Insightsthe blog of Porter Hills
How are seniors using technology?
Information Technology Director
Click here to watch the WZZM13 Senior Wellness segment on this topic.
Seniors are adopting the use of technology more than ever to keep in touch and communicate with family and friends. Use of Email is still a popular way to communicate, but they are now using other technology as well. As more seniors get smartphones, they are finding that texting is an easy way to communicate. It allows their family and friends to text pictures and videos to share special moments and keep in touch.
Using video to keep in touch with friends and family
Video technology like FaceTime and Skype allow family members to stay in touch with their parents or grandparents even if they can’t visit as often as they like or live too far away. Using video allows seniors to see and hear the people they are communicating with, allowing them to be connected in a more personal way.
Facebook is another popular communication tool for older adults. They can stay current with what’s going on with their family and friends. Facebook allows seniors to stay connected when they want, on their own schedule. They can review their newsfeed, watch videos, read posts, and interact by sharing or “Liking” posted information.
What upcoming technology will impact seniors?
The new virtual personal assistant technology is just emerging and will have positive impacts on many seniors who may have memory or mobility challenges. It makes interacting with technology devices much easier because it uses voice interaction, listening to voice commands and responding accordingly to help complete tasks.
Amazon Alexa (Amazon echo and dot) is the leader in this technology. Apple, Microsoft and Google also provide virtual assistant technology.
What can someone do with this virtual personal assistant technology?
Amazon Alexa’s technology is based on what they call “skills”. The device will continue to get smarter as skills are created for the assistant.
Personal assistant technology can do thousands of tasks including the basic tasks of reminding you of appointments or setting timers. For example, there’s no need to manually set an egg timer or the timer on a microwave. It can be used to set reminders to take medications, call someone, or alert when it’s time to get together to play cards with friends.
The technology can also be used for fun, playing games and trivia, or telling jokes.
The personal assistant is great for individuals with memory issues too because it doesn’t care if it is asked the same question 100 times.
Older adults with vision issues can benefit from the personal assistant reading books aloud.
Getting weather information is fast and easy, just ask. There are news headline skills to recap today’s top stories in the world and business. It can also play radio programs like the BBC, ESPN, or music.
The personal assistant can help seniors around the house. This technology can become the “hub” that talks with all of the smart devices in the home. Turn lights on and off and adjust the temperature. Turn on the TV, adjust the volume, pause a movie. Ask the vacuum cleaner to clean the floors.
There are many skills around health, exercise and general information from WebMD.
What is the biggest risk for seniors using technology?
Seniors face the same risk as others who use technology devices connected to the internet. However, they may be targeted specifically because they generally trust others and often have access to larger savings accounts.
How can seniors protect themselves?
The easiest way to protect themselves is to keep current with computer, phone or tablet system updates. Microsoft, Apple and Google release updates on a regular basis and it is recommended to apply them as soon as possible.
Always be suspicious of emails with links or pictures. Even if it appears to be from someone you know always take the time to examine the email before clicking on a link or attachment.
Also, never open email messages from an unknown person or company. If the email appears to be selling something too good to be true, it probably is, just delete it. Modern email systems move suspicious email into a junk or spam folder. Don’t open these emails unless you’re specifically expecting a message from someone.
Passwords are a very important part of protection from hackers. The longer the password the better; think of a password as a “passphrase.” Think of a sentence that is easy to remember and substitute key letters for numbers.