By Mac McLean
Smartphone developers hope a variety of programs that help people manage their medications, find assistance in an emergency and keep track of the people who provide care to them may convince older people to give up their basic phones and get with the times.
“There’s still a number of people who are 65 or older and don’t use smartphones,” said Rob Pineda, an area sales manager for U.S. Cellular’s operations in Central and northern Oregon. “They’re not a generation that grew up with a lot of the technology that’s available now.”
An April 2014 survey conducted by the Pew Research Center found that although 77 percent of people who are 65 or older own a cell phone and 59 percent of them use the Internet, 18 percent of seniors own a smartphone that is capable of doing more than making a call or sending a text.
Pineda said a lack of understanding — both when it comes to what smartphones are capable of doing and how easy they are to use — could be one of the biggest reasons so many older people are hesitant to cross this phase of the digital divide.
He and other U.S. Cellular representatives hope to solve this problem by offering a series of sessions that help teach people how they can use a smartphone or any other type of electronic device that they sell. They are also working on a campaign that highlights some smartphone applications, or apps, that help seniors or their caregivers keep track of information and complicated tasks.
“You can get an application to tell you what pills you need to take and when,” Pineda said as he talked about a feature that’s common in apps such as CareZone, iPharmacy and Pillbox. These apps, which in most cases are available on the Android and Apple platforms, also include:
• CareZone Senior: Developed to run on both Android and Apple phones, CareZone Senior is a free app that gives family caregivers a place where they can record information about a person’s medications, emergency contacts, discharge instructions and upcoming doctors appointments. It has a calendar function where people can keep track of upcoming events, a to-do list function where people can log certain tasks that need to be done each day and a journal function where people can record information about their loved ones’ symptoms or other events they encountered. Users can also share this information with other members of someone’s caregiving team so they’ll know what is going on when it’s their time to get to work.
• Elder 411 and Elder 911: Developed by Presto Services, Inc., and Marion Somers, a geriatric specialist who wrote “Elder Care Made Easier,” Elder 411 and Elder 911 are free iPhone applications that provide family caregivers with a wealth of information that can help them make the right decisions when it comes to their loved ones, and help them solve problems they might encounter in their duties. Elder 411 provides caregivers with more than 5,000 pieces of advice that could help them manage their daily caregiving duties, while Elder 911 provides people with clearly written step-by-step instructions they can follow during a medical emergency or another crisis moment.
• iPharmacy: Developed by SigmaPhone, iPharmacy is a free application for Apple and Android phones that provides information about more than 20,000 prescription drugs, their potential side effects and possible negative interactions with other medications. It has a special function that helps people identify 10,000 medications based on the shape and color of their pills, a medication reminder function that tells people when it’s time to take their medications and a locater function that helps people find the nearest pharmacy.
• Pillbox: Developed by the Community Health Network, Pillbox is a free iPhone application that helps people manage their medications by giving them the ability to store information about each pill they are supposed to take and how often they need to take it. It presents this information in the form of a daily schedule that users can check off once they’ve taken each pill. The application also has information about commonly prescribed drugs and their side effects, a function that lets people store information about their drug allergies and a function that lets people set up multiple drug profiles that can be used when someone is caring for more than one person at a time.
U.S. Cellular spokesman Jack Coleman said people can also use his company’s family protector service to send text messages and phone calls at the push of a button when someone is feeling sick or having an emergency, its vehicle monitoring service to keep track of a senior’s car or where he has been driving from the convenience of their home or office computers, and its “find my phone” service to track someone who might have wandered off.
Pineda said he also thinks his company’s slate of health-tracking and health-monitoring applications — programs that keep track of a person’s heart rate or other bodily functions as they exercise — would find a niche among seniors who are trying to stay active and healthy.
“We spend a lot of time focusing on different segments of the population and ask ourselves, how can we make their lives easier?” he said, hoping seniors will start using smartphones once they realize how easy they are to learn and how big a difference they can make in someone’s life.
— Reporter: 541-617-7816, firstname.lastname@example.org