Technology can enrich lives of seniors

Technology doesn’t have to be the bane of seniors’ existence.

Ilya Farber, vice chair of the board and chair-elect of Council Gardens in Cleveland Heights, and Nancy Sutula, administrator at Menorah Park’s Wiggins Place in Beachwood, said technology can serve various purposes in an aging adult’s life.

“It helps to improve their quality of life and maintain their independence both through recreational needs and health,” Sutula said. “I have seniors that utilize e-health programs to understand what is happening to them, to help with their well-being and to know when their appointments are.”

Sutula added Wiggins Place also has magnifiers to help residents with their vision and devices that help hearing-impaired individuals. It’s also common for residents to use Skype and FaceTime to connect with their families.

Farber, who also volunteers at Council Gardens as an English as a second language tutor, said technology plays a large role in what he does.

“I also help people with their naturalization test,” he noted. “All that is important because I do use technology as my tools. You can also use official government sites, but it’s more than that. With an educational course, (technology) gives them more ability. With the internet being everywhere at Council Gardens, (residents) don’t hesitate to take their devices with them anywhere and they’re still connected.”

Both professionals added aging adults at both facilities use technology for accessibility reasons, like calling an Uber or ordering groceries from  Amazon.

Sutula said Wiggins also boasts a hearing loop system, which transmits sounds directly to hearing aids, helping residents listen to speakers and programs without distraction. Residents also have the opportunity to use the facility’s various computer labs or Captel phones.

“Residents are using different pieces of technology that we take for grand every day in unique ways,” she added.

Both professionals noted most residents are quick to embrace technology to simplify their lives.

“As more and more people are moving into technology, they are becoming more comfortable with it,” Sutula explained. “And for those who are not tech savvy, they are pushing to become more literate (in technology) so they can stay connected with each other and their family.”

Farber said, “I wouldn’t say everyone has embraced technology. But, you can see by the body language of those that embrace it, they feel happier. All the technology, it is nice to have those advanced tools, but if there is no desire to put them to good use, they’re useless.”

Sutula recalled a time after Wiggins Place held a class about FaceTime.

“Afterwards, I walked into the main lobby and there were two tenants FaceTiming and I realized they were FaceTiming each other,” she remembered. “It was great to see them using and embracing the technology, together.”

Farber said introducing technology to older generations is important.

“It’s important because they’re able to use the technology to access their cultures and interests,” he noted. “It makes their lives happier and fuller. But more importantly, technology can help health-wise, especially with the brain. You’re considered dead when you’re brain dead. So when you use those tools, you’re working the brain and allowing your brain to live. It’s stimulating.”

Sutula added, “Because technology is such a large part of our ingrained life and it’s growing at an outstanding rate, it’s important for (seniors) to embrace technology so they don’t feel left behind. This, in turn, also empowers them and keeps them independent. It’s about being able to stay connected a little more than they would be without it.”