Has The Last Year Changed the Way Seniors Use Technology?
Before the pandemic, Kingsway Village resident Betty Rooney didn’t have much use for modern technology. Besides stints with a cell phone (which she stopped using when she gave up driving) and Kindle (she successfully read one book, but then couldn’t figure out to close out of that book), she’d never really had a use for it. That changed after the COVID-19 pandemic hit, when her daughter’s family, who live in Virginia, mailed her an Amazon Echo Show—a type of smart device with a screen and video capabilities.
“When it came, I looked at it and said, ‘What in God’s name are they giving me this for?’” Betty remembers. “And then they called me and told me that we could face talk and it’s been a godsend. I love it. The first time I used it after I got it, they had just gotten a new refrigerator. It sounds dumb, but just to see their new refrigerator in their kitchen, it made me more a part of the family. It included me and it was really great.”
Betty’s story certainly isn’t unique, even among residents at Kingsway Village, one of Kingsway Community’s three independent senior living facilities. “Prior to March 2020, we did have some residents that used Facebook and had smartphones, but for most of our population, this was not the norm,” says Kingsway Village Apartments Life Enrichment Director Debbie Berner. “During COVID, residents stayed connected with family members using FaceTime or Zoom calls. Some residents attended Zoom bridal or baby showers for their grandchildren.” While some residents learned how to use these new technologies on their own, others used a Kingsway iPad connected to a TV for their calls.
Of course, COVID only sped up a trend that was already gaining speed: The percentage of adults over 65 who were internet users jumped from 14 percent in 2000 to 73 percent in 2019. But at the same time, only about 25 percent of seniors said they felt comfortable using electronics, according to another study.
Betty may not be fully comfortable with her Echo, but she knows how to use it well enough to FaceTime with her daughter, son in law, three grandsons and their four dogs. She also knows how to use it to “cheat” on crossword puzzles. “I’m a crossword puzzle doer, and I’ll ask Alexa what word should go in this crossword puzzle,” she says. “And sometimes she’s wrong!” That’s proof, we suppose, that no matter how helpful technology may seem, it can’t actually do everything.