Michael McCann

Some say that seniors and technology mix about as well as oil and water. But times sure have changed as life enrichment teams are starting to embrace and promote the latest technologies to impact the residents they serve.

This past March marked the 25th anniversary of the World Wide Web. While seniors may not be as tech-savvy as the younger generations, they are utilizing the technology more every day. According to a recent survey study through Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project, adults ages 50 and older have nearly doubled social networking use among Internet users from 22% to 44%. Nearly two-thirds of peoples ages 64 and up are using Facebook as their primary social media outlet. A UCSF study showed an increase in brain function for older adults playing mind games on tablets and smart devices. Gaming company PopCap (who makes the game Bejeweled) found that out of over 150 million users, 47% are older than the age of 50.

So we know that incorporating smart devices into programming offers benefits for improved decision making, visual recognition and hand-eye coordination but also can help buffer loneliness.

So how can life enrichment teams in long-term care start to embrace this idea? Puzzles, trivia and brain games are a given. How about using a tablet to make Skype or FaceTime phone calls with loved ones across the country? You can also set up specific Pandora radio stations custom designed for an individual resident’s tastes. This can help start you off with some music therapy. XBOX Kinnect and gaming systems can help residents perform in games and sports they may have not participated in for many years.

As technologies continue to develop, our residents’ needs also change. The need for a computer lab is waning as our residents are starting to be more tech-savvy. Residents are increasingly having their own devices and personal computers. Life enrichment teams need to stay abreast on this every changing landscape to make wise financial judgments on which technologies will make the biggest impact or perhaps be a fad. This will help keep activity teams thinking creatively and allowing residents to learn what is new which helps them stay young and relevant.

Michael McCann, MS, is the director of lifestyles for Friendship Senior Options. He can be reached at [email protected]