It’s no secret that the explosive rise of technology in recent decades has drastically changed the landscape of our everyday world. So it shouldn’t come as a surprise that advancing technology has a particularly far-reaching impact on members of the older generations. Today’s seniors are using this world of new possibilities to live longer, more independent and fulfilling lives.
According to their website, the MIT AgeLab “…is a multidisciplinary research program that works with business, government, and NGOs to improve the quality of life of older people and those who care for them.” Developed by Hartford Funds, in partnership with the MIT AgeLab, quality of life measures for seniors can often be broken down into three simple categories, Who will change my lightbulbs? How will I get an ice cream cone? Who will I have lunch with?
Let’s take a closer look at what these questions mean in practice, and how technology is answering them in ways we couldn’t have imagined a few short years ago.
Who will change my lightbulbs?
Easily one of the biggest challenges for aging seniors, their loved ones, and their caregivers is striking the right balance between independence and practicality for their living situation. Ease of accessibility, condition of the home, and proximity to services in case of an emergency are all concerns that could easily push someone out of living independently before they’re ready or willing to do so.
Smartphone applications however, are tipping those scales by adding convenience, services, and peace of mind right at fingertips of users. For instance, health monitoring and reporting applications can track vital health information, send reports to caregivers, and automatically alert emergency services if something seems amiss. Seniors can live-chat online with doctors, renew prescriptions, and set up delivery, all from the comfort of home. Mobile banking, email, and delivery services simplify day-to-day errands, and programs like TaskRabbit help users quickly hire for jobs around the house, allowing them to remain independent, while also adding peace-of-mind to loved ones.
How will I get an ice cream cone?
According to AAA, older Americans who have stopped driving are almost 2x more likely to suffer from depression and nearly 5x as likely to enter a long-term care facility compared to those who remain behind the wheel.
So how can we empower older generations to safely drive as long as they can, and also provide practical alternatives for when they don’t want to or no longer can?
While continued developments in light rail and other public transportation options have our urban centers more accessible than ever, ride-sharing apps like Uber and Lyft have expanded that ease outward into the suburbs, and for many people can reduce or eliminate the need for a car altogether.
For folks that are still driving, vehicles of today come armed with a number of high-tech safety improvements. Things like blind spot and lane-departure warnings and autonomous breaking can make driving on our busy, crowded roads easier and safer.
Who will I have lunch with?
A vibrant social life and community engagement is essential for anyone’s happiness and fulfillment, and seniors are no exception! The thriving social media scene makes it easy to stay in touch with friends and family both near and far, but this isn’t the only way technology equips the older generation to stay connected.
After the market volatility and changes in the economy we’ve seen over the last decade, Baby Boomers are rapidly rewriting the narrative of the “Golden Years”.
In fact, 65% of Boomers plan to work past age 65
or do not plan to retire at all!
The rise of the gig economy makes it easier for them to work flexibly, remotely, and on the projects they care most about. Additionally, extensive options for continuing education online help seniors continue learning and engaging with like minded individuals all over the world, and far later in life than was previously considered to be the norm.