Remaining socially connected and engaged with seniors is essential for their physical, mental, and emotional wellbeing. Doing so has always been a challenge for those who live hundreds or thousands of miles away from senior loved ones, but current coronavirus pandemic-related shelter-in-place restrictions combined with senior facility contact restrictions have prioritized the need to intentionally connect with seniors.
The good news is that seniors and family members can learn to use the technological tools available to them to remain regularly engaged.
Have a senior who is balking at the idea of learning a new tool or participating in the digital world? Read Understanding Aging Parents & Coping with Resistance. While the central theme focuses on helping parents come to terms with the next level of required caregiving, this article also helps seniors become open to trying something new.
Steps To Optimize Digital Connection Between Seniors & Loved Ones
Some seniors take more naturally to technological devices and digital connections, while others need to keep it as simple as possible. The latter is especially true for seniors experiencing cognitive decline.
Deciding how much is enough – and how much is too much, is a good first step as you create a digital connection plan for your family member.
1. Prioritize accessibility
There are several ways you can prioritize accessibility as your senior acclimates to this new way of being.
- Choosing the right device (see below)
- Ensuring a caregiver is available to provide “on-call tech support” to ease the frustration due to user- or technical-errors.
- Selecting a font that is easy to read and increasing the size of the text on screens so everything is easy to read and view.
- Making sure the user understands how to operate various volume/vision control options
- Larger buttons and keypad controls
- Syncing the device with hearing aids for a more direct and clear listening experience
- Setting up shortcuts to access specific sites or contacts (TeleHealth platforms, family Zoom links, game playing apps, etc.)
The more all of these things are set up and thoroughly tested before a senior receives his/her tutorial the better, preventing unnecessary glitches, confusion, and frustration.
2. Choose the right device
We cannot emphasize how important it is to choose the right device. Usually, this means the one that is the most straightforward, with the least bells and whistles. Tablets and laptops are offered with a striking array of options and features that can overwhelm new users.
In most cases, the simplest and easiest-to-use device is the best way to go for any senior who is new to tech. While iPads, tablets, and basic laptops may seem easy to those of us who use them every day, they are overwhelming for most seniors who are newer to the online and app world.
Some devices are specifically designed for seniors, and we recommend doing research to choose the best option.
3. Get the caregiver on board
If you have a dedicated home care provider, let them know about your upcoming plan to integrate digital connection into your loved one’s life. If the caregiver is on board with the program, they can provide invaluable assistance as seniors learn about – and launch into – the world of digital connection.
Intentionally scheduling video chats or online family game playing during the caregiver’s shifts ensure seniors have someone standing by in case they need assistance.
4. Create a connection calendar
Scheduled connections are ideal for keeping things routine and organized. You can print or make a large calendar of the month (or put up a daily schedule) that marks scheduled “dates” to connect with particular friends and family.
Spreading these engagements throughout the week means there is something to look forward to almost every day.
5. Be cyber safe
While the digital realm provides many opportunities for seniors to connect with the ones they love, it also puts them at risk for scammers, gaming, or gambling sites that link directly to bank accounts, or viewing images or videos that could disturb them.
We highly recommend reviewing The Senior’s Guide to Online Safety, created by ConnectSafely.org. The site provides valuable information to keep things healthy, positive, fun, and – most of all – safe and secure.
6. Prioritize video chats
While texting and emailing are fun, studies show that video chats do the best job keeping seniors stimulated, engaged, and feeling connected. Seniors who use video chats to keep in touch with their family members and friends report feeling less isolated and have lower rates of depression.
Learn More About Keeping Seniors Engaged & Connected
Click below to learn more about social connections and their importance on senior health and wellbeing.