Author:  Libby Howell of Grandparent.infoImage via Pixabay

At Arizona In-Home Care Association, we understand that feeling isolated from loved ones can be especially hard for aging adults. Studies indicate that socializing can be enormously beneficial to seniors and that even intermittent interactions significantly boost quality of life. Getting involved in community activities, volunteering, and travel are some popular options for older adults to stay in touch.

But what about when mobility is decreased, social interactions limited, and travel not an option? For seniors who must stay in due to health or financial concerns, internet technology is an excellent alternative for keeping in the loop. Friends and relatives of seniors can also experience greater peace of mind, knowing their older loved ones are just a keypad or touchscreen away.

Start with the right device.

Seniors should familiarize themselves with the different kinds of devices available on the market, and check out the ones designed to be senior-friendly. Right now, the top device options to choose from are laptops, tablets, and smartphones. For seniors who do more computing or who need a larger screen and keyboard, a laptop is probably the best option. If you’re hoping for something more portable and easier to set up but still want the advantage of decent screen size, check out the different tablets on the market. A smartphone is the most portable of popular devices and has the added advantage of allowing for making good old familiar phone calls, though the smaller screen and keypad may make it less user friendly for seniors with visibility or dexterity concerns.

Sample different communication options.

Once you decide to wade out beyond the familiarity of phone chats, the opportunities appear endless. You can use text and messenger functions, not only to send written communications, but also to share images, videos, emojis, and gifs.

For seniors who miss face-to-face communication, there are many different video messaging and meeting apps to choose from. FaceTime and Facebook Messenger are easy to use and great for one-on-one or small group conversations. When messaging with grandchildren or younger loved ones, try out the different fun filters, backgrounds, and effects. For larger virtual meetups or even online parties, try Zoom or Skype. For longer or more formal text communication or to share larger media files, email is always an excellent choice.

Sign up for social media.

Several popular social media platforms cater exclusively to seniors, but many older adults may find popular sites such as Facebook or Instagram more appealing since they can be used to stay in touch with loved ones of all ages, near and far. Setting up a social media account is easy, but it’s important to keep in mind security guidelines such as not sharing your personal information online, keeping your passwords safe, and not accepting friend or follow requests from people outside your social circles.

How can caregivers help?

If you are concerned about the well-being of a senior friend or family and want to make sure they can contact you rapidly when needed, see if they could use your assistance in navigating communication tech. Check to see whether their devices are up to date. If your senior loved one has not yet upgraded from a landline or flip-phone to a smartphone, encourage them to make the switch so they can explore the broad range of communication options.

When shopping for a new device, seniors can save significantly if they search for deals and close-out sales. Reliable internet is crucial for seniors who intend to use communication tech to stay social, so caregivers should make sure they are aware of the best options for affordable internet, but also help them avoid scams.

Once you are set up with a good device and internet, the possibilities for staying in touch and active are nearly limitless. Seniors and their caregivers can benefit immensely from growing comfortable with these diverse modes of communication technology.