4 Ways Technology can Improve Mental Health for the Elderly

July 23, 2013

by Chris Wensink

As the population of baby boomers continues to climb the demand for quality health care facilities also continues to grow.  According to the numbers, an estimated 78 million baby boomers will be over the age of 65 by the year 2030.  With Alzheimer and Dementia on the rise, this will triple the demand for health care workers, and put an increased strain on the approximate one million workers that are involved in direct care of the elderly.  In order to relieve that burden and increase patient satisfaction, modern technologies are being used to reconnect families and loved ones.  Here are four ways technology can improve mental health for the elderly.

Video Chat brings daily conversations

One of the easiest ways for the elderly to stay in good health is to stay in contact with younger family members.  If you can’t be together in person, then Video Chat may be a great option.  Devices such as webcams, with Skype, and FaceTime have made it easier than ever to start a video conversation, where you can see your family members from miles away.  When I start a Skype session with my grandparents, nothing brightens their faces more than seeing the great grand kids and how they are growing and talking and learning more every day.

If you have an elderly parent or grandparent living in an assisted living facility or nursing home, check if the facility has wireless internet access available for residents.  If it is, a tablet PC would be an easy way to make conversations like this possible.

Online games opens community

For years my grandfather always said “I’ll never get into that computer stuff, I don’t need any of that, who would want to sit at the computer for hours and hours at a time and do that stuff.”  Despite this resistance, about ten years ago My cousin and I built a desktop PC for my grandfather, and taught him how to get on the Internet and how to play Sheepshead on Yahoo games.  My grandfather loves playing cards, especially Sheepshead.  After a few weeks of getting used to getting on the Internet he got into Yahoo Games.

After a few months of gaming, we had to get my grandparents a new phone line because my grandfather would be dialed up to the internet for hours at a time playing games.  Eventually we got them a broadband connection, and now that he’s living in an assisted living facility, he continues to enjoy playing card games on a laptop, with 20,000 sheepshead games played on yahoo games.

Online gaming communities can be a fun and engaging place for the elderly to connect with new people and enjoy an activity they already love in a whole new way.

Wii Bowling Leagues strike a note

In 2006 Nintendo, a Japanese based video game manufacturer introduced the Nintendo Wii, a whole new Nintendo that with a motion sensitive remote, along with several fun sports games including Wii Bowling.  Since that time thousands of seniors have recognized the fun and enjoyment of bowling on the wii.  Wii bowling is easier than traditional bowling because it doesn’t require the physical movement or the strength to hold a heavy bowling ball, making it a perfect game for seniors in skilled nursing facilities.  Today the sport has grown to form the National Senior League, a national organized League of Wii Bowlers with 280 teams, and over 1500 players registered to compete in the 2013 National Senior League Championships with players participating from 31 different states and 110 communities.

Wii Bowling is a great way to enjoy a great American Sport even as an older adult.

Social Networks Re-connect loved ones

Social Networks like Facebook are a great way for loved ones to enjoy pictures and details of different family member’s lives.  While this is not as personal as a face to face visit, social networks can still provide some opportunities to connect by sharing funny stories of pets, and fun things that family members have enjoyed together in the past.

Facebook also has an integrated instant messenger built in, allowing for real time conversations to take place between loved ones.

No matter what ways you choose to engage with your loved ones, be sure to share that you love them, and that you wish the best for them at the end of their lives.

Image Credit: Nwardez