Guest Blog: Older Adults and “Cutting-edge” Technology

Designed by freepik.com

By Sally Hughes

What are the challenges in later life that persist as barriers to optimal creative, active aging? What are the most current technological advances that might help to increase older adults’ wellbeing? And how can older adults increase their access to the newer innovative technological products?

One of many stereotypes around aging is that seniors are resistant to new ideas and advances in technology. Not all seniors feel comfortable using technology, either because they don’t trust it or don’t understand how to use it. However, seniors were the first group to adopt wearables: in 1972, gerontologist Andrew Dibner created the Lifeline call button, a wearable emergency response system specifically designed to assist seniors.

The market of older adults (coined as the ‘silver market’ by Kohlbacher and Hang, 2011) is blossoming because their demand for new, just-good-enough, easy to use, and affordable products and services has increased so exponentially. However, research about barriers and challenges that face older adults who use technology is scarce…a lot more exploration needs to be done to ensure that the technology is accessible and easy to use, and designed with the older consumer in mind.

Today’s cohort of ‘seniors’ are functioning in a digital world where new social networks or “communities” seem to spring up on the Internet constantly. There are many social networks (groupings of individuals tied by one or more specific types of interests) available on the Internet that are useful and suitable for older adults: those living in rural areas, or who are living alone, may derive great benefit from the Internet. Social networking can be a way to meet online with local people or people from around the world. Major life changes such as relocation or divorce can leave a huge void in people’s lives, and finding a social networking site for older people can help to rebuild confidence and widen social circles.

“Baby Boomers” reconnect with old friends, make new friends, or simply to share personal information and media files (photos, videos, music) with others, all with the benefit of keeping them mentally and socially vital. As well as the large social networking sites, there is a plethora of smaller and more specialized sites that have been set up for specific interests, such as ‘Ravelry’, a site for knitters and crocheters, and ‘Bakespace’, a place to exchange recipes.

Directories are available (e.g. Wikipedia, Yahoo) to assist in finding sites. Some are:

  • Silversurfers – to connect with people from similar walks of life
  • Yahoo Groups – interests/hobbies
  • Meetup – connects with people in the community to try something new
  • seniorchatters – a place to chat, create personal blogs and join group forums
  • 50connect– living life to the full, health, entertainment, food & drink
  • Dogster – a site dedicated to dog lovers
  • Catster – a site dedicated to cat lovers
  • Hell’s Geriatrics – invites you to grow old disgracefully
  • The Oldie – an online newspaper for over 50s
  • Modern & Mature – a site aimed to help you make the most of your golden years
  • olderiswiser – branded as the ‘social networking site for grown-ups’
  • Never Mind The Bus Pass – a site aimed at those who don’t feel ‘older’
  • Gransnet – a website specifically aimed at grandparents
  • Over50sForum – a place to chat, share and make friends
  • fiftyplusforum – a forum to discuss interests and chat to others
  • Seniors.com – offers its members an online community who participate in its forums, chat functionalities, and other site-based tools designed to encourage members to share information and stories
  • ThirdAge – discusses issues concerning health, aging and retirement
  • CARP – news, games, photos, videos, or even tips on where to get discounts
  • Rezoom – to create a personal profile, share and connect with others and share photos
  • Multiply – (in use long before Facebook) has fun tools such as cards, calendars, photo editing, and more
  • Senior Chatroom – its focus is making web chat much easier and accessible to older adults
  • My Boomer Place – describes itself as a place to “meet, congregate and develop new relationships.” You can freely create your own profile and share information

Sharing links, photos, videos, news and status updates with a growing network of contacts with people of all ages can provide a valuable connection to faraway family and friends: the children and grandchildren of older adults document many aspects of their lives through social media.

There are many online forums where older Canadians are coping with challenging life situations, such as informal caregivers of a partner or parent with dementia or other health conditions, can exchange thoughts with others in similar situations, as well as receive and offer support. Older adults who experience loneliness and feelings of being isolated can connect with family and friends, as well as others in similar situations.

A variety of digital tools (‘apps’) are available on smartphones and tablets to simplify and enhance life. In addition to social media apps (Facebook, Pinterest, Whatsapp, Instagram, Snapchat) there are apps for book lovers (GoodReads, Kindle and Kobo), tools to organize shopping (Shopper app, Checkout51), health and fitness apps (FitBit, myfitnesspal, Medisafe Meds and Pills), gardening (My Garden, GrowVeg) and many more.

“Wearable technology” is creating a revolution in the way in which people can ensure their personal safety. Emergency and assistance calls can be made using everything from wearable tags to call units to mobile phones, and the tags can also track movement. There is a plethora of mobile ‘apps’ that collect data (heart rate, blood pressure, and amount of sleep.

Robot companions for older people that promote activity and attempt to address loneliness by encouraging them to take part in digital and physical activities are continuing to surface. Robot companions like the Paro (a touch-reactive electronic harp seal) have been shown to induce relaxation, reduce stress, and stimulate communication. Subsequent robots (e.g. ‘Palro’) offer to play games and dance with older adults, keeping their minds active with trivia. Home assistants such as the Amazon Echo, have been the precursors for interactive communication: these robots have voice-activated control systems and enable users to make video calls, play online games and interact on social media.

In the future, personal robots could aid older isolated people with time consuming household and personal hygiene tasks, such as showering or using the toilet, which can create an embarrassing dynamic between an older adult and the caregiver, and so also might make ideal tasks for robot care assistants. Furthermore, with the aid of personal robots, caregivers could spend more time engaging in one-on-one conversation, providing valuable social interaction.

We live in exciting times, and the potential for older adults to benefit from the new, innovative technologies is enormous! Once the research and exploration is done to ensure that the design and usability is optimized, technological ‘gadgets’ and social networking can really improve the quality of life for many older adults.

_________________________________________________________________________________
Sally is a long-term part time professor at Sheridan, teaching in the SSW/Gerontology program since 1985. After retiring from her 30-year position as a hospital/ geriatric social worker, she chose to re-enter university on her 65th birthday and has achieved her PhD in Social Dimensions of Health this past year.

Advertisements

Guest Blog: Celebrating the accomplishments of successful individuals age 50+

 

 

By Ann Hossack and Marylou Hilliard

What do Cher, Steven Spielberg and William J. Clinton have in common? They are among the first baby boomers to turn 70 during 2017. Unlike previous generations who saw milestones such as retirement or turning 70 as indicators they were approaching the end of their life; today’s boomers are vibrant, engaged and continue to make positive contributions in their professions and to society.

According to The Globe & Mail – “The Boomer Shift – January 5, 2017, “As of this year, for the first time, Canada has more people over the age of 65 than under 15. The age group that now encompasses the boomer generation – 50 to 69 – makes up 27 per cent of the population, compared with 18 per cent in that age group two decades ago”.

This aging population is changing the fabric of society; so why is it that society is still obsessed with youth – just think about all those Top 30 under 30 and top 40 over 40 lists. Traditionally, innovation and “change-making” has primarily been recognized to be within the sphere of the young.

However, individuals who are mid-life aged and beyond represent an incredible source of talent, experience and wisdom that provides them the opportunity to make a difference in their lives and to the world. They have a desire to follow their passions, fulfill lifelong dreams and improve the future for generations to come. Moreover they are among the largest group of individuals to keep philanthropic efforts and volunteerism, which are critical to societal progress alive and well.

That’s why AGEWORKS has chosen to publicly acknowledge successful accomplishments of people aged 50+; to raise awareness for this inequity and to demonstrate that older people offer a variety of innovative solutions to an array of important societal issues.

The AGEWORKS Top 50 Over 50 Awards celebrate Canadians who know who to dream, create, contribute and achieve in many different areas. Winners will be acknowledged at the inaugural Top 50 Over 50 Awards Gala being held in Toronto in November 2017.

The recipients, and their stories, will serve as inspiration to others with a message that you’re never too old to make significant changes in your career or your life via reinvention, pursue a long-held dream or redefine what it means to be successful. These amazing stories will be publicly leveraged to help combat some of the ageism myths, like over 50 means over the hill, that still exist.

Success will be measured on a variety of criteria, including finding purpose, social change, innovation and inspiring others, by a panel of independent judges who have significant expertise and involvement within the 50+ category. Selected judges recognize the importance of these awards and will bring their objectivity and enthusiasm to this essential role.

For more information or to nominate someone go to:  http://www.ageworks.co

____________________________________________________________________________________

Marylou Hilliard has over 25 years of advertising expertise and has earned a reputation as a brand champion. She has worked with a broad range of clients targeting an “ageing population” including the development of a new brand identity and design of several research reports for International Federation on Ageing and volunteer work for the Consumers Council of Canada and Psychologist Foundation of Canada.

Ann Hossack has held senior database marketing roles and has communicated effectively to consumer and business-to-business markets including those 50+ across a wide variety of industries. She believes that companies have yet to fully embrace this target group and is determined to promote the value of 50+ individuals as employees, entrepreneurs, volunteers or consumers.

Guest Blog: Tub tips for aging in place

file000975936314Bathtubs are a mixed blessing for those of us who wish to age in place. From the time we’re young, soaking in soothing hot water is associated with relaxation, stress reduction and quiet contemplation. There’s nothing like a good soak at the end of the day, as my mother always said. But as our mobility decreases, and we become less and less steady on our feet, the traditional bathtub with its high sides and slippery surfaces may become less user friendly. In fact, it may even become down right dangerous! For those older adults who would like to continue to enjoy a bath even though it has become more challenging to do so, and for those who have been prescribed bathing as a recommended part of a therapy program, selecting a safe, cost-effective and aesthetically pleasing accessible bathtub can seem overwhelming. There are just so many choices. In this article we will look at some basic tips on how to choose the right bathtub for your long-term bathing needs.

First it is important to understand that bathtubs are generally more expensive to install than a shower, and any option that requires the use of a contractor will not be cheap. According to the website homeability.com, accessible tubs may be defined by: the door type (no door, inward, outward, upwards or sideways opening doors); the entry style (walk/step-in, slide-in, lift-in); and whether the user sits or lies down inside. Below are some options to help you to refine your search:

Option 1: A “walk-in” tub: Just as the name implies, a “walk-in” tub features a side opening that swings either inward or outward and the bather walks into the tub through a very small opening by stepping over a low threshold while the tub is empty. If you are steady on your feet, this tub type reduces the chances of falling as the low threshold eliminates the need to step over the raised tub side of the traditional 30” x 60” bathtub found in so many Canadian homes. To use the tub, the bather sits on a built-in seat, closes the door, and adds hot water. The advantages afforded by this tub-type include the very low entry threshold, the molded raised seating within the tub, and the aesthetic appearance of the finished product. Of the options discussed here, this is the most aesthetically pleasing. However it is also the most expensive as units can cost between $7,000 – $20,000 to install. Why so costly? Because the contractor must remove and discard the old tub, new equipment must be purchased, and installation may require plumbing upgrades, a new tile surround and new flooring. Also consider the renovation hassle as the installation of this type of tub can take from several days to several weeks, leaving you without access to the bathroom during that time.

And then there’s the bathing experience. Bathers must enter the tub when it is empty so that the door may be secured properly. Filling and draining times can take 10 minutes or more (these tubs hold between 40 and 80 gallons of water). This can mean a very cold start and finish to your bath. Bathers are required to sit rather than recline leaving shoulders and chest exposed. And finally, for taller users, closing the door can be difficult as the space within the tub is generally very tight when sitting down.

Option 2: Modifying an existing tub: The “tub cut” alternative is particularly well suited to situations where one or more in the household wish to bathe while others wish to shower. For this option, a contractor cuts a door into the side of an existing bathtub (tub cutters can accommodate any type of tub material from cast iron to plastic) creating a low threshold for entry. The door insert may or may not swing but when sealed allows and the tub to be used as a regular bathtub. This is a much more cost-effective alternative than the walk-in tub (prices for modification start at around $1,500 and work is completed the same day) but the end result is not as aesthetically pleasing. Anyone who visits the home will immediately know that the bathroom has been modified. And many of the same issues that confront the walk-in tub user will also apply with the tub cut. This tub type also presents an additional safety hazard as the bather must raise and lower themselves into the water. Grab bars will need to be installed to ensure safety. The bottom line: the tub cut option is probably best suited for people who prefer to shower.

Option 3: Motorized bath chair: This is by far the most inexpensive, safest and easiest of the three options discussed here. The motorized bath chair is placed inside your existing bathtub. At the push of a button, the seat lowers the bather down into the water and it raises them back up at the end of the bath. There are a wide variety of tub chairs on the market, ranging in price from $200 to $500 or more (Amazon.ca has a good selection). Look for a motorized chair that ensures there is sufficient power to both lower and lift the bather before beginning the bath. Best of all, there is no need for a contractor or for any alternations to made to the bathroom. The chair can be removed and taken with you to a new location or when the time comes to sell the home.

In summary, before buying, do your research. Ask friends who have been through the experience what they have found works best, do a web search to see what others are saying about specific products, and whenever possible, try to use the product first hand before making your investment. For a more comprehensive overview of bathing solutions, including images, visit homeability.com.

_____________________________________________________________________________
Mary Jane Carroll is a professor in the Bachelor of Interior Design program at Sheridan College. She developed a specialized post-diploma program at Sheridan called “Aging
in Place Design Specialist”. Mary Jane was published in “Universal Design: Creating Inclusive Environments,” and has presented her papers on Universal Design in England and the USA.

The New Language of Aging

By now, we have all heard the term ‘boomer’ used to describe the generation of individuals born from 1946 to 1964. It appears that the aging population is giving birth to a new vocabulary, used to characterize everything from their spending habits to their personality traits. Below are some examples that have recently appeared in the media.

The Elastic Generation
The London, England branch of J. Walter Thompson Advertising, released the results of their “Intelligence report on 50- to 69-year-old Britons which identifies a compelling new consumer group: “The Elastic Generation”. Full of potential energy and wielding unprecedented financial power, these trailblazers are unapologetically shattering stereotypes of what it means to be 50+ today.”

Right Sizing
A recent article in The Financial Post commented on a survey that revealed older Canadians are increasing their debt load. “They just don’t have enough money,” said Yvonne Ziomecki, senior vice-president of marketing and sales of HomEquity Bank, of the new lifestyle seniors are aspiring to. “We have a new term we have been using, right sizing. They are not downsizing. They don’t really need bigger homes, but they move into a house that has all the upgrades”.

Seniorpreneur
As we discussed in a past blog the moniker Seniorpreneur has been coined to describe older adult entrepreneurs.

Silver Surfers
Silver Surfers has become a term used to describe the growing number of older adults who spend considerable time on the Internet.

As the population ages, the language used to represent their uniqueness will continue to build. What jargon have you heard recently related to the older adults demographic?

________________________________________________________________

Business of Aging: Information Exchange Network (BA:IEN)
Quarterly Meeting Wednesday, October 28, 2015

We are excited to present our first BA:IEN afterhours event at the Marquee Pub. Join us for a unique opportunity to mix and mingle over appetizers with business and industry leaders whose focus is on the flourishing older adult market.

To further showcase your business at this event we are offering attendees the option to reserve a display table. In exchange, we ask that a gift draw (minimum value $50) be supplied for the event. The number of display tables are limited and reserved on a first come first served basis. Reserve a table now by contacting kathryn.warrennorton1@sheridancollege.ca.

See flyer for details.

BAIEN mtg July 29_15 v1