As an independent senior living provider in B.C.’s Lower Mainland, PARC recognizes the importance of technology in retirement communities and the many ways it can potentially enhance the lives of all residences – especially during challenging times.
While Canada continues to combat the spread of COVID-19, individuals are finding their own lives significantly altered. In particular, social distancing and self-isolation have most of us hunkered down in our homes. With seniors at an increased risk of severe outcomes from the virus, it’s especially important that they minimize outside contact.
Still, while such measures help to keep us all safe, they can make staying in touch with friends and family a challenge. But it doesn’t have to be that way. Thanks to technology, older adults can continue to connect with loved ones without jeopardizing their own or others’ safety. Instead of meeting face-to-face in a café, community centre or park, you can see, hear and chat with others via smartphone, tablet, laptop or computer.
Maybe you’ve always wanted to learn how to use social media but just never got around to it? Or today’s new normal has sparked your curiosity? Either way, you now have the time to give it a go.
And as science shows, by keeping socially engaged, you’re doing yourself a favour in a number of ways:
- Online interactions can improve health and reduce loneliness among seniors;
- Technology can have a positive impact on reducing social isolation;
- Frequent social activity can reduce cognitive decline by 70 per cent.
Below are a few social media and technology basics to help get you started. Remember that learning a new skill can take time and a bit of patience, but it can also be a lot of fun – especially when it comes to digitally connecting with those near and dear.
Choosing the right device
Perhaps you already have access to a computer or device and are all set to go. But for those looking to purchase for the first time or to upgrade, what you choose should depend on personal preference, budget and how you plan to use the device.
In general, smartphones are fully transportable and small, while tablets are easier to grip with bigger screens (think group video calls with the relatives). If high-resolution or functions like word processing and photo editing are also on your wish list, then a laptop with a foldout keyboard or desktop computer is the ticket.
Online private lessons for seniors
Now that you have your gadget of choice, a great way to learn or brush up on social media and technology is to sign up for online tutoring. All kinds of topics are literally at your fingertips!
For example, Toronto-based Seniors Tech Services offers private lessons ranging from text messaging to creating a simple website. Download an easy-to-use remote conferencing platform like Zoom onto your device (the company can help you do this), and a tutor will then send you a link and guide you through a lesson. Start by learning how to use your smartphone or tablet. Then branch out by setting up your own Facebook page or making video or audio calls on FaceTime and Skype.
As company associate Vuso Moyo says, seniors are encouraged to go at their own pace. “There’s no set curriculum, it depends on each person’s ability,” he says. “Some students will take one to two hours to learn a subject. Others, we’ll walk them very slowly through it until they’re confident. That’s how we’re different from other computer training companies.”
During this time of social distancing and self-isolation, older adults might also benefit from other Seniors Tech Services lessons, such as ordering groceries online and listening to audio books.
Online group classes for seniors
Learn alongside other like-minded seniors in an online group setting. B.C.-based non-profit Gluu Technology Society hosts an array of evolving classes specifically designed for older adults. Jump into iPad and iPhone essentials for 45 minutes or take a deeper dive in a six-class series. FaceTime and Skype basics are also covered.
For those who prefer to get up to speed on their own, self-guided options abound. Breeze through instructions on how to set up and use Skype, create a Facebook account and profile and navigate social media apps like WhatsApp and Snapchat. Peruse Apple Video Guides for iPhone and iPad knowhow, or visit a beginner’s guide to Android for Samsung devices.
You can also download e-books or order hard copies of senior-based book series – check out For Seniors and For Dummies. Round out your social media and tech-savvy with articles and tutorials on the TechBoomers website.
Onsite computers and classes
If you live in a retirement community or seniors’ home, you might already have access to shared computers and onsite instruction. If you’re not sure, check with your building manager. At PARC Retirement Living, residents can use communal devices in the business centres and attend in-person Skype and FaceTime classes. (Of course, in keeping with COVID-19 safety measures, sanitization between use and social distancing are observed.)
These introductory tips will have you well on your way to using social media and technology. Keep learning, keep safe – and happy chatting!