Technology: Connect with people and sharpen your mind

Any time someone tells me that technology is too complicated or intimidating for seniors, I tell them about my late uncle Jimmy.

Jimmy Moore was an active user of the internet to stay in touch with friends and family—even when he reached 96 years-old. By browsing the web and sending e-mails from his assisted-living community, uncle Jimmy found that technology helped him remain engaged with the world around him.

Many senior citizens have yet to fully embrace technology and all of the benefits that come with it. In fact, according to recent statistics from the Pew Research Center, only 30 percent of adults in the United States age 65 and older own personal smartphones, compared with 68 percent of the general population. A similar study by Pew found that only 48 percent of residents in the same age bracket have their own Facebook page, compared with 72 percent of the overall population.

Here are six tips for helping seniors stay engaged through technology.

  1. Create a social media profile. If you’re one of the 52 percent of seniors who don’t currently have a Facebook page, you’re missing out. Facebook allows you to instantly connect with and talk to family and friends from around the world no matter where they live. Through Facebook you can send messages, view photographs, and keep yourself updated on what others are doing.
  2. Join an online community. Through social media websites such as Facebook, a number of online communities have been created that allow you to stay connected with others who share similar interests. Users can talk about and share opinions on a broad range of topics, including movies and television shows, music, crafts and hobbies, sports, and countless others. Additionally, there are a number of online communities dedicated to smaller, more personal groups of people, such as college or high school graduating classes.
  3. Place a video call instead of a regular phone call. Smartphones, tablets, and most computers have the capability to place a video call for free so that participants on both ends can physically see who they are talking to. Services such as Facetime and Skype are free and can be used directly from your device anywhere that you have Internet access. The visual aspect can add another layer to your conversation and makes for a more personal exchange.
  4. Play interactive games to keep your wits sharp. In addition to mindless fun, smartphones, desktops and tablets offer games that have been created for the sole purpose of encouraging a brain-smart lifestyle by boosting critical thinking and memory-building and strategy skills. Organizations such as AARP and Lumosity offer a number of such games, both online and via smartphone or tablet.
  5. Get your news online. While newspapers and televised reports still offer in-depth coverage, online news sites provide much more immediate information and are updated frequently. Because of this immediacy, online news often offers the best and most timely coverage and can be a wonderful resource.
  6. Take advantage of classes. Many assisted-living residences, senior centers and public libraries offer classes and training where technology experts provide tips and tricks on how to make technology work for your lifestyle. These basic classes will show you the basics and also give you tips on how to stay safe online (online scams unfortunately do exist).

Staying connected is an important part of getting older, and as technology continues to improve, there become more ways it can benefit our lives. By experimenting with technology, you can connect with your loved ones and learn something new every day.


Richard T. Moore, who wrote this article, is a former Massachusetts state senator who sponsored legislation to encourage electronic prescribing and electronic medical records to improve care and reduce medical errors.