Social Tech

What Older Adults Should Know About Using New Technology Products

I know how you feel: You’re excited to bring your parent or grandparent the newest tablet/phone/Alexa-style tech that will absolutely make their lives so much easier. You’ve spent hours setting it up with all the pictures, apps, sounds, contacts, and games you know they’ll love. Then nothing. They don’t like it. It’s too complicated. Pretty soon the fancy gadget is collecting dust, and your great ideas about how mom/grandma/aunt would use the gadget are kaput.

What’s different now? We’re in the middle of a deadly pandemic that’s targeting vulnerable populations. Over 40,000 seniors in assisted living facilities and nursing homes died from COVID-19 by June. Technology, specifically wearables, telehealth, and comprehensive contact tracing, are all critical right now for effective senior care. Seniors need to know how to use technology and get the most from it. So that gadget that was rejected despite your best intentions? Well, that technology is going to help them, so it’s time for the seniors in your life to get on board.

I know how hard it can be for anyone to embrace something new and that’s particularly true for seniors who are being introduced to new products. Here’s what the senior you love needs to know:


Just like your Apple Watch or Fitbit, be on the lookout for simple wearable devices for seniors that can be personalized as part of bands and necklaces. Some features that work particularly well on these wearables are a simple braille-style dot which helps the visually impaired identify where to press to alert staff and a blue light that blinks once the device has been pressed. Worn all the time thanks to a long battery life and waterproof design, seniors who wear these lightweight devices love how much easier their daily routines instantly become. Being able to unlock your apartment door from six feet away without having to fumble around with a key or a card? Done. Calling a nurse with a press of a button in case of a fall or if you’ve wandered off? Couldn’t be easier.


Getting out and about isn’t just a hassle these days — for seniors, it’s impossible. Seniors need medical care and regular monitoring. The most effective and safe way to keep in touch with their off-site medical team is with telehealth. Telehealth isn’t just a typical video call. Instead, physicians can use it for remote patient monitoring to easily view all recent patient vitals such as temperature, weight, oxygen levels and more. Seniors can add family members to their video calls with providers to ensure everyone knows exactly what is happening.

Concerned family members who are still limited in seeing their loved ones will be more at ease knowing they can monitor activity, needs, and health at any time. They can view changes in patterns that might indicate a need for additional care or a call to the physician.

Analyzing telehealth usage by Medicare participants during the early stages of the coronavirus pandemic, the Department of Health and Human Services found the participation and satisfaction results so promising that they began to encourage more funding for expanding telehealth services and expanding new telehealth platforms to be HIPAA-compliant even after the crisis has subsided. For seniors this means that inevitably telehealth will become, to some degree at least, a regular part of their ongoing health monitoring.

Contact tracing

Contact tracing is probably one of those terms that you hadn’t ever heard of until the coronavirus pandemic upended all of our lives. But, as we are all quickly learning and assimilating to this new normal, contact tracing and the ability to literally trace person by person who has been in direct contact with an infected individual is absolutely crucial to stomping out the spread of COVID-19.

However, in senior care communities, contact tracing isn’t new at all. With any vulnerable community, like seniors, staff know they must move fast to wipe out any contagious illness and disease. To address this, complete dashboards are designed to be the ultimate contact tracing tool, with the ability to track movement, locations and interactions of residents and staff with unparalleled ease.

If there’s a coronavirus outbreak at a senior community that has this type of holistic system, the staff can easily see which residents were in recent contact with the COVID-positive individual, where they were, for how long, and then map out every other contact. From there, it becomes much easier to test, isolate and treat any potentially infected residents and keep the virus from spreading. This technology is so important that major corporations and even small countries like Singapore are beginning to use this type of holistic tracing and tracking technology to eliminate COVID.

Just the facts

Despite everything we know about COVID-19 and how senior communities can use technology with residents to successfully eliminate it, there’s still the problem of getting your loved one on board. We at Intrex, a tech spinoff of an experienced senior care company headquartered in Reston, Virginia, suggest a “just the facts” approach. Don’t try to dazzle them — they’ll catch on to just how cool this stuff is when they don’t have to remember a key to their apartment or carry a list of all their medications. Keep it simple and approachable, and let them know you, their doctors and caregivers are there to answer any questions.

Keep it simple: Connect with friends and family using Caribu on computers, phones, or tablets! Read, color, and play together in an interactive video-call.

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Lacy Roberts, What Older Adults Should Know About Using New Technology Products, September 18th, 2020,