Virtual meetings, dating, games, classes, selling, medical consultations, concerts, shopping, and just about everything else you used to do is now virtual. Following mobility restrictions and lockdowns, a life around technology is what the COVID-19 pandemic has imposed on us. Within the uncertainties of this socio-economic crisis, digital connectivity is what keeps us afloat. Now more than ever, we have utilized the use of social networking sites and modern technology as adaptive measures.
With shelter-in-place recommendations, technology has also been the resort to most residents in nursing homes and senior living communities near you. The COVID-19 surge may have led the quarantined world to do TikTok dances (and that’s fine too), but technology during lockdowns is even more essential for seniors. From safety to connectivity, it has been of greater importance amidst their vulnerabilities.
Digital Connectivity Combats Isolation
COVID-19 took a considerable toll and continues to pose more risks to the older population. The CDC reports more than 8 out of 10 COVID-19 deaths in the United States have been in adults 65 years and older. Their weakened bodies, decreasing response to antibodies, and the immune system’s inability to detect and correct cell defects make them amongst the most susceptible groups.
For these reasons, isolation and mobility restriction have a significant effect. Even if the pandemic is completely eradicated in the future, new measures do not guarantee them modified restrictions. This can be even harder for those who live away from their loved ones.
About 13.8 million Americans over the age of 65 live by themselves, according to 2017 estimates from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. For seniors who are living in assisted or independent living communities, social isolation means they no longer access common utility areas or gather around common rooms. This completely eliminated their interaction with co-residents, who were their best source of socialization. Bingo, gardening, movies, and even coffee chats were all made impossible.
For those in nursing homes, attendees often roam around in PPES, which could be anxiety-triggering. Seniors might also face anxiety and fear not only because of the virus but the fact that they feel isolated in their house without anyone who they are comfortable to be with. On ordinary days alone, seniors are more susceptible to isolation and loneliness.This is where technology plays a role. From social media sites to digital support platforms, both increase human interaction and connectivity.
Social Media as Emotional Support
Navigating through social media sites can help seniors feel in touch. Just seeing photos of friends around Facebook and Instagram can offer a sense of connectivity. Most of them are also longing for their children and grandchildren now more than before. Messenger apps, Facetime, Skype, Loop, and Zoom offer more accessible communication with them. Through these technologies, you can show your senior loved ones emotional support. Texting or calling them regularly, reminding them to sanitize, to eat their food on time, take their medications, and to ask how their day went would be great help for them to feel remembered and taken care of. Even daily tasks such as dining experiences can be done virtually. Although miles apart and separated with screens, regularly conversing with them can prevent emotional isolation.
Online News Updates
Through technology and on-demand news sources, seniors can be informed of what is happening outside their house and what they can do to protect themselves from the COVID-19 pandemic and stay aware of other worldwide events.
Support Hotline and Digital Platform
The digital platform Senior Planet is outreaching calls to more than 2,000 seniors in the six cities they operate, offering services and addressing seniors’ concerns amid isolation. A 24-hour hotline and check-up service called “Friendship Line” is also available. San Francisco’s Institute on Aging is doing the same, offering a listening ear and friendly conversations for older adults. Their hotline works 24 hours every day, providing suicide intervention, emotional support, counseling, and other necessary information.
Senior Dating Apps
SilverSingles, EliteSingles, SeniorFriendFinder, SeniorMatch, and Eharmony are some of the options in the wide pool of dating sites geared primarily for baby boomers. And yes, COVID-19 dating is a thing! Who says only millennials could do such? If you have all the time in the world, then dating is never a bad idea. For seniors, of course, dating can offer benefits including the prospect of improved moods.
Telehealth Provides Remote Health Care
Telehealth has been around even before the pandemic, but it is widely beneficial and accessible nowadays. It allows virtual medical consultations, monitoring, and other remote health care services through technology. Health monitoring technologies can be web-based, mobile apps, or wearable devices. They can track body health, indicate the risk of falling, monitor temperature, respiratory rate, blood pressure, and can provide vital sign readings. Medical alert systems, on the other hand, inform a senior’s emergency contact if a fall or other unwanted situation takes place.
Smart Home Devices Aid in Independent Living
Amazon Echo and Google Home are AI technologies that respond to voice commands. Through these, seniors can get assistance with some simple tasks such as enabling and disabling automated lighting, home alarm systems, accessing media, acquiring news, calling friends, and ordering groceries. TheSeniorLost.com survey found that people over age of 60 are using technology more often during this time to shop for groceries, meet virtually with friends, and pay bills online. It’s not a surprise then that a senior’s tech-literacy will grow even more in time.
Technology Offers Entertainment
Above all these conveniences, technology offers leisure to keep seniors sane around isolation. From senior-friendly gaming apps such as Candy Crush and word cross to streaming Netflix movies– all of these recreational activities offer health benefits to them. They enhance mood, ease depression and anxiety, and can improve cognition. Being emotionally stable also reduces the risk of cardiovascular disease and other physical illnesses. While active participation in the form of games stimulates brain function, engaging in classic movies also has its own therapeutic benefits.
The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the world and how humans interact and participate in it. Technology poses a lot of comfort and relief, yet nothing compares to real human interaction without a screen as a barrier. Technology gained importance in senior living during COVID-19, but what’s still of greater concern is what technology can never offer–our love and care towards one another.