amazing how a computer can bring seniors who
aren’t mobile or who live alone connection to
the outside world. With people moving all
over to find jobs or go to school, families are
more spread out than ever. Depression is a
common result of the isolation felt by those
whose friends, children and grandchildren live
in a different state (or even country).
The ability to use a computer and navigate
programs can make a senior feel like part of the
Technology! It can easily connect us
with our kids or grandkids or even
great-grandkids who live across the country but
only if we knew how these darn things work. How
do I turn on this webcam (much less connect it
to my computer) so I can see my grandkids when
they lose their first tooth? How can I
send a quick good luck message to my
great-granddaughter before her next soccer game?
How can I easily shop for birthdays if I have
trouble getting around or can no longer drive?
How can we know how these great tools work if
the technology changes at such a fast pace?
How can we keep up?
There are now many products available on the
market to help make technology simpler and easy
to use. There are programs that can be
loaded onto a traditional desktop computer that
turn the screen into an easy to navigate menu of
options. Easy access to email, online
shopping, picture sharing and even a few games
make time at the computer less frustrating and
time-consuming. These programs can turn
the monitor into a touch screen making it much
easier to use for those living with arthritic
hands or tremors.
With the growing senior population, tech
companies have realized there is a need for
different kinds of monitors, keyboards and mice
as well. Monitors are lighter weight yet
have much larger screens than the old, bulky box
style monitors. Keyboards have been
redesigned to be ergonomically friendly, making
typing less taxing on the hands and wrist.
There are also keyboards with larger keys and
letters printed in more contrast, making them
easier to see. There is even at least one
keyboard that will allow a letter to be typed
only once when pressed, no matter how long the
key is held down. Those who have slower
reflexes or limited dexterity will appreciate
this feature. The mouse has gone through
many changes as well with all kinds of shapes,
sizes and features available now to fit all
Other products make the entire operation even
simpler. Instead of a program that has to
be loaded onto a traditional PC, the computer
comes ready to use out of the box. Plug it
into the internet and the wide screen is easy to
read and navigate. There isn’t even a
keyboard to worry about! Being able to
talk to grandchildren while seeing them through
the video monitor on the computer is a special
treat and will help stave off those difficult
times when missing the kids is overwhelming.
Don’t forget the kids can see you too! I
know of one grandma who didn’t realize this and
got on the computer before she, um, was ready
for the day. Oops!
At least one available “ready out of the box”
product also has a feature that allows a friend
or family member to be the designated “help
desk” person instead of having to call a
stranger for customer support and waiting on
hold for eons. This feature allows the
designated person to remotely access the
computer to troubleshoot any problems the user
might be experiencing. I would much rather
have my daughter help me with my computer
problems than a technical person whose complex
instructions I may not be able to follow.
Cell phones have also been designed with the
aging population in mind. There are phones
available with larger number buttons, similar to
the changes made to landline phones. The
volume on cell phones designed for seniors can
make talking on the phone much easier and much
Research and a “test run” is critical when
deciding on which cell phone, computer equipment
or programs to use. What works for one
person may not be the right fit for someone
else. Do the research and get input from
the person who will be using the equipment or
program by testing out different products.
Many companies offer trial periods for their
products which makes hands-on testing easy and
convenient. It’s difficult to choose what
might actually work best until the person sits
in front of the computer or talks on the phone
and tries it out for a while.
Once the senior is set up with access to
photos, video sharing, email and the internet,
the connection to the outside world is restored
and the ability to maintain a close relationship
with loved ones will bring great joy to everyone
involved. And it will give grandma a great
excuse to go shopping online.
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