While all of us are practicing social distancing to protect ourselves and others, for many elderly Americans, staying safe has meant isolation, no family visits, and oftentimes loneliness that could impact physical and mental health. About 28% of older adults in the United States, or 13.8 million people, live alone, according to a report by the Administration for Community Living’s Administration on Aging. Thankfully, new technologies are being introduced that could alleviate many of these concerns—all while helping seniors stay connected to family and friends.
The health of our loved ones is always front of mind, but now more than ever. When it’s not wise to stop by, wireless provides families the ability to check in on and even monitor the vital signs of the ones they love most. For one family in North Carolina, a platform with a motion sensor and vital sign device helps them keep tabs on their 90-year old mother and grandmother. Each morning, she uses a Bluetooth pulse oximeter and bathroom scale to monitor her oxygen levels and fluid retention. With this connectivity, her son is able to receive a text if any levels fall below the normal range. The device gives the family peace of mind all the while allowing the grandmother to live the independent life she wants. These wireless options allow the family to see first-hand, through video chat, the health and wellness of their separated loved one.
Keeping seniors connected to loved ones is especially critical for the health of those suffering with Alzheimer’s. In Jacksonville, Florida, the state’s Department of Elder Affairs has partnered with the Alzheimer’s Association to provide one-touch senior-friendly tablets in assisted living facilities and nursing homes. Seeing their children and grandchildren not only alleviates loneliness but also helps these individuals hold onto the memories they do have. The devices also come with applications that allow senior living residents to continue following their passions including art and music.
Assisted living facilities in California and Connecticut are providing similar services for their residents. These living facilities have embraced the importance of wireless and have provided residents with tablets, recognizing that some residents would not be able to have visitors for months due to health conditions and state-mandated quarantine. A welcoming smile can go a long way in easing the stress and fear of navigating new, virtual conversations.
While wireless tools such as FaceTime, Zoom, and WhatsApp seem simple to use for many, it is easy to forget that these platforms can be daunting for our seniors to navigate. Fortunately, there are unique businesses like Nancy’s Tech Help for Older Adults who are there to help. Nancy’s Tech Help walks seniors through the basics of the Internet, smartphones, and tablets. They even show seniors how to order food online through services such as DoorDash so that they can enjoy a nice meal during this difficult time.
We’re incredibly thankful that numerous innovative wireless platforms are using wireless to help seniors stay connected as well as track their health while in isolation. It is important that we support policies that make fast reliable wireless connections possible. If you are not sure how to initiate a virtual connection with a loved one, don’t worry! There are a number of tips and tricks to staying virtually connected. You can make a difference in someone’s life just by scheduling regular video chats or calling more often.