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Published: May 31, 2020

older man with laptop

In the past week have you:

  • Participated in a Zoom meeting (maybe after taking a Doodle poll)?
  • Used Telemedicine with your doctor?
  • Ordered groceries and paid bills online?
  • Watched a movie on Netflix or other streaming service?
  • Read a magazine or book on your Smartphone, computer or other reading device?
  • Attended church through Facebook, Vimeo or other social media?
  • All of the above?

For many of us the answer is likely “All of the above.”  Life during COVID-19 is tough, but just imagine the challenges we would face without Internet, Wi-Fi, a Smartphone and a whole slew of innovative technology services and apps.

This is especially true for older adults, who are being told to stay at home as much as possible because they are most at risk for contracting and dying from Coronavirus.

“Five years ago, it was far less common for people in their 70s or 80s to own a smartphone or a tablet and have internet connectivity in their home. In 2020, many more older adults own devices with internet capabilities and are able to use them to video chat with family and friends, order groceries, consume content online and even exercise,” writes gerontechnologist Keren Etkin for Next Avenue.

Let’s look at three main areas and how all of us, including older adults, are turning to technology to fight the pandemic.

The Doctor’s In and Other Services

Even before COVID-19, few of us looked forward to sitting in a doctor’s waiting room, surrounded by sick people (and outdated magazines).

Now we don’t have to. We can use telemedicine for checkups and a variety of non-emergency ailments.

“Getting heath care by phone or video conferencing has been around for several decades, but the outbreak of coronavirus has led to an increase in telemedicine use as never seen before, according to health systems and provider groups across the country.  The Cleveland Clinic is on track to log more than 60,000 telemedicine visits in March, according to officials there. Before March, that health system ― which has hospitals in Ohio and Florida — averaged about 3,400 virtual visits a month,” according to Kaiser Health News.

All you need is a computer or smartphone, and a doctor who is setup for a video visit (often from a home office.) Sometimes the medical visit can be conducted with just a simple phone call.

Other services being provided virtually include:

  • Cashing checks and depositing money in bank accounts using the camera on a Smartphone;
  • Paying family, friends and service providers using Venmo, PayPal and other cash apps;
  • Ordering groceries using a store app for curbside pickup or delivery;
  • Practicing yoga and participating in exercise classes using Facebook, Vimeo, YouTube, Zoom and other platforms;
  • Ditto for attending church services and support groups.

 “Some A.A. members have shared that meeting online has been an adjustment and has at times had its challenges. Adhering to state/provincial and federal guidelines, many A.A. members have switched from ‘in-person’ meetings to digital meetings, on platforms such as Zoom, Google Hangouts, Conference Calls, GoToMeeting and What's App, allowing the group to continue to focus on A.A.’s primary purpose: to carry its message of recovery to the alcoholic who still suffers,” according to Alcoholics Anonymous®.

Business Meetings and Family Gatherings

Young and old, employed and retired – seems like we’re all zooming. The video communications company has been around for nearly a decade, but many of us first learned about it just a couple of months ago when COVID-19 interrupted our daily lives.

The basic service is free but has limitations (for instance, meetings cannot last longer than 40 minutes) so many individuals and businesses are purchasing monthly plans.

Given its popularity (from 10 million active users to 200 million in three months), the company has ramped up its online training resources, offering daily live demos and other training resources on basic use as well as specifics – education, work, health.

Want to host a party with family or friends on Zoom. Here are 5 tips from tech writer Kat Tenbarge:

  • Set up an account on Zoom;
  • Invite 5-10 people - fewer than your typical party but a better way to keep everyone in the conversation loop;
  • Before the party begins, double-check with participants that they know how to use Zoom;
  • Stagger the invitation time by a few minutes so everybody doesn’t pop up at once (just like a real party);
  • Add a custom background to enhance the party feel.

 “Like many companies and platforms offering free perks during quarantine, Zoom is letting hosts upgrade Zoom meetings past the usual 40-minute limit for free. If you're the one hosting the party, you shouldn't have to do anything. At the 40-minute mark, Zoom automatically notified everyone in the group that the party had been upgraded for free and could go on, theoretically, forever. If your meeting is still timing out, there's a Zoom FAQ on the platform's website to troubleshoot,” Kat writes. And don’t forget to secure your meeting with a password to prevent uninvited guests from joining the party.

Coming Soon to a Screen Near You

Movie theaters are closed but every week we hear about a new movie being released on Netflix and other streaming services or available on-demand.

And there’s a treasure chest of old movies available online. According to The New York Times Watching Newsletter, some of the best old and movies streaming are: 

(On Netflix)

  • “Taxi Driver” (1976)
  • “Back to the Future” (1985)
  • “Philadelphia” (1993)
  • “The Matrix” (1999)
  • “Silver Linings Playbook” (2012)
  • “Moonlight” (2012)
  • “American Factory” (2019)
  • “The Irishman” (2019)

 (On Amazon Prime)

  • “It’s a Wonderful Life” (1946)
  • “Murder on the Orient Express” (1974)
  • “Terms of Endearment” (1983)
  • “Bull Durham” (1988)
  • “Manchester by the Sea” (2016)
  • “Lady Bird” (2017)
  • “The Farewell” (2019)

 (On Disney Plus)

  • “Miracle of 34th Street” (1947)
  • “The Parent Trap” (1961)
  • “The Sound of Music” (1965)
  • “Rocketeer” (1991)
  • “Queen of Katwe” (2016)

Live Concerts are Still Happening - But Without the Live Audience  

Two years ago this summer, cellist Yo-Yo Ma embarked on a 36-stop, six continent tour called The Bach Project. The last leg of his tour was interrupted by the pandemic so over Memorial Day he played solo cello live from Boston, with audio and video available on many sites.

The concert was “a memorial for those we've lost in the pandemic and a tribute to the resilience of our communities,” he said. 

On Easter millions of people all over the world tuned in to hear Andrea Bocelli’s solo performance in the Duomo cathedral of Milan, Italian.

Many media sites such as NPR regularly list movie and concerts coming to a screen near you.

Want to learn more about using technology while sheltering at home? Check with your local or regional social service agency that provides services for older adults, as well as your local library, community college and university.

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In the past, Molly Kavanaugh frequently wrote about Kendal at Oberlin for the Cleveland Plain Dealer, where she was a reporter for 16 years. Now we are happy to have her writing for the Kendal at Oberlin Community.