In today’s modern society, it is hard to go just a few minutes without seeing a smartphone or tablet. Smartphones and tablets are intelligent, personal computers that are handheld and convenient for mobile use, tablets being usually larger and less mobile than smartphones (Cassavoy, 2017). In the last decade, these devices have become extremely advanced and offer more and more applications everyday. While the youth often uses them for constant texting, calling, tweeting, messaging, facetiming, snapchatting, and more, smartphones and tablets can benefit the quality of life of older adults in a number of ways. Most importantly, the social aspect of these devices has the potential to not only impact older adult’s psychological well-being, but a number of other aspects of aging and adult development. As technology in this field continues to advance and grow, it is important for older adults to understand the benefits that smartphones and tablets can offer, and get on board with using them.
Before further analyzing the benefits offered by smartphones and tablets, it is first important to recognize some obstacles that older adults may face when using these devices. As adults age, their vision and hearing abilities may begin to suffer due to varying aspects of the aging process (Burzynska, 2017). Since smartphones and tablets mainly utilize visual and auditory functions, this could cause a specific problem for older adults while using these devices. Additionally, as these devices were not designed specifically for seniors, the default font size used in messaging and in most applications is not very big, and the volume on these devices may not accommodate older adults with severe hearing problems. To add, tablets do offer a larger screen and clearer display which is why a tablet may be a better option for older adults with severe impairments. However, minor adjustments can be made by changing font size in the settings of these devices, and by adding a pair of headphones for more accurate hearing. In addition to health barriers, older adults may be wary of technology in general. In their lifetime, older adults have seen advances in technology that were not even imaginable, leaving them to feel overwhelmed and unable to keep up with the various improvements that have been made (Smith, 2014). However with exposure, older adults are becoming increasingly comfortable with technology. For example, 79 percent of older adults that use these devices report that it makes their lives easier and people that do not use them are seriously missing out (Smith, 2014). These older adults are right, too, because their peers that decide not to own a smartphone or tablet are missing out on multiple health benefits.
These benefits include increased safety by being able to call for help at the press of a button, apps that can track health, medication reminders, and a quick connection to health networks. All of these benefits make it easier for older adults to take responsibility and control of caring for their own physical health. Additionally, and arguably most importantly, smartphones and tablets offer a social connection to loved ones and friends that would not exist without these devices. Staying socially engaged is just as important as genetic factors and physical health when it comes to optimal aging (Caregiver Stress, 2017). This may be a disadvantage to some older adults, as aging often brings on increased isolation due to the death of a spouse, siblings, or close friends (Burzynska, 2017). Smartphones and tablets have the ability to combat the loneliness that older adults often feel that can be so harmful to their overall health.
Chopik (2016) wanted to further examine the relationship between the social use of technology and the effect is can have on physical and psychological health of older adults. To do so, 591 adults, averaging an age of 68, were assessed by a survey if they used e-mail, social networking sites, online video/phone calls, online chatting/instant messaging, and overall used of a smart device. The survey also assessed how satisfied older adults were with their form of communication, and easily they felt they could work their device. Next, the survey assessed the older adult’s on the amount of loneliness they felt, how they felt about their health, and overall well-being. In conclusion, this study found that overall, older adults have general positive feelings and experiences with their smart devices. Additionally, older adults with higher rates of social use with their devices had better self-rated health, fewer chronic illnesses, and higher well-being. This study utilized and easy and effective method of obtaining information from older adults to strengthen the link between social technology use and physical and psychological health, showing that smartphones and tablets can make a difference (Chopik, 2016).
In addition to the multiple health benefits, smartphones and tablets are beginning to be targeted at improving the health of older adults. As older adults become increasingly more open to using these devices to help monitor their health, developers will continue to take advantage of this increased need for ways to make smartphones and tablets more suitable for the health of older adults. Joe and Demiris (2013) wanted to explore and assess what studies and applications currently exist involving older adults and the use of smart devices. To do this, they searched databases with specific criteria to analyze journals and articles that specifically study an application aimed at aiding in aging adults’ health. The results found 21 articles ranging in topics including dementia care, diabetes care, COPD care, and more. Overall, articles consistently found that with increased acceptance and use of applications aimed at tracking health on smart devices, came better health outcomes (Joe & Demiris, 2013). While current finding are promising, this study of the existing smart device interventions for supporting the health of older adults highlights that this field has room for expansion. As the aging population and technology continue to grow hand-in-hand, utilizing existing research will guide growth in the direction that has shown to work. This field continues to grow in size and strength every day, and as more and more older adults become eager to access this smart technology, the health and wellbeing of older adults will only continue to improve.
The time for older adults to start utilizing smartphones and tablets is now. Due to the already numerous existing health benefits, and a dynamic industry that continues to evolve and adapt to the needs of an aging population, older adults that do not already own these devices should seriously consider making a change. By investing in smartphones or tablets, older adults are investing in their overall quality of health, and quality of life.
Burzynska, A. (2017). Physical changes with age [PowerPoint Slides]. Retrieved from Colorado State University Canvas site for HDFS 312: http://info.canvas.colostate.edu/
Caregiver Stress, (2017). 5 benefits of technology to share with seniors and their caregivers. Retrieved from http://www.caregiverstress.com/geriatric-professional-resources/5-benefits-of-technology-to-share-with-seniors-and-their-caregivers/
Cassavoy, L. (2017). What is a smartphone. Retrieved from https://www.lifewire.com/what-makes-a-smartphone-smart-579597
Chopik, W. J. (2016). The benefits of social technology use among older adults are mediated by reduced loneliness. Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking, 19, 551-556. doi: http://dx.doi.org.ezproxy2.library.colostate.edu/10.1089/cyber.2016.0151
Joe, J. & Demeris, G. (2013). Older adults and mobile phones for health: A review. Journal of Biomedical Informatics, 46, 947-954. doi: http://doi.org/10.1016/j.jbi.2013.06.008
Smith, A. (2014). Older adults and technology use. Retrieved from Pew Research Center: http://www.pewinternet.org/2014/04/03/older-adults-and-technology-use/