Best Buy Canada recently partnered with Google Canada and SE Health on a new initiative to support older Canadians. A donation of devices including Google Nest Hub Max and, Google Pixel 4a, along with one-year subscriptions to YouTube Premium and Geek Squad Home Memberships were provided to the homes of older Canadians in all living settings from independent, assisted living to long-term care homes. The initiative had two goals: 1) Support older adults in various communities with devices to be digitally connected; 2) Equip staff or care providers with tools and guidance to help older adults digitally connect.
Overcoming the challenges to stay connected faced by older adults
The pandemic pushed society into a different lifestyle including the way we work, grocery shop, and interact with each other. The abrupt changes to daily life have been stressful, with Canadians reporting the deterioration of their mental health since the onset of the pandemic.1 In times like these, it is important to connect with others emotionally even when we can’t be physically close together to support one another.
For many older Canadians staying connected has not always been easy, and technology can play a vital role helping everyone to emotionally connect. Platforms like Google Duo and Meet are common ways to connect, regularly check-in with family, play games, and watch movies together. However, this new way of socially connecting while continuing to physically distance may not be an easy adjustment for some. The number of older adults in Canada is growing, representing ~25% of the population by 2036.2 The older adult demographic is now more connected to the Internet than before and two-thirds now own a smartphone, invalidating the idea that older adults do not want to or cannot use technology. 3,4 The pandemic has pushed many older adults to use their devices extensively but many still need help doing so, highlighting the gap that industries must work together to overcome.
Bringing solutions to the people who need them
The new initiative was developed to help older adults in all living settings to connect using the simplicity of Google smart devices. The Google Nest Hub Max was chosen because of the larger screen, and ability to use various features Google offers such as entertainment, connection, and Google Assistant. Since the staff and care providers have a full plate, it was important to select a technology that would not pose a challenge for set up and up-keep. Instructions and guidelines were provided that made the set-up process quick and easy.
The initiative has been a great success. The older adults used their new devices with the support from the tech champions (identified staff in the building or care provider in the home) had fun and built meaningful connections online. For example, some older adults used the built-in voice activation feature (Google Assistant) to connect with their loved one(s), watch entertainment, and do translation. Very quickly, they learned how to do many tasks, like how to make and receive calls on the Google Nest Hub Max, for themselves. In the long-term care homes, they were free to independently call and interact with whomever, whenever they wanted to since it was their own device to use (i.e., freeing up staff who would normally help them to make calls). The device has equally benefited older adults living independently in the community. An older adult said:
The device has connected us to others [and] we are able to just ask it to call who we want, and we are able to see our family. We have two young grandchildren, and we would be missing them grow up if it wasn’t for the Google Nest Hub Max.
The entertainment features of the device are the most popular. Older adults play music through YouTube Premium, and watch online church services in their own denomination at their own time, in their own language, while praying and singing with the music. An older adult in the community-setting also talked about the positive impact to their life:
Before the device, the only entertainment was the TV and Home phone. Now every morning we video call our grandchildren and watch Greek music videos on YouTube. It also helps when we have to ask questions like when stores are open.
Similarly, a staff in the long-term care building echoed the positive impact the devices are making to senior residents’ quality of life
[The resident] is LOVING the device. She listens to music almost all day …. Her family brought her in old photos of her siblings, and she has been looking up information on the locations the photos were taken at. I put some photos of her on the device which she enjoys.
With the devices, the senior residents in long-term care settings are also able to communicate in their own first language. This feature helped to overcome language barriers in communicating with staff. For all features, the voice-activation of the Google Nest Hub Max makes it easy for many older adults to use the device, whether that is to listen to music or call their family member.
Raising awareness of technology and what’s possible
The outcome of the donation is clear: getting technology in the hands of older adults can not only help them stay connected but also provide the tools to be independent. Older Canadians have historically been left out of the conversation when it comes to technology. The work Best Buy, Google Canada and SE Health have done in this donation is a step in the right direction and we hope this work can open up further conversations in supporting older Canadians with technology in all settings.
Best Buy has also been contributing to this initiative with a series of educational blog articles aimed at helping older adults with technology. In a comment below, please suggest new topics that you would like us to cover in future articles of this series.
1 Retrieved from: https://cmha.ca/wp-content/uploads/2020/12/CMHA-UBC-wave-2-Summary-of-Findings-FINAL-EN.pdf
2 Retrieved from: https://www150.statcan.gc.ca/n1/pub/11-402-x/2011000/chap/seniors-aines/seniors-aines-eng.htm
3 Retrieved from: https://www150.statcan.gc.ca/n1/pub/11f0019m/11f0019m2019015-eng.htm
4 Retrieved from: https://agewell-nce.ca/archives/10884