Tech & Grandparents

Petunia Pickle Bottom Stowaway iPad sleeve

iSeniors — Connecting Technology & Grandparents

My parents are amazed to see how my 6 year old son adeptly navigates his iPad and how he doesn’t shy away from letting us know when he thinks the wireless network is too slow. Living in Silicon Valley, there is so much focus on small children and technology. But what about the other end of the spectrum – grandparents? Technology has transformed the lives of my 75+ year old parents and in-laws. They are having just as much fun with technology as my son’s kindergarten class. Here are 5 great tech innovations for seniors:

1)     iPad: iPads are wonderful for older parents and grandparents who aren’t comfortable using a mouse and don’t like squinting at a computer monitor. The ease of swiping their fingers across the screen to see photographs of their grandchildren, to search for news, and to play games is amazing. Their ability to easily make the text larger with a simple finger gesture on the screen has really transformed their connection with the Internet. They also love the portability of the iPad. My parents are no longer tethered to their home office, like they were with their desktop computer, and the iPad is much easier for my mom to carry around the house and hold than a laptop. My 80 year old father-in-law rarely leaves the house without his iPad. He was able to easily set up his stock portfolio on Yahoo! Finance by himself so he can keep a close eye on his investments. He may not be ready to trade stocks online, but he loves having up-to-date information at his fingertips so he knows when to call his broker.

2)     FitBit: The only thing my mother loves more than her iPad is her FitBit One™. To say it has changed her life completely would be an understatement. Her FitBit has become her new best friend and she genuinely loves the words of encouragement and humorous messages that appear on the screen. She is so motivated to reach 10,000 steps every day, and she now has the personal trainer she never knew she wanted. She shows it off to all of her friends, and strangers too for that matter.  I helped her with the initial setup and now she can easily charge her device and view her summary metrics with ease.

3)     Wireless Access: Even if your parents or grandparents don’t have a laptop or tablet, I still recommend getting wireless Internet access in their home. I recently upgraded the wireless in my parent’s home so that my husband and I knew we would always be well connected when we were visiting. My extended family benefits from it too when they visit. Having a wireless network actually encourages the younger generations to visit their elderly relatives more often and not be in such a rush to leave. It is also nice for long term caregivers as well, as they appreciate having easy Internet access while they are caring for your loved ones.

4)     Video Cameras: The mother of a friend of mine lives over 600 miles away from his home. His feisty mother is over 80 years old and is still living on her own. He has tried to convince to move closer to him and his family, but she doesn’t like the idea one bit. Since she has had trouble walking, he wanted to be able to keep a close eye on her, even when he is far away. His solution – video. The last time he visited her, he installed cameras throughout her condominium, and he is able to watch the video footage from his computer, anytime from anywhere. There is a little peace of mind knowing that if she were to fall, he would be able to call for help. Some people may question this act as an invasion of her privacy, but she was onboard with the idea. They have also been very upfront with people who work in her home and notified them that the condo is monitored. He likes to be able to keep a close eye on the caregivers, handymen and cleaning crews that come in and out of her home. Thanks so the wonders of technology, he can.

5)     Facebook: At first my mother and mother-in-law were downright fearful of Facebook. I tried so many times to get them to sign up but they wanted nothing to do with it. I finally sat down with my mom and realized that her main concern was that she didn’t want to share anything personal with strangers. She didn’t want her ‘friends’ to know what she was making for dinner. After a few long months, I finally convinced her she could sign up for Facebook and that she didn’t need to tell anyone a thing. Just because she registered didn’t mean that people were suddenly going to know what she has picked up at the supermarket.

Facebook is actually a great way for grandparents to keep connected with their families. We set up my mom with a basic account (no photo or personal information other than her name) and had her become ‘friends’ with her children and grandchildren and a few very close family friends. Now she can easily sit on the couch, open her iPad and simply click on Facebook to see what her family is up to. My husband uploads videos of my son’s little league game and my parents, who are hundreds of miles away get to watch him hit the ball out the park too. She also can keep tabs on her other grandson’s surfing adventures and her sister’s magnificent farm and garden. She still gets a little spooked when a classmate from college that she has spoken to in 50 years asks to be her ‘friend’, but she relishes in the stories, photos and ability to stay connected.

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