August 21 is Senior Citizens Day, set aside to recognize the contribution of older people.[i] Aging is inevitable but defining what a “senior citizen” is can be a challenge. Society typically determines when a person becomes a senior citizen through benefits such as retirement age, senior discounts, national pension and healthcare plans and more. Today those benefits start at age 60 or 65, but, as the diagram below illustrates, our current average life expectancy is nearly double what it was in the early 1900s. And, as medicine and technology continue to advance, that number will keep rising. The United Nations projects that one in six people globally will be over the age of 65 by 2050.[ii]
In modern-day society, it can be difficult for the elderly to stay connected to others and maintain a fully-engaged, independent lifestyle after retirement. Even before COVID-19 largely shut-down in-person social interaction, seniors tended to struggle with isolation, loneliness and few options to continue contributing to society.
However, as the pandemic is demonstrating, it is not necessary to be physically mobile to be productive and engage with others. Almost everything can be done remotely, including learning, work, payments and entertainment. Many of the platforms supporting these activities, such as Zoom, Dropbox and Netflix, have been able to accommodate skyrocketing demand by leveraging high-speed, low-latency direct connectivity to networks and clouds. And by leveraging flexible distributed IT architectures that enable dynamic partner and ecosystem collaboration and agilely scale up or down on-demand as needed, organizations will be able to deliver engaging digital experiences over the long-term.
451 Research - Digital experiences are front and center in coping with coronavirus
With the COVID-19 pandemic keeping individuals from venturing away from home, digital experiences are being put to the test. Businesses are increasingly relying on digital services to serve their customers and differentiate from their competitors.Read More
3 ways seniors are staying connected and fulfilled through the cloud
While a common misperception of seniors is that they are not technically-savvy, senior adoption of technology is actually growing. Some examples of how cloud-based applications are helping seniors stay connected include:
1. Being social: Cloud-based unified communication and collaboration (UCC) and social media tools such as Zoom and Facebook are enabling seniors to attend church, communicate and stay in touch with family and friends, as well as expand their social life through various means such as:
- The Long-Distance Movie Club, a virtual movie-watching group for seniors and millennials.
- Mon Ami, an app that pairs college students looking for work with seniors in need of companionship in their area. The students can schedule and log their visits through the app and receive payment from the senior’s family once the visit is complete.
- Element3 Health, a platform that provides virtual clubs and activities for seniors for everything from fitness and sports to arts to gardening.
- Senior Chatters, online chatting rooms and discussion groups for the over-50 crowd.
2. Living independently: Many seniors can remain independent for much longer with just a little bit of help, whether that is in the form of matchmaking “helpers” with seniors or technology-based assistance. Some platforms such as Silvernest, Senior Homeshares and Nesterly provide online roommate-matching services for seniors looking to share their home for additional income and help, while Elder Helpers matches volunteers with seniors who need help. Ambient assisted living (AAL) uses technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI), the internet of things (IoT), mobile and cloud to enable a person to stay active and live independently longer. Examples include:
- Health wearables and assistive robots such as PECOLA and ElliQ leverage sensors and artificial intelligence (AI) to monitor health, help seniors stay connected with the outside world and alert caregivers of abnormalities.
- Medical alert devices and wearables enable seniors to push a button in case of a fall, alerting local medical emergency medical support and family members.
- Smart home technology such as voice assistants and sensor-based lighting, help seniors communicate and stay safe from falls.
- eHealth and telemedicine can enable seniors to age in place for longer while still receiving the medical care they need.
3. Learning and contributing: Seniors can feel disconnected, bored and unproductive once they hit retirement. Virtual social interactions like those mentioned above can help, but sometimes it needs to be more and cloud-based platforms are making it happen. Examples include:
- Virtual reality and interactive gaming platforms such as Restore Skills enable seniors to explore the world, learn new skills, and improve physical, cognitive and social skills.
- Senior Planet uses technology to provide skill-building programs and activities for seniors 60 and older. Seniors can also access many free online classes from colleges and platforms such as Udacity, Coursera, Udemy and more.
- Encore.org provides a platform for adults 50 and older to leverage their skills to improve communities and create social impact.
- Many gig economy, remote work and volunteer platforms provide opportunities for seniors to work and share their skills/services. A few targeted for seniors include Eldera, Big & Mini, Table Wisdom, Upchieve, Senior Corps, Help From Home, etc.
- Senior can setup their own online business on platforms such as eBay, Etsy and others to sell items they make or no longer need.
Why interconnection is essential
Senior citizenship may look very different in the future as older adults will increasingly be productive members of society well beyond their 50s and 60s. As a result, cloud-based platforms supporting distance everything today will need to scale quickly to meet rapidly growing demand. An interconnection-based approach can help these organizations quickly adapt to sudden changes in location and bandwidth requirements while remaining secure, compliant and in control.
Download the 451 Research white paper, “Digital experiences are front and center in coping with coronavirus,” to learn more about why digital experiences are growing in importance.