More senior citizens have smartphones than ever before, with 42% of adults over the age of 65 in the USA now owning one, a figure that has more than doubled in the last five years. While many take to tech like a duck to water, others struggle to get to grips with the intricacies of modern smart-phones, and perhaps find them inaccessible. Happily, apps are available to help solve these issues, as well as providing security, connectivity, and entertainment. We’ve rounded up some of the very best apps, all of which can help senior citizens make the very most out of their smartphones.
Apps to Increase Accessibility
While the iPhone’s simple user interface is oft-lauded, Android is a little more complicated to work with. This can be an issue for seniors who are not familiar with smartphones, and those who are visually impaired. Big Launcher addresses the problem by making the interface simple, large, and colorful. Functions such as phone, messages, and notifications are clear, while apps are listed with large icons and text.
When it comes to typing, the traditional QWERTY keyboard often proves to be less-than-optimal when squeezed onto a smartphone screen. MessagEase has reinvented the wheel and radically redesigned the smartphone keyboard, replacing it with just 9 large and customizable buttons, each of which can be manipulated to input different characters. Being such a departure from any other keyboard – physical or electronic – it takes a little getting used to. Once mastered, however, the large buttons can make typing much easier for seniors, or indeed anyone who struggles with the QWERTY design.
Another solution to text input is to do away with typing all together, and replace it with voice dictation. Apple’s Siri can do more than simply search the web and tell cheesy jokes. It can be used to make phone calls, send messages and emails, take notes, and a whole host of other features. Google’s inbuilt voice-to-text service is similarly functional, and can be activated by simply saying “OK, Google.” Speechnote is a third-party app that is perfect for longer dictations, and will keep listening even after long pauses, which cause most other apps to end the recording.
Forgetfulness can be a normal part of aging, and technology is on hand to help reduce the impact of lapses in memory when it comes to health. With around 90% of people in the USA aged 65 and above taking at least one prescription medication, MyTherapy (free for iOS and Android) is an important tool in ensuring pills, tablets, and injections are taken as intended. Medication reminders can be programmed with an individual medication plan, no matter how complex, and promptly notify the user when it is time to take their meds. As well as being a pill reminder, added features such as an activity reminder, symptom tracker, and printable health report, make MyTherapy an excellent all-round health app for seniors.
As well as helping seniors stay on top of their health, apps can also relieve the burden of remembering where the car is parked. A plethora of apps are available to make a note of the location using GPS, and then guide the user back to their car later. Of them, ParKing for Android is one of the most sophisticated, particularly for anyone whose car has Bluetooth. Connecting to Bluetooth is usually a cinch, and once up and running, the app can log the car’s last location with no user input whatsoever, making it unobtrusive and remarkably easy to use. On the iPhone side of things, Follow My Car is free and simple, just requiring the user to tap a button when they want the location saved.
The more a senior uses their smartphone, the more passwords they are likely to acquire. These often require a mix of numbers, upper and lower-case letters, and special characters. For security reasons, we are told to not reuse passwords, to use random combinations of words, and avoid guessable information like names and dates. This can make remembering them almost impossible, and can easily discourage seniors from using their smartphones. Help is on hand though, in the form of password managers. One of the very best is 1Password, which can be unlocked with a master password or, even better, fingerprint recognition. All of the information is encrypted locally, and can be locked should the phone be stolen. The app, which is subscription-based, can also store credit card information, codes, and personal details. Family subscriptions are also available, to safely share passwords between relatives.
- MyTherapy: free for iOS and Android
- ParKing: free for Android
- Follow My Car: free for iOS
- 1Password: free for iOS and Android. Subscription options available at 1password.com
Just as Google has transcended from a noun into a verb, WhatsApp and Skype have become so synonymous with the act of instant messaging and video calling that they too have been verbed.
Considering the overwhelming use of these apps, they are the perfect tools to help senior citizens keep in touch with the family.
For those wanting to take things a step further, Oscar Senior is designed to be a one-stop-shop for allowing senior citizens to connect to their family. It integrates social media platforms, makes instant messaging and video calling easy, and is perfect for sharing photos. Its stand-out feature is the ability for remote connectivity. This allows family members to help solve problems, add contacts, and install apps on their relative’s device, from anywhere in the world.
- WhatsApp: free for iOS and Android
- Skype: free for iOS and Android
- Oscar Senior: free for iOS and Android. Subscription options available at oscarsenior.com
While 1Password can offer security to seniors in the online world, technology can also be a valuable safety tool in the real world. bSafe is widely regarded as one of the most comprehensive safety apps. An alarm can be activated to send time-stamped audio and video to family members, as well as the location. The app can also allow family members to trace the location of their loved one, and pre-set timers can be arranged to send an alarm if the user does not check-in by a certain time.
A simple but potentially life-saving app is ICE – In Case of Emergency. The profile can be customized to include important health information, such as blood type, diseases, and allergies, as well as a list of emergency contacts. All of the information is accessible from the lock screen. Immediate access to such information can save crucial time in the event of any emergency. The app is available for Android, while ICE Medical Standard is an iPhone equivalent.
Red Panic Button is an app that delivers what the name promises. Once the phone and email information of a loved one is stored, seniors can have a message sent to their chosen contact in any emergency situation. The message will also contain location information, as long as GPS is enabled.
- bSafe: free for iOS and Android
- ICE – In Case of Emergency: free for Android
- ICE Medical Standard: free for iOS
- Red Panic Button: free for iOS and Android
On top of all the other benefits a smartphone offers, the icing on the cake is their capability to keep one entertained. Audible, now owned by Amazon, contains a vast library of over 200,000 audiobooks, making it the perfect source of literature for any senior living with impaired eyesight. A subscription includes one free book, plus one credit per month that can be used on any book, regardless of price.
For seniors who wish to reminisce and enjoy the radio of old all over again, Old Time Radio for Android, and OTR Streamer for iOS, each boast well over 10,000 shows from years-gone-by. From comedy and crime, to drama and westerns, both can provide hours of entertainment to listeners, completely free of charge.
Alongside the classic radio shows, Apple and Google both have a huge catalog of music, all of which can be streamed in their native apps, Apple Music and Google Play Music. Both have impression collections, including classical productions, and songs dating back decades. Songs can be streamed, or downloaded for offline use. Perfect!
- Audible: free for iOS and Android. Subscription options available at audible.com
- Old Time Radio: free for Android
- OTR Streamer: free for iOS
- Google Play Music: app installed by default. Subscription options available at play.google.com
- Apple Music: app installed by default. Subscription options available at apple.com
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