Recent stats indicate that 70% of Americans age 50 and older now use smartphones, and 60% use social media sites (especially Facebook). What the stats don’t tell, however, is how well seniors are actually harnessing the power of the Internet and modern technology in order to embrace independent living.
So with that, we wanted to take a look today at a few of the easiest and most impactful ways for seniors to use apps and Web-based services to streamline their days, increase productivity and efficiency, keep in touch with friends and family, and have more fun every day.
Now because these technologies can be considered “beginner level” in nature, they can be useful even for tech-averse seniors, and they actually make pretty good starting points for those who are still a little shy about using computers and/or smartphones.
Audio & Video Communication Apps
FaceTime and Skype are probably the two most popular applications, or apps, for keeping connected with out-of-town friends and family members. By enabling streaming video from one device (computer, smartphone, tablet, etc.) to another, it’s possible to connect with friends or loved ones anytime, and from anywhere in the world.
Perhaps best of all, it’s free to call over wireless networks, too. So if you have an Internet-connected device, FaceTime, which comes standard on iPhones, or Skype, which can be downloaded for free from the App Store (for Apple products) or Google Play Store (for all others), deliver must-have technological capabilities any parent or grandparent really needs in this day and age.
Transportation & Ride-Sharing Platforms
Uber and Lyft are the two leaders in the transportation and ride-sharing space. When downloading these apps and using their services, fellow citizens act as a hired chauffeur, driving their personal vehicles to the exact pick up location and then to the requested destination, whether it’s a regular trip to the mall or grocery store, or a special occasion like a party, art or music event, going to the airport to catch a flight, or most anything else.
Prices for Uber and Lyft rides are traditionally much lower than cab fares or other private transportation services, and because payment is by a credit card that users specify in the app, no cash ever changes hands. While upscale senior living communities tend to offer chauffeured transportation to at least some popular retail and dining destinations, ride-sharing services are seen as a viable alternative if ever driving oneself isn’t possible, or just not desired.
Online & Mobile Banking
Web sites and mobile apps offered by virtually all reputable banking institutions now allow for account management, electronic fund transfers, bill payment, check deposits, and many more convenient transactions with only a few clicks or finger taps.
Modern technologies can also be useful for setting up an automatic bill payment, virtually eliminating the need to ever again sit down and write out checks for monthly utilities, rent, or other regular payments, then address, stamp and seal envelopes and find a place to mail them.
Adopting online and mobile banking is a fast and highly convenient way to save time each week, clearing the way for more leisure and relaxation, and fewer tedious obligations to tend to.
Leave it to the Internet to render convenient stores, well, a lot less convenient. Nowadays, it’s often easier and most convenient to skip the trip to the store altogether and order items like household products, cosmetics, and even groceries online and have them delivered right to you.
For seniors especially, utilizing e-commerce sites to streamline personal and grocery shopping can eliminate one or more trips to the store each week, and might even help save money on products most folks tend to use every day.
Choices may include:
- Amazon: The world’s leading retailer offers outstanding pricing and product selection, and by enrolling in programs like Amazon Subscribe & Save, it’s possible to save up to 15% each time for items like pet food and treats, coffee pods, toiletries, and thousands more. Shipping is free and orders can be scheduled each month all the way up to every six months. Frequent customers may join Amazon Prime and access even more benefits for an annual fee of around $100.
- Grocery Apps: While full-service grocery shopping and delivery solutions are out there, grocers’ mobile apps allow customers to place deli and prepared food orders in advance, plus access all the available coupons to save time and effort both at home and once they arrive at the store.
- Prescriptions: Pharmacies and mail-order services allow customers to refill prescriptions in just a few clicks using their web sites and mobile apps. And the ability to set up auto refills and even home delivery means tech-savvy seniors can now skip those regular trips to the pharmacy, too.
Games and Entertainment
Besides being functional, today’s technology can be fun, too. Using smartphones and tablets, it’s easy to download and play games, everything from word and number puzzles, to casino-style games, and all the candy- and soda-themed games that are so popular.
There’s also on-demand, instant access to news, video, and content on just about anything. No surprise, then, that it’s easy to spend hours during the day or night glued to a phone or tablet screen.
In all, the ability to play games and use today’s technology for fun makes a fine complement to the function and utility it brings to other facets of life. Inevitably, not all seniors will be familiar or comfortable using new technologies (especially at first), but the relative simplicity and overwhelming popularity of these tools and services mean there’s always going to be someone around who can lend a helping hand to seniors who are interested in trying them out.
Here’s hoping that more seniors push through any lingering fears or trepidation about today’s technology because it really does have the power to improve all of our lives.