You’re not alone if you feel it’s getting harder to get by without a smartphone and the right app. Whether you’re trying to use a coupon at the grocery store, keep up with family and friends, or find out about local events and services, the appropriate tech resources for seniors can be a big help.
If the increasingly tech-centered world feels overwhelming, just read on. We’ll help you figure out the tech-related resources that can enrich your life.
1. One-on-one help
Often, the best resource is another person with the knowledge and patience to help you figure out all things tech-related. At Branchlands, staff are available to help. Community members often flag the nearest staff member, or pop over to the front desk, for an impromptu tech lesson. Some seniors also have family members who can serve this role from time to time.
Where to turn if these aren’t options? Your local library! While the details might vary, almost all libraries offer one-on-one assistance. For instance, the Jefferson Madison Regional Library (JMRL) here in Charlottesville offers tech help including basic computer skills, internet searches, starting an email account, and how to make use of all the library’s digital services. You can visit the service desk to get immediate help. Or, if you’re already comfortable with Zoom, you can call to arrange a Zoom tutorial.
Want someone to walk you through your questions on the phone instead? Call AARP’s free Senior Planet Hotline.
“Senior Planet from AARP’s free hotline is run by patient technology trainers who can help answer your tech questions.”
One of the benefits of one-on-one help is that you can use it to take the next step: accessing the wide world of tutorials. There are many available online, including on the Senior Planet website, as well as through organizations like DigitalLearn, GCFGlobal, and Techboomers.
The tutorials on those sites will walk you through almost anything you want to learn, from mastering Microsoft Word to learning to buy items on eBay, conducting successful Internet searches, or doing basic programming.
You can also attend classes through your local senior center, city, or library. Be sure to use some one-on-one help to assist you with finding what’s available and signing up!
3. The right phone or tablet
Any tablet or smartphone can work for a senior, if the price, size, and screen feel right to you. If getting a standard device, consider certain adaptations to make it more senior-friendly, such as:
- Increasing the font and icon size
- Removing clutter so that only the apps you’ll use are on the home screen.
- Adjusting volume and lock-screen settings to match your needs
- Getting a data plan, if you can afford it. (With data, you don’t have to worry about Wi-Fi passwords, range, or connectivity issues.)
(Utilize that one-on-one help, or a tutorial, to learn how to make these adjustments!)
You might also consider getting a device designed for seniors. For example, Grandpad is tablet designed specifically for senior users. It has more limited functions, so be sure to check first if it can do everything you want it to. But for those who want just the basics, it’s easier to use—and harder to mess up.
4. Useful apps for seniors
The whole point of increasing your tech savviness and mastering the basics of your new device is to open new doors. The possibilities are nearly limitless, but we’ll suggest a few types of apps you might consider:
- Food delivery (for both groceries and meals)
- Transportation (for private rides or making the most of local public transportation)
- Video chat (such as through Zoom, Facebook Messenger, or Facetime to connect with your children and grandchildren)
- Social media (for broader connection)
Social media can be great for staying in touch, and often it’s most valuable when it leads to real-world interactions. Try joining a local social media group with people who share a similar interest and organize in-person get-togethers. (Within Branchlands, our Facebook page is a forum for easily sharing information about all our activities and events.)
Don’t feel overwhelmed by the threat of scams and data breaches. Just know that there are real risks, which you can mitigate with good habits and practices. We recommend reading up on cyber security tips and following their recommendations.
While there are many kinds of scams, you can avoid a significant percentage of them by following a simple rule like “don’t open any links or attachments unless you know the sender and were expecting them to send it.” When in doubt, talk to someone you trust about it.
Remember those tutorial sites we mentioned before? You can find guides and tutorials on digital safety and privacy there, too.
6. Alert systems
As healthy as you might feel, risks go up as you get older. If you have a fall or other medical issue, you and your loved ones want to know that help will be arriving soon.
Many medical alert systems can be worn, either as a watch, a bracelet, or a necklace. Others are wall-mounted, with buttons or cords, which can be reached in case of an incident.
At Linden House Assisted Living at Branchlands, we make use of both kinds: there are wall-mounted pull cords in our bedrooms and bathrooms, and residents also wear medical alert bracelets. Everyone involved feels better knowing that the nearest staff member will come immediately in any time of need.
Another way to use tech to upgrade your peace of mind is through monitoring devices. If you want to keep track of a partner with dementia, for instance, there are wearable devices to let the wearer be easily located if they ever get lost. These are GPS-enabled and can take the form of a necklace or even the sole of a shoe!
If your family members want to keep an eye out for your welfare, they could use Grandparent Monitors. By viewing the feed from the camera, loved ones can check in remotely and make sure their senior is doing well.
8. Health trackers
You can also monitor yourself with all sorts of nifty fitness trackers which make keeping fit more fun. You can purchase a wearable device or download an app to enable your smartphone to track your steps, heart rate, sleep, and more.
What’s the benefit? Through fitness reminders, visualized data of your progress, and countless other means, this kind of tech motivates you toward healthier habits and also makes it easier to share and celebrate your progress.
From on-screen crosswords to the latest craze, video games are no longer just for kids. Studies suggest playing video games can help you improve cognitive performance and reverse age-related decline. Most importantly, they’re fun!
To find the right game for you, browse a few recommended-for-seniors lists and see what appeals to you. Or just ask around—since more and more seniors are playing, your friends and neighbors might have some suggestions! If you struggle at first with the controls or the speed of the game, that’s OK. Practice makes perfect, and there are tutorials for games, too.
Or maybe you want one-on-one help? Figuring out how to play can be a great reason to meet up with someone and spend a fun afternoon together.
At Branchlands Senior Living, we know how important it is to stay engaged. The mission behind everything we do is to help our residents live life to the fullest.
We hope these tech resources for seniors will help you connect with others, with services, and with any other innovation that can add some shine to your golden years.