How Can Technology Boost Social Connection For You & Your Loved One?
Technology can benefit both caregivers and the people they care for. But, how?
Well, by using technology to nurture social connections and gain social support - both caregivers and the loved one they’re caring for can avoid social isolation and loneliness.
Social connection and the ability to build social relationships through social media, online support groups, and taking part in a social network can be hugely beneficial.
Here are some grave statistics that depict how serious the effects of social isolation can be:
Social isolation and loneliness can have the same health impact as smoking 15 cigarettes per day
Social isolation costs Medicare $7 billion annually
The good news? Innovation and growth in social connection technology have accelerated in the past few years due to COVID-19.
From voice assistants, tablets, and apps to online tech support and artificial intelligence: the options for social interaction are more varied than ever.
Let’s explore some ways technology can help improve social engagement for you and your loved one.
1. Voice Assisted Care
As a caregiver, you want to be everywhere at once – but it is physically impossible.
However, with the growth of voice-first care hubs, you can be virtually together while physically apart. Here is a range of services to choose from:
Alexa Together uses the Echo device and the Alexa application to provide a range of support services, alerts, activities, and even fall detection.
LifePod is a caregiving platform that can increase social engagement while monitoring your loved one’s medical needs.
BrioCare provides personalized care routines, reminders, wellbeing updates as well as video chats, and social programming. It offers a mix of safety, well-being, and social engagement such as games, music, trivia, and photo sharing.
When deciding on the right voice-assisted care for you and your loved one, your decision should come down to the services and support you need, the technology used, and the costs associated.
2. Video & Virtual Connections
As senior living communities learned during the pandemic, connecting virtually via a video call can be safer than the risk factors associated with seeing family and close friends face to face. Connecting virtually can be a lifeline for an older adult looking for more social connections, emotional support, or even medical assistance.
Strong social connections can be achieved on one-on-one or social group virtual calls and can provide your loved one with a sense of belonging.
What are the determinants for your loved one not using technology so far? It may help to consider what roadblocks stand in the way of your loved one using technology on their own.
While social media and video conferencing have had the reputation of being used mainly amongst young people and young adults, that couldn’t be further away from the truth.
Considering what your loved one may struggle with before them placing a virtual call to a relative or friend, will help you as their caregiver better prepare and know what adaptive technology to invest in.
For example, if you’re caring for your grandfather who's looking to connect to his out-of-state grandkids, then he may require a different type of technology solution than a tablet that’s mainly used for online learning and conferences.
Here are two devices that could help your loved one make virtual calls:
A GradPad is an easy-to-use tablet for older adults placing video calls, sharing photos, and built-in security.
Tablets from iPad to Lenovo and Samsung – all offer a range of features for everything from sharing care schedules to family video chats to posting a picture at a variety of price points.
3. Tech Training & Support
For caregivers as well as the loved one they support, connecting via video is vital to staying connected.
A vital way to understand current technology and stay engaged is by receiving tech training and support. Teaching technology to your elder loved one can be challenging. However, training your loved one on technology can help take some of the burdens off of you in the long run and can help build their self-esteem around using different types of technology.
Virtual training options have increased due to the growth of video conferencing solutions during the pandemic and the need for physical distancing.
Let’s review two helpful tech training options for you and your loved one to consider.
GetSetUp offers a range of classes on tech topics like iPhone upgrades, Zoom meetings, Google drive basics, and internet safety as well as forums on cooking, music, creativity, government, and performing arts.
OATS, which began life as Senior Planet, has recently joined forces with AARP and brings older adults access to technology tools. Programs are free to participants and are offered online and in person.
4. Robots, really?
Yes, really. The day of the robotic sidekick has arrived. Believe it or not, robots or artificial intelligence can improve you and your loved one’s life.
ElliQ from Intuition Robotics is the first of these companions that can have a positive impact on engagement and wellness. Included in the service are a series of wellness coach sessions, companionship and conversation, physical exercise through Silver Sneakers partnerships, health content through Mayo Clinic, appointment reminders, and a range of additional features.
Companion Pet Cats and Pups
For a more passive, cuddly companion, Ageless Innovation’s Companion Pet Cats and Pups can bring more social interaction to older adults with dementia.
Which Is The Right Tech For You & Your Loved One?
First, determine what you as your loved one’s caregiver need. For example, perhaps your physical health and mental health are being neglected due to all the strenuous caregiving duties you have on your plate.
If your cardiovascular health is suffering or if you’re struggling with high blood pressure and obesity, consider booking a virtual fitness class of your choice from the comfort of your own home for some physical activity.
If you’re looking to dedicate more time to self-care, try scheduling a virtual therapy session with a therapist of your choice. Your quality of life as your loved one’s caregiver matters. Investing in the right technology now can help pay dividends later.
In the meantime, here are some questions to consider when deciding on which tech is right for you and your loved one:
What are the top social engagement priorities for you and the person you’re caring for?
For example, does your loved one like to talk to other family members and close friends weekly? Try scheduling a virtual call for you and your loved one to virtually connect with relatives.
Will you and your loved one require tech training to use the technology?
Scheduling some time to receive tech training can help both you and your loved one use technology efficiently and in the future whether together or apart.
Is the person you’re caring for willing to use technology?
If your loved one is interested in using technology, try introducing them to technology slowly so they don’t feel overwhelmed.
While introducing your loved one to new technology, try reviewing online safety and technology tips with them so that they can steer clear of elder fraud when using a new device or application.
If your loved one has a lot of health problems and mobility issues, convincing your loved one on using technology for virtual visits with a health care provider may help them understand the value of using technology.
While your caregiving needs may change over time, technology solutions will continue to evolve. It’s important for family caregivers to be open-minded in using technology for social activities, building social ties, and improving overall social connectedness.
Finding new opportunities to involve technology in you and your loved one’s daily routine can help relieve stress and improve health outcomes for both of you.
Staying connected, engaged, and healthy is just as important for you as the caregiver as it is for the older adult you’re caring for. If your loved one is struggling with accepting technology as a way to virtually interact with others, try holding an intervention stressing how you feel it would benefit their quality of life and social capital.
By explaining your reasons thoroughly, you may receive the validation you require from your loved one to invest in the right technology for both of you. Be sure to mention how staying socially isolated from family members and close friends can have negative impacts on their health and that technology can help build those social ties again.
So no matter if you and your loved one are based in New York, and the rest of the family is located in Texas, technology can help you stay connected with relatives and friends across the world.