Staying connected and avoiding social isolation is a key component of maintaining a high quality of life through our autumn years. Research shows that seniors live longer when they stay connected with their loved ones and the broader community, while social isolation is associated with increased mortality.
Fortunately, today’s seniors have access to a broad range of technologies that help them maintain active and involved social lives, despite potential physical frailties. According to data by Pew Research, nearly half of seniors 65 and over own a smartphone or tablet, and well over half of seniors have a desktop or laptop computer with internet access.
Here are seven apps, available for smartphone, tablet or personal computer, that seniors can use to stay connected with their friends and family:
Postcards bills itself as “an easy way to send photos and videos to people who find computers tricky.” It allows the friends and families of seniors to send personalized messages without requiring the senior to know how to download attachments or other nuances of personal computing.
Keep-in-Touch has an interesting and original approach to keeping its users connected. When you open the app, it selects a random contact and gives you the option to call, videoconference or send a text message. This app can help seniors maintain a broad and diverse social circle as they age, rather than calling one or two loved ones exclusively.
Skype is one of the most popular communication tools in the history of computing. It makes instant messaging, voice-over-internet calls, and videoconferencing inexpensive and easy, even for seniors who have limited experience with technology. Its ubiquity on smartphones, tablets and PCs means that there’s a strong likelihood the senior already has many friends and family who are members.
Facebook has over 1.4 billion active members, meaning one in five people worldwide use Facebook on a regular basis. A surprising portion of those 1.4 billion members are seniors: According to data published in the aforementioned Pew Research study, 46 percent of seniors use social networking sites such as Facebook.
5. EasyFamily AppSuite
EasyFamily provides for the “quick and easy launch of Skype, Facetime, Flickr, Picasa and Facebook photo albums in an easy interface.” Email and video messages are also integrated into the application. Essentially, the app aims to be a one-stop-shop for seniors staying in touch, including allowing them to conveniently access many of the useful tools apps already mentioned.
3rings is based on the bygone practice of calling a friend and letting the line ring three times in order to let your friend know you are well. This allowed older family members to check in with a loved one without incurring telephone charges. The makers of the app have brought this concept to the 21st century, allowing seniors with only a landline telephone to let their whole support circle know they are well. When a senior calls 3rings, messages are sent to the senior’s registered contacts notifying them that he or she is doing fine. The app’s makers say it “lets your loved ones tell the whole family that they are OK everyday, without feeling like they are burden.”
7. Keystone Connect
Keystone Connect is a purpose built tool for senior living communities that allows residents easy and convenient access to user-friendly video calling, email, and social media via any desktop, laptop, tablet or smartphone. At senior communities with Keystone Connect, every resident, regardless of the devices the resident may own, or the resident’s computer skills, can use technology to stay in touch with their loved ones, and connected to the community at large. It also empowers residents to stay active and involved with life at their senior community by making events and menus accessible via the portal, as well as by supporting instant messaging between residents within the facility. Keystone Connect supports overall social connectedness through easy access to streaming news, and its gaming features make it an entertainment tool as well. What’s more, communities that utilize Keystone Connect are supported by a Keystone Concierge, an on-site specialist who provides ongoing training, education and tech support to ensure residents and staff understand how to best use the product to facilitate resident engagement.
Seniors have more options than ever for staying connected with friends and family. Whether living independently and using tools like Postcards or 3rings, or living at a senior community and utilizing Keystone’s technologies, independence and connectedness is just a click away for today's seniors.