The COVID-19 pandemic has been particularly difficult for seniors as they shelter in place. It is crucial for those 65+ to do everything they can to protect themselves from contracting the virus. Yet, there is also the danger of boredom and social isolation, which could lead to mental health suffering.
One way for seniors and their families to ease the stress brought on by prolonged physical separation from family and friends is to better leverage the conveniences of modern technology.
Computer programs like Zoom (a video-call and online chat software) have become a mainstay for friends and family to communicate during the pandemic. This is just a start since there are many other stimulating activities and pastimes enabled by technology.
However, older adults often lack sufficient familiarity with smartphones, tablets, and computers. Often, getting these devices to work can be frustrating and anxiety-inducing. Below are some ideas for overcoming these obstacles.
Easy Does It
For those not very familiar with technology, it is helpful to make their climb up the learning curve as easy as possible. Unlike the younger generation, which quickly adopts new technology, older users may take some time to become proficient. As a result, devise an easy-to-follow, step-by-step plan. It may make sense to recruit a younger, tech-savvy friend or family member to help with this.
What applications would be interesting to the senior? A video conferencing application is a necessity. Beyond this, ask them about what might be of interest. Do they like movies? Books? Games? Make an initial inventory of applications to provide. It is easy to find apps for pretty much any purpose or entertainment type. Finding those that are of the most interest to a user will help him/her find the motivation to continue using and learning how to interact with the technology and explore new possibilities. Wi-Fi will be needed for the applications to work, so be sure to check on Wi-Fi availability and obtain the access password.
Check out this list of best apps for seniors to keep an active mind!
Choose the Device
What device will be the easiest to use? If they are already using a smartphone, that might be an excellent place to start. However, the smaller screen may be a problem for those with limited sight, especially over an extended period of time. A tablet (e.g., an iPad) could be a great choice because it is handheld and more straightforward or intuitive for some people to use than a computer. Finally, many people already own a computer, so that might be the most logical choice.
Decide what needs to be done to install the chosen applications. The portability of smartphones, tablets, and laptop computers makes the installation process more straightforward. A non-portable computer requires going to where the device is located. This could be a problem due to COVID-19 restrictions at senior living facilities.
If the installation becomes too complicated, consider retaining a local IT support company to set up the device. This will ensure the job is done right. Also, choose a provider that can perform remote support. This way, if the user has a problem, an expert can remotely access the device and fix any issues without having to show up to the home physically. Avoiding prolonged technical glitches may be worth the cost.
Provide A Cheat Sheet
Take some time to write out detailed instructions on how to do each task. This is simplified if applications are set up to open and close with one click. Instructions can be supplemented with instructional YouTube videos. These should be one-click accessible as well.
The instructions should include usernames and passwords. The user should be cautioned to keep this information confidential and share it only with trusted family and friends.
If the user is in a senior living setting, familiarize the staff with the device and instructions. They may be able to help troubleshoot simple problems.
If an IT support company is involved, they may be able to assist with creating instructions. Of course, if they have remote support capability, they may be able to "remote in" to the user's device and teach how to operate the device.
As you can see, sheltering in place does not have to mean total isolation and boredom. Utilizing technology can allow friends and family members to stay connected, even when travel or physical visits are not feasible. There are many tools available to seniors to help get through difficult times, and perhaps even strengthen relationships.
This is Part 1 of our Positive Ways to Cope with COVID-19 Isolation blog series. To be notified of future posts in this series, click here to subscribe to the Cantissimo Senior Living Lifestyle blog.
Click here to read Part 2: Family Photo Archive