Digital literacy is essential for older people to stay active and connected, and home care providers play an important role in ensuring older people have access to technology. Home care providers can help encourage digital literacy skills to help complement a client’s care options.
By 2060, more than 25% of the population of the United States is expected to be 50 years of age or older, so the need for digital literacy does not go away; in fact, it is increasing. With the shortage of workers for caregiver roles, digital tools will be used to help fill some of these gaps through services that include virtual company, telehealth and more.
Home care providers can use technology to address some of the social determinants of health by providing virtual opportunities for socialization, connection, and health and wellness. Technology is more and more entrenched in our lives, and that will not change. Home care should explore technology as a healthy part of aging.
Barriers to Digital Literacy and Technology for Seniors
Understanding the barriers to digital literacy and technology is the first step in being able to overcome them with future innovations, services and technologies. The obstacles are:
- Lack of Internet access: Many older people do not have access to the Internet, including nearly 22 million older people without high-speed Internet at home, according to an Aging Connect study. Home care providers can offer assistance by coordinating the installation of the Internet in clients’ homes. Work with local resources, when available, such as regional agencies on aging that may offer Internet access options.
- A lack of devices: Devices can be expensive for seniors with limited incomes; however, options are available. Check with local refurbishment programs or watch out for simple devices like Chromebooks that may be offered as options available to seniors. Check with local businesses and charities that may offer device discounts.
- A lack of education: Home caregivers and home medical equipment vendors aren’t tech gurus, and most business tech experts are young people using unfamiliar terms or speeding up their explanations. Consider offering peer learning options.
- A lack of resources: Many organizations believe that seniors can just find answers, but searching for business websites, using Google, or watching YouTube tutorials is not easy for them. The resources must meet the needs of the elderly at their comfort level. In addition, they should be available to those with a wide range of skills and technical knowledge. Know about local resources that support seniors in your area, including nonprofits, senior centers, libraries, and virtual class options like peer-led classes.
- The idea that the Internet is for young people: There is a misconception that technology and the Internet are for the younger generations. âGranfluencersâ – older influencers on Instagram – and empowered seniors are proving this stereotype wrong. Seniors also hone their social media skills in communities like Stitch and share them in intergenerational groups like Meetup.
While the barriers are high, there are some innovative resources that can help older people confidently navigate technology. Empowering learning opportunities can help older people at all stages of aging to thrive. Virtual social engagement can help address social isolation and loneliness when home care services are not available.
Use local resources
It all starts with education. When home care patients, staff and community members know the resources available to seniors in their area, they can create change together.
For example, the Orange County Board of Directors in California has taken important steps to help bridge the digital divide for the more than 600,000 seniors in that county. The Board of Directors has set aside $ 2.4 million to provide iPads, data plans, device training, technology support and lifelong learning through a subscription to our interactive virtual classroom platform called GetSetUp. GetSetUp offers interactive virtual lessons live on a personalized video platform for seniors. Our classes are taught by older experts in the field so members can learn and practice technological skills and join their peers in health and wellness classes and other mental enrichment activities. Orange County provides the tools seniors need to connect with people around the world from anywhere.
Home care businesses that connect to local resources can ensure their customers have the internet and digital devices they need. This opens up a whole new world of experiences for seniors on community-based interactive educational platforms. Rather than being alone when a caregiver is not at home, older people can be empowered to learn technology, socialize, share ideas, and improve their health and well-being.
Technology makes home care more accessible
The technology is not only intended for people receiving home care, but can also be used to help home care workers with essential care tasks. The use of advanced technology can help home care workers, caregivers and those involved in care coordinate with each other and reduce their stress levels.
There are three key technologies that aid in the delivery of care.
Smartwatches can be used to track and monitor the health of people in care. Coordinating access to this information can improve overall health. Some devices can call in an emergency, share locations, or add monitoring apps. Other apps can help monitor care and set reminders for medications and appointments.
Telehealth services, combined with data from portable devices, can help doctors and nurses monitor a patient’s rehabilitation or daily life. This can help avoid unnecessary trips to the hospital and ensure that patients receive the care they need at the first sign of a problem.
There are many applications that can help with home care management and caregiving, such as:
- Benevolent villageâStores important documents in one place to create a care team and coordinate care. It tracks care items such as food, groceries, transportation, and medication reminders.
- Lotsa’s helping handsâCreate a community of care. Invite family, friends, volunteers and caregivers to help manage appointments, errands and more.
- Discussion of dementiaâHelp families care for loved ones living with Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias. It includes behavior monitoring, a care plan, medication lists and a planner.
- CK LifeâOn-demand service to request qualified care.
- eCare21âRemotely monitor a person’s medical data through portable devices that capture and share health information.
- My medicationâSchedule medication reminders that are sent via SMS. When a person has taken the medicine, they answer âyesâ. Family and caregivers can be added to the monitoring list to receive notification if patients have not taken their medications.
Lifelong learning and technology are essential in solving the problems that limit the independence, connectivity and access to essential resources of older people. A learning community that is both virtual and in-person can help make aging more fair and fun (and less stressful for social workers). Communities that are connected by learning and technology provide peace of mind for home care workers and family members of the elderly when they cannot be present.