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Ways homebound seniors can take advantage of technology

Today’s seniors have accommodated to more technological change in their lifetimes than any previous generation in history, according to Stanford University psychologist Laura Carstensen. Learning new skills, such as utilizing technology in daily life, takes more time as people get older, but as long as the tools are accessible and there’s an underlying motivation to learn it is possible for anyone of any age to learn!

With a growing senior population in the United States, it has become more common for product designers to build tools that are more accessible for seniors, in addition to the general population. Age friendly design is good for all ages, and these technology tools that make life easier are not exclusive to the younger population.

Medicare considers someone homebound if you need the assistance of another person or equipment to leave home, or if a doctor believes your health or illness would get much worse if you leave home. Since the start of the pandemic, the number of homebound seniors has grown exponentially, as many seniors cannot leave their homes to shop at grocery stores, pick-up prescriptions, or go to the gym without the risk of exposing themselves to COVID-19.

In this article, we share accessible and affordable technology tools for homebound seniors who need essential support. These tools can supplement and/or provide support across a number of factors contributing to quality of life, including meal support, prescription pick-ups, physical health, mental health, and social connection.

Delivery Services for Meals, Groceries, and Prescriptions


Each city employs different public health guidelines as it pertains to seniors running essential errands. While some grocery stores, pharmacies, and post offices have dedicated their early opening hours as senior-only hours, not all seniors have access to a safe means of transportation as family members are quarantining and ride-sharing isn’t always feasible.

For seniors who are looking to independently schedule and select the essential errands they want completed, we recommend the following resources that are senior-friendly and only require either a landline phone or a desktop computer.

Instacart’s Senior Support Service (Grocery and prescription deliveries)



  • Technology Required: Landline Phone

Instacart’s Senior Support Service is a high-touch support service for customers over age 60. By calling the Senior Support Line, seniors can schedule grocery deliveries to their homes. The Senior Support Line is available in the U.S. and Canada at 1-844-981-3433, daily from 8 a.m. to 11 p.m. ET.

This is a great option for seniors who are in need of emergency grocery or recurring grocery assistance, as the customer support representatives will be available to receive grocery lists and accommodate for longer, in-depth conversations.

Amazon Whole Foods or Amazon Fresh (Grocery deliveries)



  • Technology Required: Desktop Computer or Smartphone

Although Amazon grocery deliveries via Whole Foods or Fresh are not as senior-friendly as Instacart, if your family has a Prime membership already, any grocery order over $35 will be eligible for free delivery unlike Instacart. Additionally, we have heard from many seniors we work with that their family members schedule grocery deliveries for them via Amazon.


Amazon grocery deliveries are a great option for seniors who are comfortable with internet browsers. Once you click on the “Fresh” or “Whole Foods” portal you can search for specific grocery or home goods you would like to be delivered. Once you check out, you can specify a specific time window for delivery while receiving text messages of updates on your order.

For seniors who qualify for SNAP EBT benefits, Amazon does allow you to add your SNAP EBT card to your Amazon account. Seniors who pay for groceries via SNAP EBT qualify for exclusive deals, free delivery with minimum purchase amount, and do not require a prime membership.

We recommend checking out with your groceries earlier in the day, before delivery time windows become fully booked, especially if you need groceries the day of!

Walmart Online Grocery Delivery (Grocery deliveries)



  • Technology Required: Desktop Computer or Smartphone

Similar to Amazon Fresh or Whole Foods, Walmart has a grocery delivery interface that allows you to search and select all available grocery items (produce, medications, snacks, home goods, etc.) for delivery.

For seniors who use SNAP EBT, Walmart does offer grocery pick-up in store after selecting groceries and time of pick-up online. Groceries picked-up at the store can be processed via SNAP EBT.

Doordash, Postmates, UberEats (On-demand meal delivery services)



  • Technology Required: Desktop Computer or Smartphone

For seniors who are looking for a fully cooked meal within 30 minutes to an hour, Doordash, Postmates, or Ubereats are semi-friendly meal delivery options. After creating an account, each platform will display restaurant meal delivery options that you can select from. Seniors can search from a variety of cuisines with estimated delivery times labeled on each restaurant option.


Meal delivery services can have pricey delivery fees, so we would only recommend this for either a special occasion if you want to have an occasional restaurant-made meal or if there is an emergency need for food support and you are not able to receive groceries day-of from either of the services mentioned above.


Physical Health


With gyms and other workout facilities closed, many seniors are either unable to attend their regular group fitness classes or have experienced a significant disruption in their regular workout routine. Especially in urban areas, going for walks might be challenging due to the risk of exposure to others who are also outside in a close proximity. However, the health benefits from physical activity for seniors is tremendously important and should not be forgotten.

Luckily, there are many resources available that allow you to continue exercising within the comfort of your home, or even a small room. The only equipment you need is yourself and optionally a chair!

Virtual YMCA Workouts (Home workout routines for older adults)



  • Technology Required: Desktop browser

While physical YMCA locations are closed, the Y has launched online exercise programs on their website to support health and well-being from home. The following are workouts with increasing physical difficulty:

  • Rise and Shine - This workout can be completed with just a study chair and stable back
  • Weights - This energizing workout utilizes a study chair and free weights
  • Resistance Tube - Increase strength with the use of a sturdy chair and a resistance tube/band
  • Tai Chi - Tai Chi promote strength, coordination, posture, concentration, and energy level
  • Yoga - Combination of traditional movements and mindfulness using flexibility, breathing, and strength
  • My Y Virtual Youtube Channel - A compilation of a variety of workouts, from Pilates, to Tabata, to mind body and cardio and strength training

Mighty Health (Smartphone application with curated workouts and personal coaching)



  • Technology Required: Smartphone
  • Cost: $19.99/month


Mighty Health is a smartphone application that hosts curated workouts that are easy on the joints. The workouts are easy to follow along to, and with a Mighty Health membership seniors will be paired with a health coach for regular check-ins. The health coach communicates via text, call, or Facetime and is there to keep members accountable on goals.

Mighty Health is a better option for seniors who want support setting fitness goals for themselves and feel comfortable navigating a smartphone application.

Bold (Personalized workouts for older adults)



  • Technology Required: Desktop Browser or Phone Browser
  • Cost: $25.00/month


Bold offers science-backed workout programs without driving to a gym or paying for a training session. The at-home workouts are diversified and can include either strength training, tai chi, yoga, and more.

Seniors enrolled in Bold will take initial assessments that drive the exercise program offered from coaches, with built-in tools that allow you to track your progress.

Other Youtube Playlists for Senior Workouts



  • Technology Required: Desktop Browser

A free option that is available for any senior are Youtube workout playlists that have instructor-led workout routines that are friendly for seniors of any fitness level. Part of the technology challenge here is finding the right videos, so we decided to curate a list of our favorite workout videos. All you have to do is click on the link and you can start your workout!


Mental Health/Mindfulness


Along with physical activity, mental activity and mindfulness is crucial for seniors in a time of even more pronounced social isolation. Mindfulness training is not intended to be an isolated approach to combating social isolation, mental health, depression, and dementia in older adults but it is an important skill to practice which can be made easier through technology.

UCLA Mindful (Free smartphone application with mindfulness playlists)



  • Technology Required: Smartphone

The UCLA Mindful application is an easy-to-use, free mobile application that has basic meditations for getting started in English and Spanish. The application also has modules that explain the science behind mindfulness benefits as well as weekly podcasts from the UCLA Hammer Museum on different themes.

Calm, Headspace (Smartphone applications with mindfulness playlists)



  • Technology Required: Smartphone or Desktop Computer
  • Cost: Calm - $14.99/month, Headspace - $12.99/month


Calm and Headspace are two well-known mindfulness applications that have thousands of recordings of tailored mindfulness practice. These applications cover a wider variety of mindfulness sessions but does charge a membership fee. Sessions can range from sleep meditation, progressive relaxation, to beginner meditation practice. Additionally, the apps also feature calming music to listen to as you enjoy your day.

While not every senior is smartphone-savvy, these two applications are very user friendly with easy to read text, pronounced sections, and intuitive navigation.

Youtube Playlists for Mindfulness



  • Technology Required: Desktop Browser

Just as there are free workout playlists on Youtube for workout routines, there are also a significant number of playlists on Youtube for mindfulness practice. In the Youtube search bar you could search “mindfulness practice for…” and fill in the blank with a specific type of mindfulness practice. However, we recognize that it might be intimidating looking through various search results on an overwhelming platform so here’s a list we crafted of mindfulness playlists for seniors:



Connection


While all of the above activities and resources are great for hopefully enabling greater independence for seniors in their daily lives, social connection for homebound seniors is just as important. Loneliness and social isolation in older adults is associated with a 50% increased risk of dementia and other serious medical conditions according to the CDC.

While there are limitations to facilitating connection virtually the following resources are a great place to start to drive regular conversations and check-ins with homebound seniors.

Virtual Companions (Friendly phone call program for seniors)



  • Technology Required: Desktop Browser (for sign-up) and landline phone

Virtual companions connect older and younger generations through friendly phone calls, virtual concerts, pen pals, and cards and crafts. The friendly phone call program connects seniors with a weekly phone caller to learn from each other through conversation and the sharing of life stories.

GetSetUp (Social and learning community for older adults)



  • Technology Required: Desktop Browser


GetSetUp is a social and learning community designed for older adults, with classes available around the clock on various topics ranging from technology support and training, art, dancing, to name a few. Classes are small and live and interactive which allows seniors to connect with other seniors in an intimate setting online.

Alzheimer’s Foundation of America (Online event calendar)



  • Technology Required: Desktop Browser

The Alzheimer’s Foundation of America hosts a calendar of virtual events where you can connect with other seniors and instructors leading classes ranging from singing, fitness, meditation, art, among many others. Group classes are a great way to build community and connections online.

To access the classes, click on the specific event on the calendar page and there will be a link that navigates you to the video call where the event will take place.


Conclusion


We fully recognize that not every senior will be physically able to access the resources listed above, we hope that these resources can either inform seniors of additional tools they can utilize to increase their independence during a challenging time, or give caretakers and loved ones ideas of other ways to support seniors in their lives remotely.

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