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.

Your Business Plan For Retirement

Does this scenario sound familiar:

After multiple decades spent pursuing whatever your chosen career you find yourself approaching an age typically associated with retirement. Whether the move to your second act is your decision or otherwise dictated you take the plunge and bravely go where you have never gone before. The initial weeks and months are not always exactly what you expected but gradually you start to get the hang of things.

You attack that to-do list you have been compiling for years. You add to your travel diary by visiting some spots you have long looked forward to exploring. You take another look at some hobbies you left behind due to the hustle and bustle of family life and career. Perhaps you even explore some new interests because heck, you have the time.

And then, maybe a year or two into the journey, you find yourself stalled. Like a ship run aground the initial momentum that drove you smoothly onward peters out. Activities that held your interest are fewer, you are caught up on your projects and you cannot travel every day of every week. That active you with so much to give and so much to do is suddenly on pause.

Don’t despair.

Your mission – should you choose to accept it – is to guide your way back on track to continue living the life you want for the coming decades. You are just getting started so don’t even think of giving up. What if you start to think of retirement as your new job?

From this day forward realize you are running your own business and you are in charge. The success or failure of this oh-so-important start-up depends on your commitment and effort. There has been and will be no more important job in your lifetime.

The mission of your company is straight forward – to build meaning and excitement into your daily life.

As with any start-up you need to dedicate some portion of the day to generating new business. In the case of retirement that translates into broadening and improving your collection of retirement activities and options.

Here are a few ideas to help formulate your business plan for retirement:

- Network – retirement is a time to re-establish connections you have lost over the years whether friends, co-workers, family or whoever. Reach out and engage. Don’t be reluctant to respond to high school or college reunion invites. Follow up with invitations from neighbors or make your own. Who do you want to interact with? Since you now have the freedom and the time you get to choose.

- Get social (media that is) – search Google based upon your interests/passions. Find what might be in place locally by signing up for services such as NextDoor. Check out interesting blogs. See who might be on Facebook and friend those you want. The internet can make reaching out easier – you just have to get comfortable with technology and use common sense.

- Make some cold calls – keep prospecting for new opportunities by reaching out to local organizations that sound interesting. Send an email to introduce yourself or ask pertinent questions.

- Be entrepreneurial – if you have good ideas apply them. You don’t have to wait for someone else. If the particular club or organization that interests you does not exist, start it yourself. Take initiative and put to use those skills and experiences that got you where you are today.

- Expand upon areas that you are already interested in. For example if you like learning a new language add another to the mix (trying to keep the different rules and pronunciations straight is a great brain workout). If you are proud of your flower garden expand into growing vegetables. If you like getting out of the house once a week how about twice? Once you identify what you like to do seeking out related endeavors can be rewarding and fun.

It’s not always simple to come up with activities that engage and make the day feel worthwhile. Retirement is a joy as well as a challenge. Like any other job the more you do it the better you get at doing it. And the benefits of this job are hard to dispute: inspiration to live each day, stimulation of your mind and body, satisfaction with personal achievements, and no time for boredom.

I hope 2016 has been a good year for you and yours. Best wishes for a happy healthy Christmas, a safe exciting New Year, and of course a most enjoyable retirement.