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New technology for an older generation

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By Tasha Friedman

Staying home alone all day can pose risks for aging people with declining health, but a few gadgets can make all the difference and give family members peace of mind.

Monitoring technology can be as small as the E-Pill, which reminds users to take daily medications at a set time. Monitoring technology can also be as comprehensive as the fiber-optic “magic carpet.” In development at the University of Manchester, this invention can detect when a person has fallen. Notably, many new devices on the market are non-obtrusive, so most seniors won’t notice them.

For elderly people who want to stay connected to their families, tablets can be the perfect medium. They are generally simpler and easier to learn to use than desktop computers, and their large screens are more accessible than smartphone screens for seniors with deteriorating eyesight and compromised motor skills.

Seniors can access a variety of apps through tablets, including ones that enable them to get help during an emergency, easily access their contact list or keep their minds sharp with mind games.

Reducing isolation, depression

Depression is considered one of the most common and painful afflictions for the elderly, but seniors who use the Internet regularly are reportedly less prone to the illness. A recent study at the University of Michigan found that Internet use reduced depression among retired, elderly adults by 33 percent. The reduction was greatest among seniors who live alone, which suggests that Internet use relieves social isolation and loneliness, two major attributes of clinical depression.

It doesn’t matter what users are doing as the Internet makes seniors feel connected to the outside world, experts say.

“It’s really about being able to connect and communicate and find information you need,” study author and telecommunications professor Shelia Cotton told USA Today.

The number of seniors using social networking sites appears to be on the rise. A Pew study found in 2013 that 46 percent of seniors were active on social networks, as opposed to 33 percent in 2011. Seniors who use social networks reportedly feel significantly more connected and socialize offline more often than seniors who don’t.

Furthermore, the same study found that seniors who use the Internet have a positive attitude towards it, and almost three quarters of them use it every day.

Never too late

Despite the benefits of technology to seniors, it can be a challenge to get them started. Sometimes a class is the best option. Organizations such asSeniorNet and the Oasis Institute’s Connections program specialize in technology classes for older adults.

For younger people who want to teach their older friends and relatives,patience and simplicity is key. Concepts that are intuitive to those who grew up with technology may be foreign to an older generation. Moving too fast in teaching seniors how to use technology can embarrass and frustrate them, which could cause them to give up. It’s best to establish concrete goals and a few easily achievable tasks, such as how to send and open email. A positive teaching experience will give seniors confidence to experiment with technology on their own.

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