Technology Resources for Older Adults
If we’ve learned anything from the pandemic, it is that connection with others is key to our wellbeing. According to the University of Michigan’s National Poll on Healthy Aging*, in June of 2020 more than half (56%) of older adults reported feeling isolated from others, compared to just 27% in 2018. The way we go about engaging with others has certainly changed, which could have contributed to the increase in social isolation as well. As we slowly return to the community, there will undoubtedly continue to be a large emphasis on taking social interactions online. This can prove to be a bit of a barrier for older adults, and understandably so, there are many websites, devices, and applications to navigate when trying to use technology. We’ve put together a list of some of the top resources that can help.
Signs of Isolation Assessment
The AARP Foundation offers a free Connect 2 Affect online assessment to measure social isolation. This can be taken by or on behalf of an individual, it involves a series of 10 questions and offers resources depending on the answers provided. Visit www.connect2affect.org
Making IT Easier Video Series
At the Area Agency on Aging of Western Michigan we recognized the need for older adults to use technology, the “Making IT Easier” video series was designed to teach older adults how to use technology to enhance their lives. You can check out these videos on our website, including lessons on how to use Facetime, ordering grocery delivery via Shipt, getting a ride with Lyft, and more. www.aaawm.org/tech
The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services partnered with GetSetUp, a digital education platform for older adults, to offer 150+ technology and enrichment classes. What is unique is that these classes are taught by their peers, retired educators, and in addition to how to use certain technology classes, GetSetUp also offers interest groups and social hours for older adults. https://www.getsetup.io/partner/michigan
Older Adults Technology Services (OATS) and Senior Planet
Senior Planet is their flagship program, providing courses, programs, and activities to help seniors learn new skills, save money, get in shape, and make new friends. You sign up for their newsletter and participate in online offerings at https://seniorplanet.org/
In this OATS and AARP partnership, their most important finding is the enormous number of American seniors – an estimated 21.8 million – who still do not have broadband access to the internet. They recognize the need for internet access across the US and sought to partner with telecommunications companies, nonprofits, and public entities to bring low-cost internet options to older adults nationwide. Call for support: 877-745-1930
Ideas to Maintain Connection
If you are caring for a loved one/checking in on them regularly and running out of ideas for connection, our “boredom buster” ideas could be a good fit. We've put together a list on our website www.aaawm.org with fun activities you can safely do from home while social distancing. This list is broken down into two categories, ideas using "online/technology" and those without, so there is a little something for everyone!
Emotional Support for Older Adult and their Family Caregivers
Michigan StayWell Counseling is available for those who are feeling overwhelmed. If you are experiencing emotional distress in the context of COVID-19, call the COVID-19 Hotline at 1-888-535-6136 and press “8” to talk to a Michigan Stay Well counselor at no cost. The Area Agency on Aging of Western Michigan is also offering a Family Caregiver Support Group that meets once a week on Tuesday mornings via Zoom. You can learn more at www.caregiverresource.net