The Case for Tablets in Senior Living

In their efforts to stay current, seniors often are held back by the “digital divide” – the inability to effectively access the latest technology capabilities. One potential fix: The simple tablet.

Michigan State University researchers say these easy-to-use devices can help seniors stay plugged in. “In addition to being smaller, lighter and more portable, tablets allow people to maneuver online without having to move and click a mouse,” the researchers find.

How exactly can tablets help to enhance the senior living experience?

Social experience.

Seniors often feel isolated from friends and loved ones. They may be physically removed from family, unable to travel with ease. Technology can help open up social connections through tools such as email, text and video chat. Still, the complexities of navigating a desktop can prove intimidating. Tablet apps often can simplify interactions, with large buttons, clear visuals and an interface designed to make connecting easier. An intelligent communications portal within a senior residence can make these social interactions easier still.

Wellness.

Tablet-based applications can also aid in sustaining senior wellness, without putting additional burdens on staff. By making information directly available to residents, the tablet can significantly enhance efficiency within a residence. One common function is the medication reminder: A mobile, easy-to-read schedule can make it easier for residents to take their pills on time. A tablet can also present a wellness schedule, reminding a resident of upcoming doctor visits and suggesting relevant exercises and other steps to take to ensure ongoing wellness. Here again, it is the tablet’s small form factor and easy portability that make it a natural choice.

Community.

Tablets also can help to foster an important sense of community within a senior residence. Despite living in close proximity and typically dining together, seniors may not interact very much in the course of a day. Housing operators can help to bring people together, creating a more vibrant social atmosphere, by scheduling games, activities and a range of social opportunities. For this effort to be effective, though, seniors must be aware of what is available, and they may require some reminding. Tablets can help, especially when tied to a sophisticated communications portal. Property managers can program the portal with a detailed calendar for the community, and then use outreach functionality to push dates and reminders out to residents. With tablets in hand, residents are more apt to be aware of upcoming events and to make themselves available.

Many of these functions could be performed through other devices – but not as successfully. Desktop machines are fixed in place and may not be available when and where seniors need them. Smart phones are powerful but may have interfaces that are difficult to navigate.

Tablets help seniors to cross that digital divide. They travel with the resident, have easy-to-use interfaces and can be loaded with a range of applications. For senior housing executives looking to break down isolation, boost wellness and build community, tablets are a tool worth exploring.

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