We live in a technology centered world, there’s no escaping it. The question is, how does it impact the aging population? Around 67% of adults over the age of 65 were active users of the internet in 2016 compared to only 14% in 2000. As the number of people approaching the 65 years of age and older range continues to increase, their internet and technology usage will also increase significantly. For the senior population, technology can have both a positive and negative impact. We are going to discuss both positives and negatives of technology usage in the elderly, and ultimately, the overall impact technology has on the aging population.
Positives Impacts of Technology on Seniors
- E-health or Telemedicine: This new trend is where patients can connect with health care providers through online means or talk with other patients with similar health concerns. For an elderly person living in a remote area where access to health care is limited or hard to reach, being able to communicate with a physician or specialist through technology could be life changing. There are numerous other benefits of telemedicine such as earlier diagnoses, reduced health care spending, and better patient engagement.
- Connecting with Family Members or Friends: A recurring concern with the elderly is isolation. Introducing them to Facebook, email, facetime, or other means of communication will allow them to stay in touch with family or friends. There are many stories such as this one, about how elderly people were able to find long lost family or friends through social media and form relationships with them. It’s amazing the impact this could have on your loved one.
- Research: The internet allows for the elderly to conduct their own research on health concerns or any other issue, without having to leave their homes. Furthermore, internet searching activity has been shown to improve brain activity and function.
- Safety: Elderly adults who are living alone can get help with a push of a button. There are also technologies designed to alert a caregiver or family member if they stop moving around the house, or GPS trackers for those who are prone to wandering. Technology can substantially increase the safety of your loved one.
- Exercise (mental and physical): Video games such as Nintendo’s Wii offer older adults the chance to partake in light physical activity by encouraging them to get up and move. Beyond the physical aspect, there are video games out there that can also help stimulate and exercise the brain such as trivia games, matching, and memory games, etc. These are activities that a caretaker or members of the family can do together with their senior.
Negative Impacts of Technology on Seniors
- Distracting: This goes for any age, but specifically with seniors, technology can be a big distraction. If we’re focused on technology, we aren’t noticing what is going on around us, which can have a negative impact, especially on seniors. Being distracted can affect one’s safety, it can limit the brain’s thinking capabilities, and can affect memory.
- Safety: Finding trusted sources online can be hard. Furthermore, the elderly population is at an increased risk of fraud and having their information stolen. If no one is properly monitoring their accounts and activities, they could get into serious problems down the road.
- Adaptations: Although we have come a long way with technology, many products fail to address the debilitating factors of age. Researchers and engineers are working on products that have bigger font sizes, bigger buttons, customizable brightness and contrast for people with low vision, and all around better user friendliness and intuition.
Technology has its pros and cons for any age group, but in this day and age where our world is centered around technology, it’s very likely that technology will be incorporated in some way into the elderly’s life. There are many benefits to technology including an overall sense of empowerment. Being able to have their own devices, surf the internet, or feel safe in their own home because of technology can truly bring a sense of empowerment to your senior or loved one. It is important to keep in mind some of the risks that technology brings, but talking about them with your loved one is crucial.