“Mr. Watson, come here. I want you.” When Alexander Graham Bell uttered those words in 1876 to his assistant over the device he had just invented, it is doubtful he could have even begun to envision the telephone’s amazing evolution over the next century and a half – or all of the other technology that enriches and simplifies our lives today.
From video chatting and food delivery to online shopping and smart home hubs, there’s an app (or website or other program) for seemingly every task under the sun – and more and more seniors are taking advantage of these tools. According to data from AT&T, the vast majority of people 65 and older use a smartphone to access the internet daily. Nearly 70% of seniors have social media accounts, 95% own a cell phone, and 94% say the internet makes it easier to find information.
Video calling platforms like Facetime – or the new phone and messaging system which will soon be rolled out at Lexington Squares in Elmhurst and Lombard – make it easier than ever for seniors to stay connected with friends and loved ones who may be far away or just unable to get together in person. Grandparents and grandchildren can join video chats to read stories, play games, catch up on their days, listen to music, go on virtual museum visits or watch movies together – and even the youngest participants can wave, smile and play peek-a-boo with the delighted recipient on the screen. In addition to facilitating video chats, Lexington Squares’ new system will allow residents of the vibrant senior living community to chat and share pictures in online groups with other residents with similar interests, easily check the daily dining room menu and robust activities schedule, and more.
Alexa and Siri have become household names in recent years, and with good reason; these and other voice-activated virtual assistants can not only assist with a wide variety of tasks to help seniors stay vibrant and independent – such as reading recipes aloud while cooking or baking, sharing the weather forecast or the latest news, narrating audiobooks, summoning a rideshare or navigating from one location to another while driving – they can also be connected to other smart devices to allow seniors to operate their televisions and thermostats, track their health and fitness, vacuum and mop floors, issue medication reminders (yes, there are smart pill bottles and digital medication dispensers now!), see and talk to someone at their door, feed their pets, even locate lost items such as wallets and keys – all without lifting a finger.
Need to make a run to the grocery store or your favorite restaurant to get dinner or the fixings? Maybe not, now that apps like GrubHub, UberEats, Amazon Fresh and DoorDash – along with various grocery store websites and apps – have made it possible to order online and have items delivered to your home. Want the enjoyment of cooking without the hassle of planning or shopping? A plethora of meal-kit subscription services are on call, and depending on which one you choose, you can even get wine paired with your food, have all of the prep taken care of, select from a variety of vegan dishes, and more. Lexington Squares residents have it even easier when it comes to meals, as they can enjoy two healthy, chef-prepared selections daily in the communities’ restaurant-style dining rooms.
Technology can play a crucial role in helping to keep seniors safe, with a wide variety of available options such as a medical alert system that conducts regular wellness checks or calls for help automatically if a fall is detected; an integrated home security system; or monitoring services designed to protect seniors from identity theft. On the lighter side, smartphones, tablets and other devices can offer fun and games, as well, with a plethora of leisure options for seniors to enjoy such as completing crosswords, playing chess and other board games, learning a new language or skill, taking virtual tours of museums or other cultural attractions, enjoying an online concert or other performance, or checking out and reading e-books from the local library. The Elmhurst Public Library and Helen Plum Library in Lombard, for instance, both offer a robust selection of digital materials in a variety of genres.
Alexander Graham Bell may not have foreseen the dazzling array of technology available to us in 2021, but would he have nodded in approval – and amazement? That seems like the right call.
“We launched our Lex and Learn educational series to share information about topics that are relevant to seniors,” said Dee Novak, senior director of sales and marketing for Lexington Square Senior Living Communities. “With more than 30 years of experience in senior living, we feel honored but also responsible for helping to make sure area seniors have access to important information. Monthly, we have experts in various fields coming to lead these educational seminars.”