How much time do you spend on your phone? On your tablet? We are increasingly taking our leisure time to our pocket computers with the likes of FaceBook, Twitter, Flappy Bird, Candy Crush Saga, and — for those of us still hanging on — Words With Friends. For the occasional enrichment experience, we launch the TED app or see what new documentary has made its way to Netflix. From the very, very young to the Boomer generation, we’ve almost all come to depend on the technology, and look to it for both information and entertainment. Who is most missing out on the trend? Our senior parents and grandparents.
As a former activities director (and senior technology educator), I’m here to tell you that there is so much we can offer our seniors by sitting down next to them with an iPad resting on our knees. Here are some ways to encourage laughter and learning with our senior friends and family:
1. Google Maps & Google Earth (free): Look at your childhood home with the Street View feature. Take a tour of the White House or cross the Golden Gate Bridge. Have coffee and a croissant while you visit the Eiffel Tower, or check out the Pyramids of Giza and the great Sphinx over a plate of dolma. Every day can be a walk down memory lane, or a virtual vacation!
2. Tune In Radio (free): Listen to radio from every corner of the earth, and a treasure trove of archived radio. The program collections include some of the greats, for instance hundreds of episodes of Dragnet and Gunsmoke.
3. Stumble Upon (free): Stumble Upon is a virtual “refrigerator door” of what’s on the internet. It scans for the best of the best, and you get to see it all in one place. Pick a category: photography, science, design and get a glimpse of the amazing space of the internet.
4. Skype / FaceTime (free): Why not talk with the grandkids in Albuquerque or the son-in-law in Zimbabwe? Even just an afternoon check in with mom at her apartment can be enhanced with a virtual face-to-face interaction.
5. Angry Birds / Flappy Bird / Candy Crush / [insert fad game here]: So many of these games can transcend age and ability, and can offer a bit of levity throughout the day. After playing a spirited round of Angry Birds with an 89-year old gentleman, I speak from a place of experience.
Susana Fletcher is the director of senior care for Mom’s Best Friend Austin.