As people across the U.S. adjust to the latest wave of Coronavirus risks, many older adults are again finding themselves more isolated and distanced from the people they love. This can put certain seniors’ safety and wellbeing at risk. Researchers have identified the best apps for seniors living alone or missing visitors in a skilled nursing facility or nursing home.
When the pandemic suddenly limited in-person interactions and increased isolation for older adults in early 2020, concerns about wellbeing grew among families and caregivers. The Kaiser Family Foundation found that rates of depression and anxiety in fall 2020 were high among adults ages 65 and over, compared to rates of the same group in 2018.
But other studies found that mobile apps for seniors living alone could help improve quality of life, according to a study published in the Western Journal of Emergency Medicine. These authors found that the best apps for seniors supported needs for wellbeing, health care and social connection during isolation.
What are the best types of apps for seniors living alone?
For seniors who are living alone or restricted from welcoming visitors, mobile apps can become a lifeline to families and friends. They also can link older adults to resources that support and encourage health of body, mind and spirit. And with a bit of searching, the right apps can even help empower senior citizens with seeing and hearing impairments, communication barriers and much more — all to improve their safety, wellbeing and overall quality of life.
As an added benefit, caregivers and loved ones gain peace of mind when the older adult in their care is healthy and connected, even during times of quarantine or isolation.
These are the five most helpful types of apps for seniors living alone:
Perhaps the most common app during the long winter months of lockdown, social networking gave families and friends a way to connect safely. Loved ones could see and hear each other, share personal updates, meet new babies, celebrate holidays and birthdays and even grieve losses together — without the need to gather in person.
Skype is a social networking app with extremely high user ratings for its simplicity helping people stay connected virtually within the U.S and also abroad. The researchers published in WJEM found that FaceTime was also a key social networking app, due to its popularity and built-in availability on iPhones and iPads.
Medical and safety
From telemedicine and prescription management, to apps to keep seniors safe in an emergency, medical and safety apps help users, including older adults, get the medical care they need without leaving home.
A digital medical ID for seniors can create calm and compassion in an emergency or moment of crisis. Some older adults struggle with dementia, anxiety or even just sometimes get confused in stressful times, making a digital medical ID a necessity for safety and care.
The Vitals™ App is one way independent older adults, seniors with vulnerabilities and caregivers can plan for safety in a medical or mental health emergency. The app service equips 911 dispatchers and emergency responders with the critical information they need to keep people safe, despite panic, confusion or communication barriers.
Health and fitness
These apps offer senior citizens much more during COVID isolation than traditional workouts. Older adults can find support for a wide range of physical and mental wellness goals, including stress reduction, sleep quality, functional fitness and calorie tracking.
Various forms of meditation, for example, have been shown to offer great benefits for seniors. Older adults who develop a meditation practice have reported less stress, better sleep, lower blood pressure, clearer thinking and reduced muscle tension and aches. Studies have even shown that a meditation practice could help lower the risk of stress-related conditions, such as diabetes, hypertension and high cholesterol.
Most highly-reviewed health and fitness apps, including Calm, Headspace, Down Dog Yoga and MyFitnessPal, have basic versions, as well as upgrades for additional content and support tailored to personal needs.
Food and drink
When limiting exposure to COVID risks, older adults and many others found safety and convenience in apps that deliver restaurant meals, groceries and related necessities. DoorDash and Instacart were the most downloaded and highest ranking food and drink apps in 2020. The National Restaurant Association reports that the pandemic brought with it a very large shift as Americans turned to digital food and drink apps at higher rates than ever before.
Even when the pandemic risks ease, food and drink apps are likely to remain a helpful tool. The convenience, safety and nutrition benefits are especially valuable for older adults who live alone, no longer drive or otherwise desire fewer errands in their day.
Support for visual and hearing impairment
Apps to support people with vision or hearing impairments round out the categories of apps that can benefit the wellbeing of older adults in a pandemic. They also provide helpful assistance at any time for people who live with vision or hearing loss.
Two apps — Be My Eyes and Glide — had the highest user reviews in the app store. Be My Eyes connects people who are blind or visually imparied with sighted people who can assist with tasks. Glide is a live video messenger that lets users send instant video messages with sign language and visuals, creating an improved level of on-demand communication for people who are deaf or hearing impaired.
Safety and care for every person
In 2017, the Vitals™ founders listened to caregivers, community members and emergency responders share how stressful and dangerous medical or mental health emergencies can become when clear information is hard to get and communication turns into confusion.
Vitals™ is more than the average In Case of Emergency app. It’s a digital medical ID app that alerts first responders and 911 dispatchers with the exact personal information needed to calmly and compassionately assist a vulnerable person experiencing a crisis. Whether disability, medication, invisible condition, or de-escalation techniques, Vitals™ is a trusted emergency alert system for families, seniors, and people with special needs — and countless others.