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Useful apps and websites for older people

21st July 2016

This news article is from Handicare UK. Articles that appear on this website are for information purposes only.

As we get older, picking up new gadgets and learning to use computer apps might seem like a challenge, but as we become more comfortable with how they work, we could see that these useful programmes benefit our daily lives. After all, technology such as stairlifts has helped us be more mobile around the home and similarly, apps could help us lead independent and fulfilling lifestyles well into our later years.

From apps that offer gentle exercise advice to those that help you stay in touch with loved ones, there’s plenty to choose from, and you can find them directly from your mobile phone or device.

If you want to learn about how technology can improve small tasks from day to day, take a look at our handpicked list of useful apps and websites for older people.

Fitness & health

Pocket Physio

Care UK, which provides social and health care in the UK, have put their years of experience helping older people into a fitness app that can make it easier to get a sufficient workout at your own pace.

While using a rise and recline chair can make sitting down and getting up more comfortable, particularly after surgery, simple exercises that help to build your strength and maintain movement are worth considering.

The Pocket Physio app is an easy-to-use guide for older exercisers and offers physiotherapy movements designed to help those recovering from orthopaedic surgery or older people wanting to build up strength. The app features several exercise demonstration videos that are easy to follow along with written text explaining how to carry out the movement correctly for it to be effective.

See one exercise example in the video below.

Group Communications Manager at Care UK, Sheila Roberts says the Pocket Physio app is “just like having an expert physiotherapist in the room with you.

“The exercises in Pocket Physio cover hip and knee replacements, Dupuytren’s Contracture, forefoot surgeries and foot surgery such as subtalar. If you’ve recently had, or are due to receive any of these treatments soon, I recommend you download the app and see how it can help you to make a speedy recovery.”

The Pocket Physio includes a calendar to help people remember any follow-up appointments they need to attend post-surgery, as well as when they can complete their strengthening exercises. The app will also suggest tips for managing post-operative pain, how to make walking with a frame or crutches more comfortable and advice on daily tasks such as bathing and dressing after an operation.

You can download the Pocket Physio app for free from the Apple iTunes store or Google Play for Android devices.

Not sure where to begin when searching for useful apps and websites for older people? Sheila says:

There are so many benefits of being able to use the internet but, understandably, some people may be slightly nervous of sitting in front of a computer for the first time. If you are lucky enough to have them, your children and grandchildren are likely to use computers every day so should be able to advise on what equipment you need to get online and show you how to navigate around the World Wide Web.

“There’s a lot of free advice available to help older people get online, it’s just a case of knowing where to look. Don’t be afraid to ask for help because you’ll quickly pick things up and be surfing the web in no time at all. It’s a bit of a cliché but the internet really does open up a whole new world.”

Cognitive wellbeing

Technology can help people keep in touch with their loved ones, ease loneliness and isolation generally, pursue hobbies and interests, order medication from their GP and make GP appointments and choose and buy food, clothes and household items. It can also be used for reminiscence” says Chris Moon-Willems of Relative Matters.

Chris is an expert in elderly care, a registered social worker herself and a prominent voice in later life care. Through Relative Matters, she works with a professional team to support and assess older people, helping them find care solutions that fit their choices and lifestyle. She recommends the following websites for older people dealing with dementia.

The Sporting Memories Foundation

Website: http://sportingmemoriesnetwork.com/

Promoting engagement and socialising, The Sporting Memories Foundation supports older people living with cognitive issues such as dementia and isolation across the UK. Their initiative brings people from all generations together to share memories about playing or watching sports to help them recall more about an earlier time in their lives.

The Foundation’s Replay Sports App allows users to share their memories, photos, video clips and audio about their favourite sporting moments from the past – helping people to reminisce on the go.

The Replay Sports App is available for free from the Apple iTunes store or Google Play for Android devices. 

Memory Apps for Dementia

Website: http://memoryappsfordementia.org.uk/

The Memory Apps Partnership aims to help older individuals with memory difficulties through touch-screen apps that encourage users to be creative in a number of different areas. Since 2010, the partnership has been providing care homes in Herefordshire with tablet computer devices to use thousands of apps available on the iPad. They organise group sessions in Bristol too, offering demonstrations to older members of the community. The apps they promote range from simple painting tools and music-making software to photo-editing programs and entertainment apps such as YouTube – all of which have user-friendly interfaces that are easy to navigate as you’re learning.

See the Recommended Apps page for more inspiration and details about using these apps.

Playlist for Life

Website: http://www.playlistforlife.org.uk/

Music that is meaningful to us and even recognisable tunes from the radio or TV can be a great source of comfort as we get older, especially where dementia or memory loss occurs.

Playlist for Life encourages wellbeing and positive reminiscence through the songs and sounds that are significant to us on a personal level. Their website can help you make a playlist of all your favourite music and provides detailed instructions for how to download your selection to an iPod or MP3 player - so you always have your calming playlist to hand.

Listening to these familiar tracks is thought to improve awareness and ability to think clearly where memory loss is a concern. It can also help your sense of independence and improve your mood in later years. 

Technology is the key to finding ways to making later life easier and there are websites and apps you can download onto your smartphone or tablet designed to help remove the hassle of your day to day life whether it is booking an appointment with your local GP or sourcing a suitable holiday if you are travelling alone. You can do so much more than you ever imagined through your laptop, tablet or smartphone,” explains Jane Slade of Retiremove.co.uk, the website covering numerous lifestyle and property topics to help people live more fulfilling, independent lives.

Perhaps one of the best uses of apps and websites for older users is to help them connect with loved ones. There are certainly plenty of online platforms available to help you stay in touch with friends and family and socialise with like-minded people.

Skype

This communication app has been around for a while but with its ability to connect people all over the world at no cost, Skype is likely to become even more popular with older users.

Technology Editor at Retiremove.co.uk, Neil MacKichan says:Free to download, Skype lets you call friends and relatives and connect to other Skype account holders for free via tablet, smartphone or computer. Its video calling function also means older people can visually connect with their children, grandchildren and friends in far flung places.”

Find out how you can download and use the same Skype account on your desktop computer, tablet device and mobile phone.

Community

Staying active in the local area is something that many older residents consider important to leading a fulfilling life in later years, but as we get older, getting around can become more challenging. Fortunately, there are apps and websites that can help us remain active members of the community, retain our civic pride and understand our care options where we live.

FixMyStreet

If you have a problem to report in your neighbourhood, whether it’s a broken road sign or uneven pavement that could put road users at risk, you can report it to the correct council department instantly through the FixMyStreet app.

Built and operated by the charity mySociety, empowering democracy and improving towns and cities through tools that help individuals, the app can help to bypass the complex system of finding the council department you need to contact. It can be difficult to get in contact with the right person to notify of an issue in your community, but as Myf Nixon from the charity explains: “With FixMyStreet, you don't need to worry about which council is responsible for a particular type of problem or a particular area - FixMyStreet matches you up to the right council automatically.

“FixMyStreet doesn't fix the problems itself, but it sends them to the right department in the right council to get them fixed. It also publishes the reports online, so it's a great site for having a bit of a look around any local area and finding out what the prevalent problems are, and whether the council acts quickly to fix them.”

Become a hero citizen and download the FixMyStreet app through Google Play and the Apple iTunes store for free.

As well as enabling you to improve safety in your local area, mySociety has two more websites that could help you stay connected to what’s happening where you live.

WriteToThem

www.writetothem.com allows you to write to your councillors, MP, MEPs or other elected representatives quickly and easily, even if you have no idea what their names are. Just input your postcode to begin.

TheyWorkForYou

If you want to keep up with the latest political news, try www.theyworkforyou.com - an easy way to access what's going on in Parliament. See how your own MP voted, or receive an email every time your chosen word or phrase is mentioned in a debate.

Myf has the following words of encouragement for newcomers to the wonderful world of apps and websites:

“Just get going and give it a try. Some apps won't be for you - that's fine, you can delete them and move on. Chat to your friends to see what they're using. Equally, if you like something, recommend it to others.

Once you have a smartphone or tablet, you'll find that it's not long before you've downloaded a few apps and in time you'll get to the point where you can't remember how you ever did without them. Most apps are very accessible and intuitive these days, and it's very hard to break a tablet or a phone just by clicking the wrong button, so don't be afraid to try.”

Which?

If you’re concerned about organising care in your later years, either for yourself or on behalf of an older friend, the Which? Elderly-Care website is a valuable resource for discovering what’s available where you live.

Our information ranges from financing to organising care and other practical information such as explaining what benefits and allowances are available and how to get a needs assessment and local authority support,” says Which? Elderly-Care.

The website also offers a useful care services directory where you’ll find key information about domiciliary care agencies and support groups in your area, helping you plan ahead for when the time comes that you may need a little extra help around the home.

If you’re going online for the first time, Which? Elderly-Care says: “It's never too late to learn and if you have children or grandchildren, ask them to show you what to do. Encourage them to explain how to use a tablet, for example, but make sure that it's you that does the clicking. Take it a step at a time and focus on the potential benefits these new skills will bring to your life

“There are many electronic products and systems that use technology to promote health and wellbeing in the home, by monitoring activity, managing risks, increasing security, helping the person manage the important tasks within their daily lives, and bringing support more quickly when things go wrong. Memory aids, telecare and safe walking devices, mobile phones and digital apps - assistive technology all offer invaluable opportunities to help your relative stay safe and be more in control of their own life for longer.”

Image Credit: Pics From The Yesterland (visualhunt.com), Alan Stanton, Kal Hendry, Allan Henderson (flickr.com)