Recent research documents a worrying trend that many who work with older people have observed for themselves. Fear of being alone is a major source of anxiety as people grow old. Some older people go for days without seeing another person; many die alone. 16% of older people in deprived inner-city areas suffer severe loneliness. Certain ethnic groups are particularly vulnerable. Isolation and loneliness can damage both mental and physical health in older people. In the last decade, an array of technologies has changed the way many of us interact. Internet communication systems such as email and social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter have revolutionized personal communication for younger people, but not so much for a generation of people who are as my mom says “Technologically Stupid”.
Seniors continue to lag behind younger Americans when it comes to tech adoption. And many seniors remain largely unattached from online and mobile life—41% do not use the internet at all, 53% do not have broadband access at home, and 23% do not use cell phones. My mother, in fact only in here late 70’s just got her first DVD player. And not surprisingly, older workers with the least education have the narrowest set of opportunities, though this effect was small. It turns out that “old-person” jobs are a mix of high-skilled service work (like managers, sales supervisors and accountants) and low-skilled service work (like truck drivers, janitors and nursing aides). Absent from the top of the list are jobs calling for a fair amount of physical labor. Jobs in farming, manufacturing and repair represent less than a quarter of all new hires in this age bracket.
But its not just jobs, many families have a older family member alone, far away with limited ability to reach them every day, and are worried if mom is taking her pills, did dad fall down, who is able to help, how can they call for help. The list of worries is endless. Luckily tech has started to help with those concerns. Alexa,” the digital assistant built into the Amazon Echo, is an example of how a universal device can be tailored to meet the needs of its user. Older Americans can ask Alexa to remind them to take their medicine and adjust lights and temperature, for example, and their adult children can use the accompanying app to check in. The newest version of the device, the Echo Show, also includes a screen, allowing people to check their home security cameras and make video calls.
How ever old, a person can learn to use it, find benefit in it and make it a resource. How do you incorporate Tech into your families home for your elder parents and grandparents? Send us a comment, perhaps your method is new to someone here reading and you can help.