By Rick Lauber
Sometimes, as a caregiver or an older adult, it’s hard to get out to a local lecture, movie or theatre performance. So why not take advantage of what’s available right in your home or local library?
When we consider technological advances, we might immediately think of alarm systems, Google Home, medication reminders or even robots—all of which have the potential to better both our safety and quality of life.
But how often do we celebrate the other impressive technological advances that promote learning, entertainment, socialization and even exercise in our own homes? Let’s take a look at a few I’ve discovered that make my life a whole lot more interesting.
These easy-to-play voice recordings of books can be listened to through headphones or speakers. Audiobooks can be of great benefit to bookworms who value and appreciate reading but have diminished eyesight. There is a growing demand for audiobooks and publishers are responding with more and more books becoming available in this format, often read by the authors themselves or well-known actors. Audiobooks can be borrowed from local libraries or downloaded from websites such as Audible (audible.ca).
Whether you’re looking to learn about healthcare or caregiving issues, topical news, “how-to” advice or quick dinner recipes, chances are you’ll be able to find a relevant podcast. Google your area of interest to find podcasts, or use the Apple or Google podcasts apps on your smartphone. Podcasts are often free to listen to and you can tune in via your home computer or smartphone. You can also download shows to play at your convenience while on the move, having an evening in or babysitting the grandkids.
YouTube hosts videos on an amazing number of subjects. Once you have logged in, just type what you’re looking for in the “search” bar at the top of the page.
Television shows, movies, concerts—these are all available from television streaming services such as Netflix, Crave and Amazon Prime. You and your loved ones can watch shows online or stream them to a smart television or a tablet. Most streaming services offer several cost-effective subscription packages and, once you’ve got it set up, the systems are quite user-friendly. They will even keep track of what you’re watching and make recommendations for future entertainment. Popcorn not included!
Virtual reality goggles/headsets
These aren’t just for gamers anymore! Anyone can strap on a pair of goggles or a headset, choose something to watch and be taken away to another place or time. Virtual reality (VR) devices offer a 360-degree view—meaning that when you turn your head, whatever you’re looking at doesn’t disappear but changes accordingly, as if you were really there. VR can be especially interesting for those who live within the confines of a long-term care home and want to go on a trip. Plus it can encourage movement, such as walking down the Champs Élysées in Paris or kayaking around the Antarctic.
One research team in Copenhagen has expanded on this idea. They hooked up large viewing screens to exercise bicycles in a long-term care home, and residents could pedal through any number of environments. The study results were promising, with staff, families and residents all voting to make the feature a permanent installation. Others are experimenting with using VR to help residents with dementia recall old memories.
May the force be with you
Fear not. Technology is your friend, with the potential to open doors that you may have thought were permanently closed. Whether you’d like to watch a David Attenborough series on life in the oceans, listen to a podcast about making apple cider or use VR to take a river cruise down the Mekong, the possibilities are endless—and the personal enjoyment beyond belief.
Rick Lauber is a published author and freelance writer. He has written Caregiver’s Guide for Canadians and The Successful Caregiver’s Guide (Self-Counsel Press). Visit ricklauber.com.