The aging survey 2013: Technology is a big hit with Grandma and Grandpa

The National Council on Aging's annual aging survey results are out. The aging love technology, but it would be more widely adopted were there less barriers like cost and know-how. 

Courtesy Lisa Suhay
Lisa Suhay's mother, a retired fashion designer, sketches a sculpture in Norvolk, Va., in 2010.

While technology adds to a senior’s quality of life by connecting them with family and friends, too many can’t afford or understand it, according to a new survey of the perspectives of the aging in America.

The survey, conducted by the National Council on Aging (NCOA), UnitedHealthcare, and USA TODAY, reached out to 4,000 US seniors age 60 and older to examine how the country can better prepare for a booming senior population.

“When asked what’s most important to maintaining a high quality of life in their senior years, staying connected to friends and family was the top choice of 4 in 10 seniors, ahead of having financial means (30%),” according to the NCOA.

My mother, age 82, who is reading this online, is going to agree with that assessment right after she checks Facebook to watch the video of her grandson Ian, 18, rescuing our cat from a tree at midnight last night.

A raccoon attacked her, she jetted upwards and could not get down – the cat, not my mom. My mom would have gotten online to look up raccoon repellants.

While the survey found that seniors today are comfortable using technology, they do say “a lack of understanding and cost” are obstacles for them to widely adopt technology.

Hence, I am my mom’s IT person on call 24/7.

“I’m taking a writing class but everyone’s complaining at me about the formatting of my stories,” my mom said in the umpteenth call about formatting this month. “Why don’t all computers just have the same word processor? It would make life so much easier!”

While my mind reeled at the prospect of explaining tech wars to mom, it was better to have her healthy and aggravated than isolated, weepy, and depressed because the technology wasn’t in her life at all.

I wish her N.J. town had volunteers at the library who gave basic IT sessions like we have here in Norfolk, Va. You can really improve someone’s quality of life by taking some time to volunteer and help them learn the basics of email, social media, and a word processing program.

Offline, the survey showed that seniors focused on taking care of their health are more optimistic about aging: “nearly two-thirds (64%) of optimistic seniors have set one or more specific goals to manage their health in the past 12 months, compared with 47% of the overall senior population.”

My mom has always been a health nut, often to my complete insanity. It started with skiing the Swiss and Italian Alps long before I was born and pressed on through Jane Fonda workouts, Dr. Fill-in-the-blank’s Diet Plan, and now? Now my mom is taking Salsa and Zumba classes. Did I mention she’s 82?

The woman has always put me to shame in the PhysEd department. She swims 50 laps in an Olympic-size pool.

Finally, the survey revealed: “Most seniors (71%) feel the community they live in is responsive to their needs, but less than half (49%) believe their community is doing enough to prepare for the future needs of the growing senior population.”

I tend to pay more attention to that 49 percent. We need to engage our seniors and keep them active in the community because one day we will be the ones taking the survey and not analyzing it.

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