The Rejuvenating Effect of Tech

The Key Ingredients to Hold Their Attention

While the fountain of youth may be mythical, when it comes to positive aging, even the oldest old (those 85+) are rejuvenating via technology. My 91-year-old father, a stalwart print-and-landline devotee until just a few years ago, recently read an online restaurant review and suggested to my brother that they enjoy a meal at a new Thai place (it was delicious). He’s Googled a plumber, ordered from Amazon, and figured out how to attach and email me a photo of himself.

reverse mortgage newsHe owns an iPhone, too. Not for calls or texting, but to provide a workaround for severe hearing loss: in person, those who are patient enough to type what they want to tell him make it easy for him to read and respond appropriately — especially useful when the bathroom sink is leaking.

Yet even his technological savvy pales in comparison with the growing elder use of Uber, Instacart, TaskRabbit and other on-demand services in the new sharing economy. Sally Lindover, 88, signed up for Instacart after low-back pain made carrying grocery bags a struggle. She also rents out her spare bedroom through Airbnb.

All Access, Across the Globe

Just as the Internet flattened the world, providing access to household names via social media, along with the ability to forge friendships and business relationships as easily across the planet as across town, technology has flattened services. Age-specific solutions such as Meals on Wheels, paratransit minibuses and senior living facilities are becoming redundant in the sharing economy, which caters to consumers throughout the age spectrum. Not only does this remove aging stigma, it empowers older adults with a fresh sense of mastery and independence.

In fact, at a recent Aging2.0 conference, a panel on aging and tech, with participants ranging from early 70s to 97, amazed the presenters: all but one participant owns and uses a smartphone (but not at the dinner table or when in groups, something the young could learn from their well mannered elders). They love Facebook and gaming, enjoy video chats — and are not using any apps designed for seniors!

The message for reverse mortgage professionals and others who work with seniors seems to be: treat this group as the curious, connected and engaged individuals they are. Once someone gets over that initial reluctance to enter the digital domain, they tend to embrace it wholeheartedly, as my dad did.

The Millennial generation keeps developing ingenious ways to meet the needs of a super-connected (and very busy) population: bring what people need to their doorstep. Food kiosks are one of the latest innovations, and they may help elders who can no longer shop and cook to remain independent longer, as well as provide nourishing meals for those who can still prepare their own food, but find it too laborious to do on a daily basis.

Whereas a service like Instacart handles food shopping for a senior (or anyone who uses it), Pantry is exploring how to bring healthy prepared meals to residential buildings, so a meal “kit” would be available in someone’s apartment lobby, requiring just a quick sauté and serve. The company is also looking into the feasibility of stocking complete ready-to-eat healthy meals in the kiosks. It’s enough to make your mouth water.

Perhaps, in the new millennium, the fountain of youth simply looks different than before.


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