A slew of variables means seniors who wish to protect their physical health while maintaining their relationships have few options except to turn to technology.
Joseph Bidwell, CEO of the local Home Instead Senior Care franchise in Naples, said what most people experience while social distancing and isolating is on par with what seniors may face in normal, day-to-day life.
“That’s very typical for a senior to have that low level of interaction, socially,” Bidwell said. “We can get all the physical needs met, but if we’re not meeting the social needs, a senior is just as likely to fail at home or even at a facility.”
A report from the National Institute on Aging links social isolation and loneliness with physical and mental ailments like high blood pressure, heart disease, anxiety and cognitive decline, among others. Some among that senior cohort (aged 65 and up) have found technology a useful bridge across that perilous gap.
Cindy Kruesi of Bentley Village, for example, stays in touch with her mom and siblings by Facetiming her mom Saturday mornings at 8 a.m.
“I have not hugged my mother in 10-and-a-half weeks. I don’t want to get the virus, but even worse, I don’t want to give it to anybody,” Kruesi said.
Kruesi and her mom, who also lives in Bentley Village, illustrate two sides of what can be a learning curve for seniors. While Kruesi, at 73, finds little issue in getting connected, she finds her mom Lydia, at 98, has a tougher time and needs more guidance in navigating her device.
That sort of issue is what Bentley Village’s Director of Lifestyles, Angelique Spencer, and her team are trying to preempt and address. All community residents have access to a digital portal for real-time updates from the community, which is useful in times of crisis such as hurricane evacuations, but provides access to digital programming, too.
Further, the community trained other residents in the community on how to use the apps in case their neighbors needed help.
For those who are less technologically savvy, Bentley Village offers a space and device for residents to make a reservation to video chat with a loved one, which will be set up and handled by staff.
“We try to really get people’s spirits lifted,” Spencer said. “If we can create a smile or change the dynamic from individuals feeling isolated and alone to having them feel connected in a meaningful way then we’ve really done our part.”
Spencer also said learning is a lifelong process and seniors who aren’t the most technologically advanced shouldn’t be written off.
“Technology is just one of the pieces to that lifelong learning,” she said.
Home Instead Senior Care offered these learning suggestions for seniors:
- Traveling the world virtually by exploring digital renditions of places like The Great Wall of China or the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
- Engaging the senses by streaming musicals, ballets or opera
- Getting creative with video on platforms like Skype or Zoom, such as a digital storytime for grandchildren.
“Don’t underestimate older adults utilizing technology,” Spencer said. “The learning does not stop.”