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Staying on top of changing technology

VR headset and apps like FaceTime are changing the way seniors stay connected and live their lives

All the brand new buttons, screens, gadgets, and gizmos populating the planet these days can be confusing for folks of any age, let alone senior citizens who grew up well before the home computer went mainstream.

Keeping up with the latest changes tech advancements is daunting, but Linda Fawcus, founder of the Gluu Technology Society, said it’s a must to stay connected and to even stay healthy.

“The digital world is totally open to seniors. Without skills, they’ll be living in the dark ages of the eighties,” Fawcus said. “You don’t have to wait for holidays like Mothers Day to get a call from your family anymore – with FaceTime and smart home devices, it has opened up the possibilities of how people talk to each other.”

Gluu is a Canadian non-profit, with locations in Langley, that help teach seniors how to operate new technologies through a classroom setting.

Fawcus said the idea came to her after her 82-year-old mother was gifted an IPhone.

“She couldn’t remember how to find the home button. I said ‘Mom, I’ve told you dozens to times already’, but then I thought, hold on, I’m in the tech business,” Fawcus recounted. “If we slow down and take the time to really show seniors how to use technology, they can live longer, happier lives, in the home they want to be in.”

With the idea of making tech support stick, Fawcus said repetition and printed notes have proved to be successful methods.

The Gluu founder advised that senior’s get away from “monitors at dusty desk areas” and use a Tablet, a device with a larger screen which can be brought to a variety of different settings, as well as more comfortable locations.

Technological advancements are also going well beyond the communication and mental health front and into groundbreaking new ways related to physical well being.

Kelly Brown, program director at Langley Senior Resource Centre’s Adult Day Program said they are experimenting with virtual reality to help people with dementia.

“I’m working on head set right now for our dementia clients, but haven’t really launched it yet as we are having a bit of trouble with our network,” Brown explained. “I believe this will benefit our dementia clients to calm them in a relaxing atmosphere.”

Brown said some of the video shown ranges from sea life to skies – but a new technology, similar to Google Maps, is letting people re-visit cities and old neighbourhoods.

“People with dementia remember specifics like the farm they grew up on outside Winnipeg, but not short term things,” Brown said. “This technology can eventually allow them to see places they remember through the headset.”

The senior tech boom doesn’t stop there either.

Hearing aids such as the Oticon ConnectClipsor or the Phonak ComPilot can now connect to Bluetooth devices, allowing people to have a full telephone conversation without a receiver against their cheek.

While online medical records have made health care in itself a faster and easier process, Fawcus acknowledged the recent LifeLabs data breach, which she saw caused some hesitancy is many seniors.

“We can’t stop the process but we we are able to help people navigate through these problems when they occur,” she said. “Meeting face-to-face with your doctor over an App is coming soon, which will make is easy for seniors to have appointments.”

Operating Systems (OS) such as Google Home and Alexa have also made it easier for people to perform just about any action from playing music to following a recipe.

While medication reminders and hands free helps commands such as Life Alert can easily be programmed, Fawcus said she is hesitant to recommend OS products.

“We do not recommend them because the intention there is not to help, but to track data and sell products later,” Fawcus explained, pointing to Apple as the most security-focused company.

Personal preferences and affordability are both factors she said should be taken into account, but the bottom line is that people are living longer – a fact that can be attributed to improvements in countless technological fields.

It’s nearly impossible to say what the future has in store for people getting up there in years; but resources are out there, whether it’s a health improvement device or a class for modern communication.

It’s simply now up to the user to decide when, where, and how they can make use of what’s available in our day and age.