As they age, many older adults naturally gravitate to staying home more. Retired from a lifetime of work, seniors can choose their times to go out in the world, often preferring to stay away from the bustling crowds. With less and less active human contact with people as they age, the risk exists of feeling isolated and experiencing side effects such as depression, anxiety and mental strain from being alone more often.
While staying at home may be best for your comfort level, it’s important to rely on the network you have established over the years to prevent feelings of isolation from growing. This network should consist of your family and friends, shopping and ride-sharing assistance, and perhaps even medical providers who can offer telehealth options and mail-order prescriptions that make it easier for you to get the health care you need as safely as possible.
Staying connected through social media has been a boon to the senior community. Facebook and Instagram allow you to see pictures and videos of family and friends and to participate in groups that share your hobbies, your likes or simply your community. Whatever your interests are, there is definitely a group for it – or if not, you can start one of your own!
Videoconferencing technologies such as Skype and Zoom allow you to reach out to loved ones using reliable methods that have been used in business for years. You can check in with your friends and family “in person” when physical visits aren’t practical. And don’t forget about the good old-fashioned phone call – keep your network energized by picking up the phone and calling your children, friends, or anyone else you want to talk to.
Text messaging is a favourite way to stay connected with loved ones, especially the younger generation. If you have grandchildren, then texting may be the only way you stay in contact with them these days, so use it. Today’s smartphone is an entire desktop that offers multiple engagements for your time, ranging from games to meditation apps, daily reading, verses or thoughts of the day, books, videos, reminders, shopping and much more. Invest time in your phone, and it will pay back.
Voice Assisted Technology
Another good way to keep your mind and spirit engaged is to use voice-assistive technology. Devices such as Amazon’s Alexa or Apple’s Siri can provide information, entertainment, music, and even key services such as contacting a family member or reminding you to take your daily medications. These voice-responsive programs can well fill the role of companion to those who live alone, and the development of AI is adding ever more sophistication.
Reduce Social Isolation
Studies have shown that these contemporary information and communication technologies can reduce social isolation in the elderly population, so find one that you like and use it. These vocal helpers can answer any question, read books to you, keep a running shopping list, tell jokes, give you a weather report, play your favourite music, and provide you with electronic company throughout your day.
Similar to this kind of assistive technology is the wearables such as smartwatches and medical alert systems for older adults. Smartwatches are so much more than watches now; they are computers that you can wear on your wrist. You can check your email, answer texts verbally and much more using a smartwatch. Life alert systems are wristbands or pendants that function to keep seniors safer while living alone.
These devices are dedicated to providing a lifeline to seniors who have an emergency while living alone. If you fall or have any other kind of medical event such as a stroke, these alert systems can reach 911 with the touch of a button. And technology is racing beyond the need to touch a button for medical monitoring, as algorithms and AI offers system that can be added to the home, or fitted in during the aging in place remodeling, which can not only detect medical situations (including a fall) but also even predict one.
Another way to keep depression and anxiety at bay while staying home is through telehealth or telemedicine for routine issues and for consultation with a health professional or therapist. Telemedicine involves communicating with your health care providers over the Internet via HIPPAA-compliant video systems, for services such as checkups, sick visits, physical therapy, home health, and for mental health and counseling issues. Most health care providers have their own video systems, configured to ensure your health information stays confidential and secure, so maybe it’s time to explore a telehealth appointment.
The best way to stay mentally healthy while living alone is to utilize the many technological tools that are available to you. In addition to this, older adults also need to step outside on occasion, enjoy the fresh air, and just breathe. Even a small change of scenery can help fight off the blues and give you a fresh perspective to finish out the day with a stronger, healthier frame of mind.