For much of this year, virtual appointments have been a requirement for many services, including doctors, lawyers, therapists, and more. For our elderly loved ones, this may have presented a new hurdle in obtaining much-needed care.
Although the adoption of technology has increased in adults over the age of 50, many who are in the most high-risk age brackets still struggle to adapt to laptops, smartphones, and other smart devices. The addition of virtual appointments has left some seniors bewildered and uncomfortable in attending an appointment this way – and for some, this may cause them to put off care until a later time.
However, virtual appointments and the uptick in virtual life in general due to COVID-19 has been a blessing for many others. Online social groups, such as happy hours, Bible study, and discussion clubs create the potential for ongoing social interaction when they might have otherwise had none because of social distancing or quarantining procedures, especially if they normally live on their own. Virtual doctor visits mean they are still able to obtain their healthcare. And many schools began offering online courses for free or low-cost, and folks could even learn a new skill or language in their free time.
For those who have encountered technological challenges, here are some suggestions for helping your senior relatives address their tech needs.
Training on the Computer
Train them on how to use their laptop or computer, especially if they live alone and might need to do things without the aid of another person. Show them how to make sure the computer stays updated; how to easily access their favorite programs or software; and show them where the camera and microphone are and how to access their settings.
You could even go so far as to create bookmarks for their most-used items online, or pin their most-used software to the task bar so it’s easy to see right away.
It may also be helpful to write down a brief instruction manual to walk them through common tasks step-by-step, and include what to do or who to call if something goes awry.
Training on the Smartphone
Smartphones are wonderful for seniors, but some are overwhelmed by them. They might not know where to find anything or what icons to press.
If they don’t have a laptop, or if they might be using their smartphone for any videoconferencing with doctors, they will likely need to know how this can happen. It might be helpful to walk them through where to find the link to the meeting, what happens once you click that link, and how to get set up. This includes where they should sit for the meeting, to make sure they’re comfortable and in good light, and preferably a quiet place so everyone can hear.
Again, writing down instructions or doing some basic training on how to use the devices could be beneficial, especially if the smartphone is new to them or they just replaced an old one and are unfamiliar with their new one.
Being Available During the Appointment
This suggestion may not be possible for some folks, depending on restrictions in your area, whether you live with your elderly relative, and whether you would be allowed to sit in on the appointment.
But if you are allowed to do so, it may be beneficial to simply sit in on the appointment and run the tech for them. Some senior adults are not comfortable at all with technology – mainly those in the 80+ age bracket – and struggle much more to adjust to online appointments. In some cases, they may prefer to have you set up the laptop or phone and help guide them through the virtual meeting setup.
 Kakulla, Brittne Nelson. “Older Adults Keep Pace on Tech Usage.” AARP. January 2020. https://www.aarp.org/research/topics/technology/info-2019/2020-technology-trends-older-americans.html