Maintaining close connections to family, friends, and the community improves life quality and happiness immensely. This is especially true for those living alone.
Case in point: My widowed mother is still living in her old apartment in Munich. I set up her computer for emails, Alexa and Skype, and can login remotely from time to time to make sure that everything is still working right. The highlight of her week is the Sunday Skype session with her children and grandchildren in Germany, the U.S. and Africa. She also uses a tablet to play card games, especially solitaire.
One of the easiest ways to stay in touch is through smartphones. There are also special phones made for different physical needs. I recently persuaded my mother-in-law to try an iPhone and give up her old flip phone. At first, anything except phone calls was difficult for her. But I told her, “Don’t get frustrated, just because you can’t do certain things, yet, and don’t understand it all. Welcome to the club! Concentrate on one thing at a time. Let’s start with sending a text message to your daughter. ‘Are you coming for dinner at 7 p.m.?’ Then practice using it, so you don’t forget how it is done. It will eventually become natural and you won’t have to think about the technology.”
Another evening, my wife set her up with a Gmail account and taught her how to use the most important features, so she can contact friends and her doctor that way, too. It took a while, but now my mother-in-law uses her phone and computer regularly and can’t imagine doing without.
Another nice feature in modern phones is the camera. I use it for snapshots in case I don’t want to forget something I saw, or when I see a beautiful sunset. Click. And later, I post the picture on Facebook or email it to my wife.
My mother-in-law has enjoyed learning how to document wildlife and garden specimens. By the way, there are free applications (apps) that can help find the name of the flower or animal that was just photographed.
Voice recognition and control software is a very useful feature of modern phones. If you can’t type, you can speak into your phone and it will type your message, more or less correctly.
And for seniors, voice-controlled home computer assistants are even better. Every morning my mom in Munich wakes up and says, ”Alexa, play ‘Good Day Sunshine’” and the Beatles song starts playing. She can ask for the local weather or even the weather here in Warrenton. Some people complain that talking to a machine is impersonal and worry about who could be listening in on conversations. (Amazon? Google? A hacker?) On the other hand, for someone who lives alone, it is another way to stay connected with the world. With a voice-controlled cellphone, Alexa or Google assistant, one can also easily call for help. That’s a good thing.
Need mental stimulation? You can use a computer or apps for exercising the brain with games such as Scrabble or Lumosity. You can download e-books, audio books, and e-magazines, and many are available for free through the local library.
Many people like the Kindle, a handy light tablet that makes reading easier, since you can magnify the fonts. But you can also get a Kindle app for your computer.
Having trouble remembering appointments? Most phones have apps to set up reminders for medication, appointments, shopping lists and more.
Need vision assistance? The cellphone can be turned into a magnifying glass and flashlight. Best of all, such apps can be downloaded for free and are available on most devices.
Worried about health? Wearable technology can be life-saving. For instance, the AI-equipped Apple Watch can detect irregular heartbeats and alert about signs of a stroke. There are also computer-connected bracelets and necklaces that can measure blood oxygen, physical fitness and sleep activity too.
With computers, notebooks, voice-activated assistants and smartphones, seniors can enjoy digital access, support and connections to their family, friends and the world. At the same time, they should learn to be cautious before accepting or buying into anything; unfortunately, there are a lot of scams through the phone, emails and internet that target the elderly.
Many seniors may need initial help from an “internet native” of the younger generation. Those assisting with a senior’s entrance into the digital world should be patient; it’s easy to confuse people with unfamiliar computer jargon. It’s best to take it slow and let them get comfortable with the technology step by step.
Technology can be tricky, but the possible social and health benefits are well worth the time and investment.
Klaus Fuechsel founded Warrenton’s Dok Klaus Computer Care in 2002 and is known for his German-American humor and computer house calls. He and his award-winning tech team work hard to save data and solve their clients’ computer cases. Any questions? Ask the Dok at 540-428-2376 or go to www.dokklaus.com .