Engage Seniors in Activities with Tablet Computers

Seniors More in Tune with Tech Than You Think

seniors and ipads
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Lots of people have misconceptions about seniors and technology. This mistakenly think seniors don’t care about technology or lack the ability to learn new skills. Those thoughts are completely wrong and activity professionals, such as Carol Evers, Read Cloister Activity Coordinator at Bishop Gadsden Retirement Community in Charleston, SC, are using tablets to engage seniors and enhance their quality of life every day.

Let's see how they're doing it. 

We use technology in activities every day! Our favorite resource is our IPad. It can be used wonderfully both in a large group setting or 1:1. In a group, we may use it to look up current events (our favorite website is theweek.com), plug it in to our television and play games together like crossword puzzles, trivia, or Family Feud, or watch YouTube videos,” Evers said. “We also use the free streaming music site Pandora often for our exercise classes and socials. They have every genre and holiday themed music you can think of; no more listening to the same five CD’s ever again!”

One recent resident favorite activity was called the Stand Up Comedy Hour, in which residents watched old videos on YouTube from their favorite comedians like Joan Rivers, Johnny Carson, and Phyllis Diller.

The tablet also comes in handy for one-on-one visits, she said. In this care the activity staff use YouTube to show residents videos of cute things like puppies or babies laughing, which is especially wonderful for your low functioning residents, playing simple games like Tic Tack Toe or Hangman, using the Internet for Reminiscing opportunities, or setting up Skype (video chat) sessions with faraway relatives.

“In my opinion, one of the best things we have used the IPad for, has been to set up a dedicated e-mail account that our residents family members can send messages and pictures to, which we then “deliver” to them. Never underestimate the joy that can be found seeing pictures of all the grandbabies!” Evers said.

The costs to create the tablet activity program is a large upfront investment, typically anywhere front $500 to 700, which includes all of the accessories you would need, such as a good cover, an hdmi cable, and adapter to use to plug into TV, perhaps a speaker of some sort to amplify the tablet’s sound.

“I think it is well worth it. If it just doesn’t fit into your budget, you can always find creative ways to raise money for it. Host bake sales or car washes, have the residents make and sell crafts, or solicit your local venders that may come into your building for donations,” Evers said. “I cannot stress enough what a game changer having a tablet can be!”

Before you start fundraising, check with your administrator on the Wi-Fi availability in your community. It’s a problem for many older buildings, but it is expected by Boomers and other seniors who use technology every day in their own homes. It may be the marketing department has already discovered a building without Wi-Fi is a hard sell in the 21st century.

If you do not have Wi-Fi in your building, Evers said, it is still possible to incorporate tablets into your activity program. However you will need to purchase a cellular capable device, which can cost more, and then paying for the data usage each month.

Evers said she and her staff find new ways every day to use the tablet to bring joy and education to the residents.

“We see amazing benefits all of the time. From little things like cutting down on printing because we can just pull trivia, games, jokes, crossword puzzles, etc. straight from the internet to bigger things like reaching some of our lower functioning residents at their level. Having access to the internet at my fingertips has made planning and carrying out my activity program infinitely easier. No more pouring over old magazines or printing out all of the materials I need for a program,” Evers said.

“I think one of the best parts of this great new technology is the use of a touchscreen. With a touchscreen, they can easily point at the thing they want to do and enlarge text if they are having trouble seeing it. It is amazing when you see understanding click in the eyes of a 90 + year old!”

For further information you can reach Carol Evers at: You can reach me at carol.evers@bishopgadsden.org

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