Remaining socially distanced may be the best strategy families have to ensure the health of their older loved ones. Still, connection is a crucial element in seniors’ daily lives. Here are three tech solutions to COVID-19 isolation barriers, so you can keep communicating despite the distance.
Before you start shopping for new smart devices or downloading apps, ensuring that your senior loved one is healthy and safe is the first step. From contacting Aware Insurance for information on Medicare and life insurance coverage to setting up an emergency plan for the pandemic, these preventative steps can offer peace of mind.
For older adults, the CDC even has a special set of disaster preparedness guidelines. Whether due to the coronavirus, a natural disaster, or simply a power outage, emergencies can severely impact older adults. Keeping a three-day supply of medication, medical equipment, and even batteries on hand should be part of your elderly family member’s supply kit.
Once the basics are covered, you can focus on relieving the effects of social isolation with technology.
Wherever your loved one lives, access to reliable internet is a must. In fact, one study found that older adults who avoided using the internet had lower psychological wellbeing scores than users who headed online more often.
When your loved one is simply surfing the internet, they may not need higher download speeds. But for video chatting – aka streaming video – the data requirement more than triples. Choosing a suitably swift speed will be essential for enjoyable (and glitch-free) face-to-face chats.
Learning how to navigate complicated interfaces is one barrier to senior communication. As the Pew Research Center reports, 77 percent of older adults confirm that they need help learning to use technology. Take the time to help your loved one develop computer skills, and the benefits will continue to pay off well beyond the pandemic’s scope.
Start with basic computer skills, such as learning to type and create an email account (and use it). Many free online courses can instruct your loved one in various areas. You can also walk them through the steps on the phone if necessary.
Assist your loved one with setting up a free email account. Consider whether they have existing devices – such as a Google phone or an iPad – that would benefit from that brand’s email offerings. Then, your senior can easily click on links to Zoom meetings when you send an invite.
Once your loved one feels comfortable navigating their email account, posting on Facebook, and answering a Facetime call or joining a Zoom chat, you can dive deeper. Decide whether connecting their household devices with a smart home hub could be beneficial.
Many smart home setups, like those from Google, Amazon, and even Facebook, allow users to connect smart accessories that make independent living easier for older adults.
Turning on lights with voice commands, answering video calls hands-free, and the ability to see who’s at the door via a security camera can be life-changing for elderly folks, especially if they live alone. Plus, these accessories can support communication and remote check-ins to confirm your loved one’s well being.
When being there for the older adult in your life may not be possible, it’s nice to know that technology can help ease anxiety and communication barriers. Despite the coronavirus and social distancing, you can use the above strategies to keep in touch. From helping your senior explore the internet to ensuring they can reach out when necessary, technology affords families countless ways to care for their loved ones from afar.
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