Techy Gift Ideas for Older Adults

There are numerous new technologies on the market that have the capacity to improve an older adults quality of life. Simply owning a device that provides access to the Internet may be life changing. Being able to access the Internet to communicate with friends and family is only one of the numerous ways technology may better the lives of older adults.

In the spirit of the holiday season, here is an offering of tech-based devices or services that may be perfect for the older adult on your gift list.

Socialization

Reminiscence therapy promotes socialization and has the potential to increase an older adults sense of self worth. Promenade is an iPad app designed for use when visiting loved ones living with dementia or related illnesses that encourages reminiscence and helps to stimulate conversation.

Stitch is an online dating service with a twist. Created specifically for individuals age 50+, the service is not only for those looking for romance and marriage, but it also offers opportunities to find travel buddies, hiking partners and concert goers.

Independence

Live!y is a safety watch and sensors that are used to monitor behavior patterns without the use of invasive cameras. The waterproof watch has a help button for emergencies, medication reminders and can also be used as a fitness tracker.

SmartThings Hub devices allow the user to use a smartphone remotely to control and monitor their home. Depending on the kit, users may be able to use their smartphone to control lights, receive security alerts, control appliances and receive notifications when people come and go.

GreenPeak’s “Family Lifestyle Systems are built around a set of wireless …sensor nodes located throughout the home … with advanced behavior pattern recognition capabilities, that learns the normal day to day activities and behavior of people in their home. When irregular behavior or exception situations are identified, family or friends will be notified via a smartphone application that can be integrated with online messaging and social media platforms like Facebook, WhatsApp, WeChat and QQ.”

Healthcare

MedCoach Medication Reminder is a free app for smartphones that reminds you when you need to take your medication. It can also connect you to your pharmacy for prescription refills.

The AliveCor heart monitor is designed for use with mobile devices. It is intended to record, store and transfer single-channel electrocardiogram (ECG) rhythms. The AliveCor Heart Monitor also displays ECG rhythms and detects the presence of atrial fibrillation (when prescribed or used under the care of a physician).

MyVoice offers two apps that help people with speech and language challenges from illnesses such as Parkinson’s or strokes. One is an accessible talking keyboard and the other uses pictures and phrases for communication.

The new Apple Watch is coming in 2015. Besides telling time, the Apple Watch offers a full range of functions from moon phases to stock quotes. For those looking to improve their health, the all day fitness tracker collects data to measure your total body movement, the intensity of movement and how far you moved.

This being the last blog of 2014 we would like to take this opportunity to wish you a happy, healthy holiday season and all the best in 2015!

Volunteer Opportunities to Combat Social Isolation Among Older Adults During the Holiday Season.

The holiday season can be difficult for some older adults. The loss of loved ones, children who live far away or a change in residence are just some of the reasons that may lead to loneliness and isolation. In addition, Canadians winters can be particularly harsh making it difficult for those with limited mobility to get out of the house.

To promote a caring and inclusive society, many Canadians are doing their part to ensure that our older adults are not alone during the holidays. In the spirit of the season, here are some suggestions on how to reach out to potentially isolated older adults in your community.

  1. If there is a gathering with family or community that you know an older adult has been invited to, extend an offer to go with them. Night driving and slippery walks may be difficult for older adults to negotiate and discourage attendance.
  2. Look for a friendly visiting program in your community and volunteer. For example Acclaim Health in Oakville, Ontario offers a friendly visiting program that links older adults with a volunteer who typically visits once a week.
  3. There may be a diners club in your area such as Toronto’s Circle of Care. Their Let’s Get Together groups meet once a month over lunch and provide free transportation. Volunteer or offer to take someone who might benefit from some socialization and a nice meal.
  4. Local religious organizations often offer support for isolated older adults. Perhaps the organization connects individuals who require assistance attending services with volunteers.
  5. Check you municipal or regional area for events to volunteer at or attend. A great example of a community reaching out to older adults during the holiday season is the Sioux Lookout annual Christmas dinner for older adults. The event brings together religious groups, sororities, Rotary clubs, Lions clubs, Girl Guides, Masonic groups, Shriners and local businesses. They even send out meals to older adults who are unable to attend in person.

The holiday season can be a joyous time of year. Reaching out to isolated older adults in the community is an opportunity to spread the joy.

The Benefits of Volunteering

“Volunteers don’t get paid, not because they’re worthless, but because they’re priceless.” ~ Sherry Anderson

Older adult volunteers are an integral part of Canadian Society. Annually, 36% of Canadian older adults donate an average of 223 hours (2010, Statistics Canada). Every year, on December 5th, International Volunteer Day celebrates the volunteers who contribute so much to their communities.

As it turns out, volunteering has the capacity to give back to those who give so selflessly.

One of the many benefits of volunteering is social engagement. Being involved in charity work provides older adults with opportunities to become more socially active, therefore reducing the possibility of social isolation.

According to an article in the Guardian, volunteering may help to combat stress. A survey for charity Community Service Volunteers found that 62% of older adult volunteers age 65+ reported reduced stress levels. The survey also found that 48% of individuals who volunteered regularly reported feeling less depressed.

A Harvard Health Blog posting suggests that volunteering is not only good for your mind but also your body. The article reports that there is now evidence to suggest that ‘people who give their time to others might also be rewarded with better physical health—including lower blood pressure and a longer lifespan’. However, there appears to be a caveat. A 2012 Health Psychology study revealed that only the volunteers who gave their time for no personal gain (i.e. for truly altruistic reasons) showed the longevity benefit when compared to non-volunteers.

The holiday season offers so many meaningful ways for individuals to volunteer their time and energy. Looking for a meaningful way to contribute to your community? Volunteer Canada offers a Find Your Volunteer Match Online tool to help volunteers and organizations find the right match.

Winter Walking Safety

walk_like_a_penguinWinter came early in many parts of Canada this year. Freezing temperatures, snow and ice often create hazardous conditions that make it challenging for many Canadians to stay active.

To help you cope with the challenges of winter walking here are some tips from the Ontario Senior’s Secretariat, Canada Safety Council and Women’s College Hospital:

Plan ahead:

  • Keep sidewalks, steps and driveways well lit. Consider installing sensor lights.
  • Spread salt, sand or non-clumping cat litter on walkways to keep them free of ice. Carry a small bag of salt, sand or non-clumping cat litter in your pocket to spread on icy patches when out walking.
  • Carry your personal identification and a cell phone when walking alone.
  • Ask a friend or a neighbour to come along with you.
  • Plan your route. Let others know where you are going and when you will be back if you are walking alone.
  • Give yourself enough time to get where you are going without rushing.
  • Wear bright colours or add reflective material to your clothing.
  • Consider using a cane with an ice pick to help with balance (be sure to change it back indoors, picks can be slippery on hard surfaces).
  • Always replace the rubber tip on the cane before it is worn down.
  • The Canadian Physiotherapy Association suggests wearing the footwear you plan to use while walking when you adjust the height of your walking aid. To get the right height, hold the cane in the hand opposite your weak or injured side to maintain proper arm swing, improve weight shifting, and encourage a normal walking pattern. When measuring the proper height of the cane, stand tall and place the tip of the cane on the floor, approximately 15 centimetres away from your foot. With arms resting comfortably at your sides, adjust the height of the cane so that its handle is level with your wrist crease.
  • Speak to your doctor, pharmacist or local public health department about how to use your cane properly

Be Active:

  • Keep moving in the winter months to stay strong, help your balance and give you more energy.
  • Do indoor balance and stretching exercises.
  • Consider joining a balance and strength class such as Tai Chi.

Wear the Gear:

  • Cover your ears, head and fingers to avoid frostbite.
  • Wear sunglasses and a visor to reduce glare from sun and snow.
  • Dress in layers to stay warm.
  • Wear well insulated, waterproof boots with a wide low heel and a thick non-slip tread. Remove snow from boots before entering a building.
  • Consider a hip protector (a lightweight belt or pant with shields to guard the hips). It can help protect the hips against fractures and give added confidence.

Walking on Ice:

  • On icy surfaces, take small flat-footed steps.
  • Walk at a slower pace.
  • First, slow down and think about your next move. Keeping your body as loose as possible, spread your feet to more than a foot apart to provide a base of support. This will help stabilize you as you walk. Next, keep your knees loose and don’t let them lock. If you can, let them bend a bit. This will keep your centre of gravity lower to the ground, which further stabilizes the body. Now you are ready to take a step. Make the step small, placing your whole foot down at once. Then shift your weight very slowly to this foot and bring your other foot to meet it the same way. Keep a wide base of support.
  • Some people prefer to drag their feet or shuffle them. If this feels better to you, then do so. Just remember to place your whole foot on the ice at once and keep your base of support approximately one foot wide.

Often community services offer help with snow removal and transportation. Contact your local municipality for information.