5 Ways Seniors Can Find Empowerment Through Technology

Written By Marie Villeza

The notion that seniors don’t wish to use or embrace technology couldn’t be further from the truth. More and more research continues to show that seniors are just as interested in technology as younger generations. This narrowing of the digital divide gives seniors even more resources to help them stay in touch, maintain a social calendar, enjoy travel, and monitor their health. All of which goes to show that age is just a number.

Of course, there are many seniors who are ready to jump into using technology, but their lack of know-how leaves them feeling intimidated. It doesn’t have to be this way! By helping seniors gain accessibility to technology, we can empower them to take better control of their lives. Here are some great ways to connect seniors with technology and help them maintain independence.

Tablets and Smartphones

A tablet is a great option for seniors to use, especially if they don’t have a need for a computer. Tablets have great portability, and they make it easy to check email, use social media, stay in touch with family, play games, or plan for life. Smartphones also offer great access for seniors. These phones have all the benefits of a tablet but on a smaller scale. There are even several types of smartphones that are specifically designed for seniors. It helps, too, that more companies are taking note of seniors’ interest in technology, which in turn brings more devices to the marketplace that are senior-friendly.

Technology Classes

Most libraries and senior centers these days have a variety of technology classes that can help anyone get a better grasp of how to use their smartphone, tablet, computer, or apps. The best part about these classes is that they are usually free. (Always a bonus when you’re retired and on a budget!).

Also, AARP has recently developed AARP Tek, which gives seniors a starting point for learning more about technology, understanding safety measures when using new technology, help with using social media, and connecting with caregivers. This is a huge benefit to bridging any sort of digital divide. And by having such a renowned senior-focused group aiding in technology know-how, this definitely can lend a sense of legitimacy and comfort.

Apps Abound

Once seniors have the hang of the tablet and smartphones, the possibilities are endless. There is an app for just about everything you can think of: games, travel, appointments, music. And that’s just naming a few. Apps can also connect seniors with technology-assisted living that includes grocery shopping, transportation, medication reminders, cleaning services, and in-home health care. While predominant in larger cities, this type of technology is still available in many moderately-sized cities and suburbs. By having this type of access right at their fingertips, seniors can keep their independence and stay tech savvy.

Smartwatches and Fitness Trackers

Many seniors are enjoying the benefits of smartwatches. These are sleeker, nicer looking and less obvious devices compared to the wearable safety alert systems of yesterday. Smartwatches offer a multitude of options like cell phone connectivity, GPS tracking, medication reminders, fall alerts, or panic buttons. (This technology can even provide comfort to families, too, so they can help monitor aging parents who might not live nearby.)

Fitness trackers help everyone keep an eye on their fitness levels, and with the ease of use these are perfect devices for seniors who want to monitor their fitness and sleep activity.

Get the Family Involved

With teenagers being the portion of the population particularly savvy when it comes to technology, connecting teens with seniors is a great way for the younger generation to help the older generation understand how best to use their devices and apps. This becomes a twofold benefit in that not only will seniors get tech help from kids who know how to use it, but you also have inter-generational bonding taking place.

These are just a handful of ways for seniors to gain more accessibility to technology. As the marketplace grows, so will their options. By making technology more approachable, seniors will have the opportunity to feel more connected to their families, communities and the world in general.

Don’t Let Living in the Past Threaten Your Future

It’s not unusual when looking at pictures of our younger days to feel a bit nostalgic. Seeing ourselves when we were smooth skinned and shiny eyed, when the world held so much promise and every day brought the possibility of new exciting experiences strikes a sweet chord in our heart. Remember when you had energy to burn and napping happened once a day at the end of the day? Sore muscles and tired joints were momentary inconveniences that quickly passed. Good eyes, strong teeth, stamina without end and the ability to eat whatever you want without fear of repercussion were nothing out of the ordinary – just the way it was.

Then one day instead of living the life depicted in those pictures we find ourselves outsiders looking in wishing what had been could be again.

Many believe the past holds the best moments of their life lived. Glory days back in school were as good as things ever got. The early days were the best days. After that the merciless grind of the job and burden of making a living sometimes became all-encompassing. Who has time for fun living in a world where every hour in the day must be productively spent?

I read a book about a 50 year old who felt his life was slipping by. Mistakes and miscalculation that mere decades ago could easily have been overcome now felt insurmountable. The clock was ticking and he feared he was running out of time to be all he could be. His focus was on how great his earlier life had been and how lost he felt having arrived at the ripe old age of 50.

I don’t buy it.

Sure it was grand to be young and strong and energetic back in the day. When it comes to physical prowess youth holds the edge. But what about when you need your brain, when intellect and experience give you the advantage? The adage wisdom comes with age is well said. Diverse experiences over our lifetime teach us how to react and respond optimally to unpredictable situations. It’s hard to realize the benefit of learning from our mistakes when we have not been on this Earth long enough to stumble and get back up few times. We learn over the years to avoid mistakes that caused suffering or hardship. The accumulation of knowledge and experiences along with patience and understanding ideally evolve into something those few in years do not possess – namely wisdom. None of us is born wise – it is the product of time and living.

danger thin ice

Before you overdo it with sweet thoughts of those perfect days of yore take a moment to think back on some of the less-than-romantic realities of your younger days. I for one would not want to relive those anxious dating days when I psyched myself up to make that call to invite a classmate on a date. Pacing anxiously up and down the hallway, rehearsing my “lines” as I struggled to get it just right, finally approaching the phone with my heart in my throat only to turn away at the last second to regroup and try again.

What about your first driving test – wasn’t that fun? Or your first visit to the dentist – oh joy! And those nightmares paled in significance when down the road you found yourself impossibly tasked with coming up with some magical solution to ease the pain your daughter felt being dumped by her boyfriend. It is one thing to deal with your own broken heart but quite another to feel the helplessness of a well-intentioned father who only wants his child to be happy and safe but is ultimately at a loss.

Would you really voluntarily relive those moments all over again?

Being young is wonderful but it is only one stage of life. Obsessing over what you could have been or should have done will not change where and who you are today. Don’t waste the possibilities of today to dwell on a yesterday over which you have no control.

I prefer the glass half full perspective when it comes to expectations of what lies ahead. Rather than fret about the things I may not have accomplished to this point I try to focus on what I can do or become or experience. For retirees our second act can be a second chance. Why not pursue dreams of your youth now that you are blessed with unlimited time and relative independence? Accepting that you are getting older does not mean you must surrender meekly. Retirement can be your time to add excitement and new adventures to your life resume.

We cannot change the past and we may not know what the future holds but we can live in this moment and make the best of it. Rather than obsess over what could have been its better to obsess over what still might be. And enjoy!

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