Wednesday, 5 September 2018

Care Partner Wednesday--Elders and Technology

"If I bring her computer down next week, are the proper cables in the room to get internet access?"

I looked blankly at the family member asking the question. Her mother had moved in last week and was getting settled. I was certain whatever cables she needed weren't in the room, and I had no idea who to ask to find out how to get them. It was the first time I'd had that question in my neighbourhood.

It wouldn't be the last.

Last week I overheard a conversation at breakfast. A resident who lives in another neighbourhood and eats in mine was talking to her friend. "You should get a computer. You can look up anything with it. You'd have such fun."

Although it's still true that most senior elders are not computer savvy, this is rapidly changing. And even for those with dementia or those who only know the kind of mouse you set a trap for, the computer age and social media have lots to offer.

I suggest a tablet rather than a laptop or monitor. Besides being easy to hold, and wireless, a tablet can be set up to be operated simply. Only those applications that are useful can be loaded, and it can easily be a shared activity.

Here are some suggestions:

Are there family members or friends who live out of town? Set up an email account for your elder, and show them how to type an email. If this isn't possible, help them write it, and you type it for them. Or, use your email. When the reply comes, sit and read it together and enjoy the news.

I have been using this for years with family members as they go on vacation. They send me pictures of their adventures with commentary and I print them off for their elder. One lady's daughter went on all kinds of journeys. Each time, I would get a file folder and fill it with pictures from their trip as she sent them to me. Each trip was several weeks, and it was hard to have her away for so long, but looking through the pictures helped.

One family with grandchildren and great-grandchildren in New Zealand have an innovative way of sharing with their grandma in Toronto. They upload pictures to a Canadian printing website who mails the photos directly to her door. The cost is reasonable, and Grandma is delighted to be able to hold the prints of her family.

Skype or FaceTime
A few years ago, a couple had a grandson who was living far away. Skype was new technology at the time and was certainly unknown to the grandparents. The family brought in a tablet and made the arrangements to meet in a quiet room so they could connect the grandson with his grandparents. Grandpa had dementia, but I'll never forget his look of wonder as he saw his grandson's face. When the boy said, "Hi, Grandpa," the tears began to flow, and not just Grandpa's. How beautiful that technology could bring this family together.

One of the great things about Facebook is connecting people who have lost each other. One of the groups I belong to on Facebook is from my old public school. My sister, who is 10 years older, belongs to the same group. People in their 60s and 70s are connecting with people they haven't seen for years. There are also conversations about buildings and businesses which are no longer there. "Did anyone used to go for milkshakes at Borden's Dairy?" Imagine the reminiscing and fun discussions this could spark. There are groups for everything. Universities, army regiments, church friends--the ideas are endless. They will probably need some help with this, but what a great activity to do together.

One of our neighbourhoods has Alexa and residents ask her questions every day. Alexa provides all kinds of fun and interesting facts.

There are so many instances when we say, "I wonder..." Google has the answer, and it's often fascinating. Our music therapist turns to Google for facts about well-known artists and shares them during her class.

Google Earth
Imagine looking up the address of your childhood home. Now imagine if you grew up in Germany or Italy, and you could look at the exact road you used to travel barefoot as a kid?


People who stay indoors most days are still interested in the weather. Is it hot? Is it supposed to rain? As I am helping with breakfast each day, I check my weather app and we talk about it.


There are many possibilities here. If your elder needs new clothes, look at websites together. It might be difficult at first to envision what the product will look like, but it's not that different from looking at a catalogue. Some stores have both catalogues and online ordering. What about buying a birthday present for that special grandchild? Or Christmas shopping? This is an excellent way to share the experience, and not only have fun but encourage feelings of connectedness and purpose in your elder.

Technology can broaden and enhance the world of our elders in so many ways. Have you used technology as a care partner with your elder? Have you an innovative use of technology?

Tell us!

Care Partner Wednesday--Elders and Technology

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