These days, you don't have to be a millennial or a tech junkie to understand how to use some of the latest technology, like smartphones and fitness trackers, because the gear is becoming more user-friendly. Older Americans who embrace technology can enhance their lives by staying informed, shopping, connecting with friends and family, and even tracking their health and fitness progress.
The over-50 crowd is getting more and more engaged with tech. According to a November AARP study of 1,520 adults over 50, 70 percent of Americans own a smartphone; 90 percent own a laptop or computer; and 40 percent own a tablet.
With functions like taking and storing photos, playing music and games, and tracking everything from your heart rate to your finances, the devices are both practical and fun.
Eighty-nine percent of respondents send and receive emails and texts on their devices; 77 percent use it for traffic information and directions; and 28 percent use it to manage their health care. Seventy-nine percent say they do their banking on their computer, while 35 percent do it on their smartphone. For entertainment, 42 percent play games on their gadgets ("Words with Friends," anyone?), while 34 percent watch videos or shows. Regardless of the device, tech is a personal tool for day-to-day activities and communication.
Technology allows seniors to stay in touch with family and friends near or far, and some technology is made especially for a senior audience. The GrandPad tablet connects seniors through voice and video calls and instant photo sharing. Targeted toward people over 75 who may not use cellphones or computers, it has large buttons and an intuitive interface. Family members can preload contacts and pictures and then use the GrandPad companion mobile app and web portal to start chatting, ensuring that no memories are missed.
Nixplay is a digital picture frame that uses Wi-Fi to immediately display media sent from anywhere in the world with friends and loved ones. It's compatible with Amazon Alexa, and it connects to platforms including Facebook, Instagram, Dropbox and Google Photos. Nixplay can function as a family social network to strengthen your relationships.
Wearables have been adopted by just 13 percent of the over-50 crowd, according to the AARP study, though new wearables that cater to seniors can actually make a difference in personal safety and health and wellness.
Fitbit users can expect the gadget to track their sleep patterns, heart rate, steps and stairs climbed. They can manually enter data such as when and what they eat or how much water they drink. Staying mobile and active is key for seniors' physical health and well-being, and this device helps wearers be mindful.
A safety wearable called run angel, which is worn on the wrist like most wearables, can be used to help caregivers and family members know the whereabouts of their loved one. In an emergency, you can press an alert button that produces a loud alarm and alerts up to three designated people with the time, date, coordinates and map to your location. Trusted family and friends will be with you every step of the way.
Freedom Guardian is an all-in-one medical alert smartwatch that provides around-the-clock monitoring and support, including unlimited emergency calls, speech-to-text messaging, calendar and appointment reminders, weather forecast, GPS and Wi-Fi triangulation. A caregiver can check in via the companion mobile app. The PC Magazine product review website gave the device an excellent rating but notes a drawback: There's a monthly $44.95 monitoring fee. Any of these devices make fantastic gifts and go a long way to offer you and your loved ones peace of mind.
Medical expenses increase as we age, but technology can actually help us save money on medicine. FamilyWize is a prescription savings program that offers free digital tools including a mobile app to help seniors find the lowest drug prices and manage their prescriptions. With the app Medicine Cabinet tool, users get alerts when a lower price becomes available. The drug price lookup tool allows users to search for the lowest price within their ZIP code for any FDA-approved medication.
A new generation of hearing aids is here. According to the What Mobile website, the new Signia Styletto allows users to adjust the volume and other audio settings via a mobile app. Its portable charging dock allows up to four days of continuous use before needing to power up, and it has fully rechargeable built-in lithium-ion batteries. With innovative function and design, seniors will be proud to wear this device.
Most of these technologies have an initial purchase price but many have additional add-ons or subscriptions. Look for reviews and recommendations before purchasing.
The digital world can be very intimidating for seniors, but even more daunting can be the fear of injury, becoming disconnected from loved ones or becoming less physically capable. Emerging tech is designed to help ease seniors' transition and improve their vitality in every way. With a little patience and help from their personal network, they can be set up with more ease and freedom than ever expected.