The Elderly in the Digital Age (They’re Savvier Than You Think)
Two retired patients might be equally stressed when making their respective dental appointments for the same restorative procedure. However, if you’re a practice manager watching them in the waiting room, you could see two very different pictures.
Jim, 71, has his hands folded tightly in his lap as he stares at the wall across from him. You notice the top of an unread paperback peeking out of a pocket. He hasn’t interacted with the other patients, smiled, or spoken to the staff beyond providing his name.
Lillian, 72, has whipped out her cell phone after thanking the receptionist for her digital birthday greeting. She laughs and compliments another patient on the style of a tote bag. You watch her easily log in on her phone, using your practice’s free guest Wi-Fi.
You have most likely seen similar situations to this in your office. Some of your older patients will gladly embrace automated reminders, while others might ask for a personal phone call. Weave’s appointment reminder system allows you to make your appointment reminders seem like a personal text.
Digital Goodies Seniors Enjoy
With the arrival of the digital age, many senior centers, churches, and other organizations assumed that retirees would be slow to adapt to new technology. They began to schedule special classes in the skills necessary to use digital media and to encourage a willingness to use that training.
Few practice managers expected what happened next. You witnessed constant technology updates, requiring more and more skills.
You might be surprised that many of the elderly have, like Lillian, became very well connected indeed. Among AARP members, a whopping 80 percent own at least one piece of digital media. More than half own a desktop, 48 percent have a laptop, 19 percent possess an e-reader, and 14 percent own either a tablet or an iPad.
Only 20 percent of members say they never go online. Nearly 70 percent indicate online use a minimum of three to five times a week. When AARP asked them about their comfort level with technology use, 36 percent said they are either extremely or very comfortable with using it.
Which digital activities occupy your retired patients’ time each day?
- 70 percent check email
- 40 percent get news and other info
- 25 percent play games
Your elderly patients also like mobile devices. More than 90 percent of members indicated they owned a cell phone. Of these, 31 percent reported they had a smartphone. Although most use both a landline phone and a mobile device, about a fifth indicated they rely primarily on their cell phones.
A Pew Research Center study revealed that in senior households with an income of at least $75,000, 90 percent of residents go online. Some 82 percent have broadband at home. Visit a public library on a weekday, and you’ll find seniors enjoying the digital media there for free.
Mention social interaction to your senior patients. No longer is a friendly bridge game an ideal for most. Sharing life’s important details on Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram, Twitter, or other social media is quick, easy, and fun for many. E-books are much more portable and cost less than hardbacks. Ask about TV usage, and USA Today says you might hear about the wonders of an Apple TV subscription.
Digital Benefits for Senior Dental Care
What your practice should understand is that retirees don’t put digital media in a box. Many enjoy the social perks but also realize potential health benefits. There are at least a dozen e-Health opportunities for adults 65 or older, the New York Times says. For graying baby boomers, marketing for items such as monitoring devices to “smart” cardigans to connected all-terrain wheelchairs has gone into overdrive.
Once they have overcome concerns like digital privacy or manual dexterity, retirees are very willing to make digital products part of a lifestyle. The need for a special diet morphs into a digital search for healthy recipes. The senior then shares that favorite recipe on social media. Friendly comments begin to amass.
An elderly patient who has a digitally tailored home physical fitness program will also use the technology to keep track of medical and dental appointments and to search federal sites for information on health conditions. The overlap potential for your practice is huge.
Seniors who embrace the digital age favor dental practices that help keep them organized and show concern for their individual needs. Your practice will gain their appreciation with electronic appointment reminders and recognition of birthdays and anniversaries. When your staff answers calls with all a patient’s health and personal information at their fingertips, seniors consider this personalized service.
Weave is a great tool to make it easier for your staff to build relationships with seniors while boosting the efficiency of your phone system and simplifying administrative tasks. It integrates a convenient phone package, two-way text messaging, synchronization with dental software and records, and automation for important patient reminders. Be sure to schedule a free demo today to find out how Weave can help your practice better meet your patient’s needs.