More than one million seniors in the United States live in a senior living community, and with lockdowns and stay-at-home-orders being put into place due to COVID-19, technology has become, literally, a lifesaver for many.
“It’s been very hard for residents and family members to not be able to see each other in person,” says Deborah Strickland, Director of Sales at The Village of Gainesville, a senior living rental community that offers independent living, assisted living and memory support. “That’s why technology has been such an amazing help over these past several months. It’s allowed our residents to remain in touch with their loved ones, travel the world, stay entertained, keep up their exercise routines and lighten their spirits.”
At the moment, residents are being encouraged not to leave The Village unless absolutely necessary, which means that technology will continue to play a big part in the lives of residents and their families for the foreseeable future. Deborah says that, even when life starts to get back to ‘normal,’ she predicts that technology will continue to play a huge role in community life.
The Importance of Connection for Seniors and Families
Studies have shown that loneliness and social isolation don’t just make us unhappy. They actually can cause health issues, such as cardiovascular disease, depression, anxiety, obesity and a slew of other ailments. This is particularly true for seniors, who often have a more difficult time staying socially connected due to mobility difficulties and being in different towns than their loved ones. Here are just some of the stats that show how dangerous isolation can be to a senior’s health:
- Being lonely and isolated is as damaging to a person’s health as smoking 15 cigarettes a day.
- Seniors who are lonely have a higher risk of developing dementia.
- Loneliness can reduce your immune system’s response, making it harder to recover from common ailments like the flu or a cold.
In other words, social connection is a vital part of a whole-body wellness plan. “In order to ensure the health and safety of seniors, it’s essential to use technology to help keep them in touch with the people, activities and hobbies they love,” says Deborah.
Ways to Use Technology to Connect
What can family members and seniors do to make sure they’re staying connected in these socially distanced times? Here are some suggestions from Deborah and The Village at Gainesville team.
Have a daily face-to-face check-in. While phone calls and texts are always nice, it’s much better to see your loved one’s face while talking to them. Facetime, Zoom, Skype and other software make connecting as easy as pressing a button. It doesn’t just have to be a one-on-one call – Zoom and other conferencing technologies can allow you to invite as many people as you’d like to a video call. Best of all, they’re easy to use – all you need is a smartphone, tablet or computer that connects to the internet, and you’ve got everything you need.
Get some exercise together. Exercise buddies are a great way to stay socially connected while also getting your blood pumping. While you and your loved ones may not be able to physically exercise together in the same room, you can find live streams of exercise classes online that allow you to work out together – even if you’re far apart. You can also use Zoom or other video conferencing apps to stream a workout video while you’re on the “phone” with your loved one.
Play games. Many online games like Candy Crush, Words with Friends and others allow you to play virtually with friends across the country and the world. Gaming is a great, entertaining activity that also helps keep minds sharp, improve hand/eye coordination and also raise endorphin levels to give you a boost of energy and satisfaction.
Eat a meal together. Another great use of video chatting is to have a virtual “family meal” together. Coordinate a time with your loved one and other family members, send out a favorite family recipe that everyone can create, and virtually “cook,” serve and enjoy the meal together.
Observe from a distance. It may sound a little like Big Brother, but there are many apps out there that allow seniors and their loved ones to “check in” on one another throughout the day without having to actually interact. There are also apps that allow caregivers, seniors and family members to create a community of caring that you can check in on whenever you’d like. Check out Lotsa Helping Hands, CaringBridge, eCare21 and MediSafe to find options that allow you to make sure your senior is healthy, happy and engaged.
Adopt a robot pet. It’s a little bit more involved than simply downloading an app, but robotic pets like Hasbro Joy for All companion pets are becoming increasingly popular tools for seniors (especially those with memory issues). These technological marvels simulate dogs or cats and react much like a pet would when the senior plays with them or otherwise interacts. Unlike real pets, these robots never get tired, are always pleasant and you never have to clean up after them.
While there may be a bit of a learning curve for you or your loved one when it comes to using technology, Deborah reminds families that once seniors see the value in a certain app or piece of technology, they’ll be eager adopters.
“There’s the misconception that seniors aren’t very technologically savvy, but we’ve found that our residents are very interested in using new apps and other devices to connect with their loved ones,” she says. “It’s been great being able to help teach them and walk them through different technologies available, because we’re able to help reduce the learning curve frustration and get them connected to their loved ones in no time.”
If you want the very best for your parent or loved one, consider The Village at Gainesville, a senior living rental community that offers independent living, assisted living and memory support. Contact us online or call us at 352-548-3507 to learn more about our variety of residential options.