If you are a caregiver, you probably have talked with your older loved one in person or on the phone. You also may have swapped letters in the mail, but chances are that you have not been emailing…let alone texting mom or dad. Yet, all of that is changing. Now that we are starting off into 2014, we are seeing a clear majority of adults 65 years of age on the internet…and that bar may have been cleared as early as 2012. That certainly changes how some of we caregivers are communicating with mom or dad at distance.
Here is the rest of the story. Nearly two of five 65+ year old internet users also are on Facebook. Half of these access their Facebook page on any given day. And nearly 90% of internet users age 65 and older are sending and receiving e-mail messages half of the time.
As recently as 2010, only about 57% of adults 65 years of age and older had a cell phone, but that has increased to almost three in four adults of retirement age with mobile phones. Among those 76 and older the rate of cell phone use is approaching two out of every three of this cohort.
The major problem older adults today face is the employment into retirement chasm – a technology divide. Those who are in the labor market tend to take for granted that what they learn at work to a large extent is what they also embrace in some form or another at home. So, now move beyond the retirement launch and one no longer has access to the latest technology that an employer used to provide. It is not age that takes individuals out of the electronic communication loop. The simple transition to retirement exacerbates a digital divide.
So, encourage your parents to be both videoconference experts and gamers. Help them to Skype or find the latest in webcam technology so that they and their grandchildren can stay in touch and in view. And as the grandkids grow, encourage the grandparents to purchase gaming technology like Wii. They, of course, can use the latest gaming platform to engage the grandchildren, but they also will find gaming opportunities that will help them to maintain physical agility. This latter option is what a trainer I know calls “muscle confusion.” Using different games on a rotating basis – or at the fitness center different machines and moves – will help the muscles maintain important agility and strength. Both of these will help to preserve the “spring in the step” as well as strength and endurance.
Getting back to staying in touch with the grandchildren, the more that your older loved one stays in touch with what is current the more they will feel relevant and engaged. All f this helps t maintain physical vigor as well as ward off the most common concomitant of getting older…depression. So, technology for younger individuals may be about being cool and in touch, but for your older loved ones it also is about being connected and healthy. Keep connected…be the bridge.
Charlotte Bishop is a Geriatric Care Manager and founder of Creative Care Management, certified professionals who are geriatric advocates, resources, counselors and friends to older adults and their families in metropolitan Chicago. Please email your questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.