Androids, iPhones and Microsoft Surfaces, oh my!

From the earliest days of televisions to the first generation of personal computers, the young people have always been among the first to embrace new technology. However, an increasing number of seniors are learning how to navigate our increasingly digital world. In fact, “more than 50% of older Americans are Internet users and an even higher share have mobile phones,” according to a research study conducted by the Pew Internet & American Life Project in early 2012.

In addition to creating new ways to communicate and attain information, digital technology opens up a whole new world for home-bound seniors. Doctor appointments, prescription medications and meals can all be organized online. A trip to the local library or book store is no longer required when books can be downloaded and read anywhere on an e-reader, such as a Kindle, Nook or iPad. Family members live far away? No problem. Seniors can now exchange messages and photos, play games and video conference call all from a smart phone, laptop or tablet, helping them maintain close ties with friends and family regardless of distance.

Smart phones, tablets and e-readers are used by people of all ages around the world but that doesn’t mean navigating the Internet comes easily for everyone. While an ever-increasing number of companies, community social service organizations, government agencies, health care providers, newspapers and libraries have moved their businesses and customer service departments online, senior citizens who do not have or know how to use the Internet have been inadvertently cut out of vital informational resources.

According to the results of a study conducted by Phoenix Center and published in the EE Times, the most significant portion of the U.S. population that is either lacking availability or has not yet adopted technology are seniors and individuals with disabilities and that “isolation within these groups is an ongoing problem and can result in depression which is estimated to cost the United States about $100 billion annually. The study also observes that computer use among senior citizens decreases depression by as much as 20 percent.”

Many adults, especially the elderly, struggle with the constant barrage of the new technologies. Keeping up with all of the software updates, new types of computers and hand-held devices as well as communicating with friends and family through social media sites can be challenging for anyone. Fortunately, seniors are becoming more tech savvy with some help from a variety of resources.

In addition to local community colleges, senior centers and libraries offering computer and Internet training, a mission-based organization recently announced a national roll-out of their Connected Living Network which is designed to help seniors maintain an independent lifestyle and stay mentally engaged.

Connected Living’s cloud-based social platform is tailor-made for senior citizens and features several popular tools, such as secure Internet and email access as well as video chat options, photo sharing, library access and interactive games. The Connected Living Network is already in use in 24 states in many respected senior living facilities and public housing communities, providing the facilities with online access to schedules for classes, activities and support. Seniors using the system also have access to interactive displays and content, such as community calendars, local news and weather.

Regardless of how you learn, an ability to stay connected with the world through digital technology can provide a variety of benefits, including improving mental and physical health as well as increased self-esteem.

If the time has come when you or a family member can no longer maintain an independent lifestyle, please contact ElderLink to learn about senior care services and facilities available throughout California.