Caring for an older parent or relative can be an incredibly rewarding experience that brings you closer together. It can also be a very challenging experience in today’s busy, non-stop world.
Most carers are juggling family life, work and other commitments. This means they don’t always have time to fully be there for their older parents. In the UK, there are roughly 4.27 million carers who are also of working age. 1 in 5 carers has had to give up their job in order to care for a loved one. One thing that can really help both the old and young in this situation is technology.
How can technology help?
Voice recognition assistants and software, wearables, virtual services and even robots are all making things easier for the older population, helping them to live longer, more independent lives. This not only improves life for older people but can also make your responsibilities as a carer more manageable.
By staying more digitally connected to friends and family, older parents are also less likely to be affected by the growing loneliness problem faced by their demographic. In the UK alone, over 1.2 million older people are chronically lonely. This is as a result of living on their own and not being in contact with family and friends on a regular basis. Over 17% of older people are in touch with family and friends less than once a week while 11% are in contact less than monthly.
While grasping new technology may seem challenging for more senior members of society, teaching your parents how to use it could provide tremendous benefits. Just as there are a lot of things older parents can do for you, there’s a lot you can teach them, and that includes new technology.
Here are some new pieces of tech that could improve living for your older parent(s).
If mobility is an issue for your parent, then signing them up to an online platform that provides virtual checkups and appointments could be life-changing. These days, everything from doctor’s appointments to ordering transport and arranging deliveries can be done online, from the comfort of one’s home. Services like GP at hand and Push Doctor make doctors’ appointments accessible to those with limited mobility. Similarly, Simple Online Pharmacy can deliver prescriptions directly to their doorstep, eliminating the need for frequent trips to the local pharmacy.
Voice-activated software is a huge boon for older adults who no longer want to be fussing about with complicated remotes and confusing interfaces. A simple voice command can turn on the telly, even turn on the TV, lights even the coffee maker. Smart speakers like Amazon’s Echo Plus with Alexa built-in and the Google Home and assistant are leading the pack but many other solutions are coming on the market. The Wink Hub 2 is another great option if you want to integrate everything from your light switches to your kitchen appliances.
While the term ‘robot’ might read a little uncomfortable to some, there are many companies looking to harness the more positive aspects of AI and smart systems to help more vulnerable people. Some have even created smart companions that don’t look anything like ‘robots’ and have a more lifelike feel. The therapeutic Paro, an adorable fluffy seal helps those with dementia and even Hasbro has created artificially live cats and dogs that will keep you company. EllieQ is one of the latest to be developed that helps dispel feelings of loneliness.
As we get older, keeping track of our health, especially (on a daily basis) becomes so much more important. Smart devices such as the Apple Watch and Fitbit can help an older parent keep tabs on their general health in a way that’s quantifiable and real. These devices make it easy to set goals like amounts of steps taken every day or number of glasses of water. Even quality of sleep can be tracked.
If there’s one technology you should definitely look at investing in if you’re concerned about an older parent being on their own at home, it’s a personal alarm. With just a click of a button, your parent could get in touch with emergency services if they were ever in a critical situation. Companies like SureSafe and LifeLine24 offer these kinds of alarms and services. Most systems can be installed hassle-free and be integrated with their smartphone.
Further to this, here are some tips and tricks for helping older parents get used to new technologies.
While this may go without saying, it can be easy to get impatient when teaching our older parents how to use technology. Tap here, swipe up, press this button – it’s not always as obvious to get on the first try as we think! Being patient will keep them coming back to you for more help and advice (instead of going to someone else).
Take it one step at a time
You may be tempted when teaching your parents about tech to load them up with tons of apps, features or to get them using shortcuts straight away. But doing too much all at once could be overwhelming. By focusing on one small thing at a time, they’ll gradually become more confident and adept with using new technology.
Consider what’s best for them (not you)
Remember, you and your parent(s) are likely very different. What works for you won’t always work for them. Instead of forcing them to use tech that you prefer, try seeing it from their point of view. Ask yourself what’s going to work for them rather than just for you. Also, ask yourself what they may be happier with.
Make instructions accessible
One of the easiest ways to teach your parents about new tech is to create a tutorial for them. This could be a video you upload to a private YouTube channel (you could even do a screencast for them) or something a little more familiar to them, like written instructions.
With these tips and tricks, your older parent should be off to a flying start when using their new tech. It might also open up a whole new world of things they could do while enjoying the peace of retirement.