Updated: Jul 17
The root word for telecommunications has origins in Greek - tele meaning far off or distant, and Latin - communicate is to share. Prior to the invention of telephones, news and events were shared with smoke signals and drums or by word of mouth the world over. Alexander Bell’s innovative idea of the telephone brought another way of communicating and relaying information in real-time, and that first trans-Atlantic call set the pace for a new era of telecommunications.
In 2000, the World Health Organization (WHO) established the initiative for Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) to collate and track 100,000s devices and platforms used to transmit electronic information.
The different devices people use to communicate have seen a disruption in the regular dial-up landline that has now seen a rise in the cell phones, devices, apps, and platforms. The millions of apps now used across all industries, including healthcare, have been instrumental in sharing information via text or voice.
This has segued into virtual calls, which became popular through the pandemic as we sheltered in place and opted to use video calls to communicate both professionally and personally. The surge in virtual calls took on new heights as we struggled to keep tabs on our loved ones and family we were not able to see.
Why is this so important for seniors? Along with new technologies came the different platforms that are now being touted across the senior care industry to make it convenient and accessible for seniors to communicate. The race to figure out the next best virtual platform to not only hear their voices but to see them has been rolled out by major players like Amazon, Facebook, Google, Zoom, Skype, Apple, Microsoft, etc.
A platform that has the capabilities for a video call is important to see how well they are faring or what they have been up to daily. This can make loved ones feel safe and brings peace of mind to families. Red flags are raised if they do not look well or normal or if there are new developments in their health, sleep, nutrition, and daily routines.
The fact that it is more likely to have children and families miles away from the older adult or senior is one of the reasons virtual calls are important to the stability and well-being of seniors. For seniors, their world becomes smaller after a certain age. Friends and peers either move away or move on, and they are practically alone in their homes.
Seniors who live alone and are no longer mobile or homebound are more likely to experience loneliness. Research has shown that 50% of seniors that do not have the ability to socialize or interact with others are also more likely to have depression (AARP, 2022). Visual chats with family and loved ones are a great way to stay connected and can stave off depression.
The video calls, whether a couple of times a week or day, are beneficial to children and parents who are looking to stay in touch. For children living out of town, this may be the best way to keep abreast of loved ones and share information about their lives. Instead of having to fly in and spend time with aging parents, they can just as easily check in on them via visual chat.
There are a number of platforms on the market, and not all have the ease and convenience of being senior-friendly. Figuring out how to log on or connect to the virtual call should be easy and accessible for the senior. If they can navigate the platform or device with fewer complications, then it will make it easier for them to connect with the people they want to chat with more frequently.
This is a huge benefit not only to the senior who is able to navigate the virtual call but to the family who feels a weight lifted off their shoulders for having to see them in real-time on the platform. This can be the best way to keep them engaged and in communication long term, which is the best way to keep tabs on them from afar and to stave off loneliness and depression for seniors.
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