Technology: The Cure for Seniors’ Social Isolation?
Specially designed computing systems help senior battle loneliness.
May 05, 2010 by Lisa Montgomery

The number of seniors who choose to age at home rather than at an assisted care facility is on the rise. According to Grand Care Systems, a manufacturer of digital home health tech for the elderly, 89 percent of Americans don’t want to leave their homes when they age.

Due to this, seniors need technology. Monitoring systems that can help them maintain a healthy, independent lifestyle is important, and can often be the main focus of caregivers looking for support. Just as important, though, are technologies that can minimize the social isolation seniors often feel as they age in place.

Broadband access is a good first step toward battling loneliness, says Brian Bischoff, president and CEO of Healthsense. “It’s a great avenue for socializing and staying connected.” The trick is finding a computer system that can provide seniors with an easy, non-threatening link to the Internet.

You can go one of two ways, says Peter Radsliff, chairman of the Aging Technology Alliance: add specially configured software to a standard PC or buy a completely new computer system that’s been designed for seniors.

My Gait, for example, offers a turnkey solution of hardware, software and support with its Go PC. The system has all of the functionality of a standard Internet-connected PC, says company CEO Jeff Hill. “Users can still surf the web, send and receive emails, visit Facebook and go to You Tube—we just simplify the process.” My Gait accomplishes this through a color-coded keyboard and customized on-screen interface. Information is displayed in large fonts and buttons, and portions of the screen can be zoomed in up to 200 percent (see images below).

Another important feature is 24/7 customer support. Users can speak with a live representative; any problems can be handled through remote access to the PC. The Go PC is available from First Street for $879; the monthly service fee is $19.95. 

For seniors who already own a PC, BigScreenLive offers a downloadable software application that takes over the screen on a Windows PC. Users can still access everything they could before; the interface, made up of larger icons in a friendlier format, just makes it easier. Plus, the software (about $10 a month) protects the PC from unsolicited email, viruses, phishing and pop-up advertisements.

Be sure to catch our Digital Home Health Tech feature in the July issue of Electronic House magazine for more technologies that can help seniors stay at home.

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Lisa Montgomery - Contributing Writer
Lisa Montgomery has been writing about home technology for 15 years, with a focus on the impact of electronics on a modern lifestyle.

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