorable photos of small animals. Who doesn't love a cute baby elephant? 

 

The Facebook Paper app is available for free for Apple platforms.

Senior caregivers, let us know your feedback on this app and keep us posted if you discover additional apps that assist with caregiving duties and help relieve caregiver stress. You may also refer-a-friend to a senior caregiving job and win prizes weekly and monthly on Caregiverlist. 

-Paige Krzysko

Seniors Facebook and Skype to Stay Connected

It’s a simple conversation between sister and brother with the usual niceties. “How’s the weather by you? We’re in the middle of a heat wave.” “How are the grandkids? They look like they’ve grown so much!” “You look good, have you lost weight?” It’s nothing out of the ordinary except that the siblings are in their 80s and live half a world apart. My mother sits down to Skype with her brother in Poland every Tuesday afternoon. They know that although their days of transcontinental travel are probably over, technology like Facebook, Skype and FaceTime can keep them connected.

Seniors are utilizing social networking sites now more than ever, and as a result, are keeping depression at bay. Recent research from The Pew Internet & American Life Project’s Kathryn Zickuhr and Mary Madden, shows that:
  • As of February 2012, one third (34%) of internet users age 65 and older use social networking sites such as Facebook, and 18% do so on a typical day.
  • From April 2009 to May 2011, social networking site use among internet users ages 65 and older grew 150%, from 13% in 2009 to 33% in 2011 and
  • Half of adults ages 65 and older are online.

Studies also show that “internet use contributes to the well-being of elderly Americans, and estimates indicate that Internet use leads to about a 20% reduction in depression.” It also allows the elderly to more easily age in place.

Programs such as Selfhelp’s Virtual Senior Center, an initiative between Microsoft, the NYC Department for the Aging, NYC Department of Information Technology and Telecommunications places “extremely-easy-to-use” touchscreen devices with integrated webcams into the homes of socially-isolated elderly New Yorkers to “create an interactive experience that reduces social isolation, promotes wellness, and provides better access to community services. The program allows participants to engage in activities like discussion groups, museum lectures, and music classes from the comfort of their own home.”

With so much opportunity for interaction, consider getting your senior online. Teach your caregiver how to help facilitate setup. Staying connected helps seniors access and communicate with loved ones and the outside world. In the process, you will help them lead a happier life.

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