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ASSISTIVE TECHNOLOGY

Useful technology for elderly living alone in the UK

Technology can help by providing assistance with mobility, sight or hearing loss, and everyday living.

September 06, 2023

Elderly woman using her tablet outside

The right technologies can bring a wide range of benefits to elderly people and their loved ones. Some devices or gadgets can assist with those who aren’t perhaps as mobile as they once were, have some sight or hearing loss, or can simply help with everyday living and can also combat some of the loneliness that many older people experience, especially if they live alone.

However, many older people find embracing new technology a challenge and they can sometimes be resistant to things that they aren’t used to.

In this article, we look at several kinds of useful and easy-to-use technology for elderly people living alone in the UK.

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Technology to help with communication

During the Covid-19 pandemic, many people of all ages found that they needed to use technology to keep in touch with loved ones and also to do many of life’s admin tasks, because meeting face-to-face simply wasn’t possible. For lots of older people, this kind of technology was new to them and things don’t always go to plan, but the result now is that many elderly people are now more comfortable with using tech such as video calls to communicate with people they can’t always see in person.

As well as keeping in touch with friends and family, video calls can also be used to communicate with community and support groups, along with health professionals, in some cases. Smartphones or tablet devices can also be used for essential voice calls as well as accessing the internet, emails and otherwise communicating online.

Technology to help older people with visual impairments

Many older people start to experience a deterioration in their sight at some stage and it’s important to keep an eye on elderly eye health. For many, simply wearing reading glasses or prescription glasses or contact lenses can be a great help, but some older adults find that reading or close visual tasks are much more difficult and can strain their eyes.

There are several kinds of technology that can help with this, for example:

  • Screen reader software for smartphones, tablets and computers, that will read text on the page out loud
  • Visual magnifiers built into devices, or using smartphones as a digital magnifier for text that is offline, such as a book, newspaper or letters
  • Audio descriptions on TV programmes, including live broadcasts, to help those who can’t always make out what is happening on the screen
  • Smart assistants, that can audibly answer questions and even perform some tasks in the home if used in combination with elderly-friendly smart home

Technology to help elderly people with hearing loss

Another common age-related issue that many people experience is some level of hearing loss in later life. Being hard of hearing can affect many areas of life but there are some ways in which technology can assist. These include:

  • Hearing aids to be worn both at home and when out and about
  • A monitored smoke alarm system at home that raises an alert with the response team if the smoke alarms go off
  • A smart system that flashes a light if someone rings the doorbell in case they can’t hear it
  • Speech-to-text (STT) apps for smartphones so that what someone is saying can be turned into text almost in real-time
  • Captions on online videos, as well as on TV programmes and live broadcasts, so people with hearing loss can still keep up what is going on.

Technology to help older people with their mobility

Many older people experience a reduction in their mobility to some level. Some can manage just fine with the addition of things such as grab bars, extra rails or assistive aids such as rollators, but others might benefit from technology such as:

  • Installation of a stair lift
  • A bath lift or a walk-in bath/shower
  • A riser recliner chair to help with standing from sitting
  • An adjustable bed
  • Smart voice assistant devices that can do certain tasks without the person needing to physically move e.g. turn lights or heating system on or off.

Technology to help with elderly home security

Elderly woman checking her door on her phone

Many older people (and their loved ones) worry about unwanted or even scam callers at the home, and would like to feel safer in their property. Some of the technology-based solutions could be:

  • Installing a video doorbell, so the older person can see who is there and even speak to them, if they want to, without needing to open the door
  • A key safe, so that loved ones or carers can have secure access to the home when needed if the older person isn’t able to easily answer the door.

 

Technology to help with memory issues

Many older people can sometimes forget things, but there are technologies that can help with handy reminders, such as:

  • Smart assistant or smartphone reminders to take medication
  • Smart reminders to eat or drink at regular intervals to help keep them hydrated and meet their nutritional needs
  • Appointment reminders (such as medical or dentist appointments) sent through a smartphone by the service provider.
  • Using smartphone or voice assistants to record shopping lists or important things to remember

Technology to help spot early signs of illness in the elderly

If you’re not able to be with them all of the time, it can be really difficult to spot changes in behaviour or routines that could indicate the early signs of illness or another kind of problem in an elderly person. Many older adults either don’t want to cause a fuss or may not realise that things aren’t quite right, so often don’t seek help themselves. Some of the technology solutions that can help with this include:

    • Home equipment (usually provided by a medical practice when someone is eligible) so that older people and their loved ones can keep an eye on existing health conditions or concerns. This could include devices like blood pressure monitors or oximeters to measure oxygen levels
    • Non-intrusive care monitoring systems (with no cameras or microphones) that use artificial intelligence (AI) to learn routines and can raise an alert if things change or anything unusual happens

 

Technology to detect when an elderly person has a fall

Falls are very common in older people, with one in three over 65s experiencing at least one fall every year. Older adults tend to be more at risk of sustaining a serious injury during a fall as they become more frail with age and there are many common reasons for falls in the elderly.

There are personal alarms available that are designed to be worn all of the time and have built-in fall detection technology. This means that should the wearer have a hard fall, an alert is raised with the 24/7 response team, who can speak to the person who has fallen and see if they need further assistance. Family or other emergency contacts can also be notified.

This kind of elderly fall alarm can bring real peace of mind to the wearer and their loved ones.

Technology to help older people go out and about with confidence

Many people can lose their confidence when it comes to spending time out and about as they get older. They may have previously experienced a fall, or be getting used to doing things by themselves after the loss of a spouse or friend. Technology that can help them to feel more comfortable and confident going out could include:

  • Carrying a mobile phone with them when out of the home
  • Wearing an elderly GPS tracker device so that if they become lost, confused or have a fall or accident, help can be reached and their location is known.

Technology to help combat elderly loneliness and isolation

Happy elderly woman connecting with loved ones

Many older adults experience feelings of loneliness and isolation, which can have a big impact on their health and mental wellbeing. For those who have limited mobility or health conditions that make it difficult for them to meet other people regularly face-to-face, technology can help to combat some of the effects of loneliness in the elderly. Some solutions could include:

  • Online video calls with loved ones
  • Smart assistants/speakers that can answer questions, play music on request and even call people
  • Consider setting up online video calls with groups that share a common interest e.g. support the same football, rugby or cricket team, a group that enjoys crafting, online book clubs or a befriending service, which many local charities run in the community.

Staying Connected guide

Our Staying Connected guide includes tips to cope with loneliness after retirement. Click here to download the Staying Connected guide for free.

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Easy-to-use tablets for the elderly

While smartphones can be a great way for elderly people to connect with loved ones and utilise useful apps that can be a real help in everyday life, some older adults find that the screens are a bit small and fiddly for them and prefer a larger tablet device, especially for using apps and making video calls.

There are a lot of tablets on the market and it can be difficult to work out the best make and model for an older person, but this will depend on what they plan to do with their tablet.

If they want to make video calls, use apps for things like online banking, social media and even read eBooks, most tablets will support these kinds of tasks easily, so you don’t have to choose the most expensive or top-of-the-range devices out there. However, choosing a well-known brand can mean that it’s more likely that the tablet will be well-supported for years to come with updates and customer support. Brands such as Apple, Samsung, Lenovo, Amazon and Microsoft will usually all have access in their app stores to the specific apps that older people are likely to want to use.

Other useful apps for seniors living alone

We’ve already mentioned using things such as reminders on smartphones, voice assistants and magnifying apps for those who want text to be larger and easier for them to read, so we have rounded up some types of apps that we think are ideally suited for older adults.

TakingCare has no affiliation with any of the apps mentioned in this article and this should not be taken as an endorsement of any particular app.

  • Pill reminder apps that send messages to take a certain medication at the right time
  • Gentle exercise apps, such as yoga apps, which provide daily exercises from beginner level upwards and can help older people stay more active
  • Socialising apps for video calls, including Zoom, WhatsApp and Skype
  • Entertainment apps, such as YouTube for videos, Audible for audiobooks and podcasts, and Kindle for reading eBooks
  • Brain game apps, to help keep the mind active, which could include Words with Friends, Solitaire, Word Brain, Classic Words (a solo-play scrabble-style alternative) and Fun Bridge
  • Magnifying apps. Many smartphones have these built into the system, but if not, some useful free magnifying apps include Magnifying Glass (Android) and BigMagnify Free (iPhone). They use the phone’s light and camera to view offline text and make it appear larger so that it’s easier to read.

 

It’s very natural for loved ones to be concerned about an older person, especially if they live alone. Technology such as personal alarms can help provide peace of mind and assist older adults to live a full and independent life for as long as possible.

Get help choosing a personal alarm

It’s important to choose a personal alarm system that fits well with lifestyle and contains all the features that are needed. Our team can help make sure you choose the right product for your situation. Call us on 0800 085 7371 for tailored advice.

Personal alarms

Independent living products brochure

Learn how personal alarms and home monitoring solutions can keep you or your loved ones safe and independent at home.

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Ways to support independent living

Independent living products brochure

Learn how personal alarms and home monitoring solutions can keep you or your loved ones safe and independent at home.

Download brochure