In their own words: mobile-first seniors describe the benefits of connecting

By: Libby Jacobson Fox
Libby and Tanya Soriano

Earlier this summer, Verizon hosted a mobile technology training session for local senior citizens in Washington D.C. There, I saw first-hand the promise that mobile technology holds for seniors. From staying connected with their families, to accessing community resources, senior citizens represent a significant (and growing) portion of the “mobile-first” generation. At a more recent class held in September at the Knollwood Military Retirement Residence in Northwest D.C., I spoke with several participants to understand how, in their own words, their smartphones and tablets are enriching their lives.

Sheila Tiedemann

Dr. Jerry Earll, a retired physician who practiced internal medicine and geriatrics, spoke about the ways mobile technology has changed medicine for both patients and practitioners. “Technology offers real-time updates and helps to expand differential diagnoses for a particular group of symptoms. You can determine the side effects of pharmaceuticals instantaneously. It also empowers patients to take preventive measures to protect their health.”

Lavert and Bonnie Seabron

Bonnie and Lavert Seabron were seated at the front of the class, absorbed in the material. By the end of class, Bonnie had learned how to call a rideshare service, and was learning how the voice-recognition in her pocket-sized computer gave her a new way to interact with the Internet: “Technology has changed my life considerably; I feel I am in touch with the world. I have the Uber app which allows me to travel and I am visually impaired so I love Siri.”

Tanya Soriano has her hearing aid synced to her phone so she doesn’t need to use headphones. She described how she’s able to keep in touch with her adult children in a way that’s almost as good as an in-person visit:  “I am able to keep track of my children and grandchildren. My children will often call me from the road when they have a long commute. We may talk for up to an hour and it feels like we have had a visit. It’s like family member coming home at night and telling you about what’s going on in their life.”

Betty Jentsch uses her device to continue doing a hobby that she shares with her daughter, who lives several states away: “I got on Skype! If I want to do a recipe with my daughter, we can cook together even though she is in Texas.”

The internet adoption gap in the United States is closing across nearly all demographics, including senior citizens, thanks to the ubiquity – and importantly, the accessibility – of modern mobile devices and technology.

Photo credits: Albin Sikora