To bridge that digital gap, families are finding new apps and gadgets that are easy for older relatives to use. Companies and community members are setting up phone calls and, in areas where lockdowns are not yet in place, in-person workshops to help those uncomfortable with tech walk through the basics.
Officials are also calling for people to pitch in to close the divide. Seema Verma, the administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, urged people this month to help the elderly set up technology to talk to medical providers.
“If you have an elderly neighbor or family member who might have trouble with their laptop or their phone for this purpose, make yourself available to help,” Ms. Verma said in a news conference.
In nursing homes that have stopped visitors from coming in to limit the spread of the virus, workers are leaning on tech to help residents stay connected with their families.
At 23 senior living communities in North Carolina, Maryland and Virginia run by Spring Arbor Senior Living, workers have been triaging family calls — sometimes multiple ones a day per resident — over Apple’s FaceTime, Skype and a software system operated by K4Connect, a tech provider, said Rich Williams, a senior vice president at HHHunt, which owns the centers.
“That line of communication is essential to the resident’s well-being,” he said.
Mr. Williams added that workers had also used virtual activities like Nintendo’s Wii bowling and SingFit, a music singalong program, to help Spring Arbor’s 1,450 residents — whose average age is 88 — pass the time and stay active.
Candoo, a New York company that helps older people navigate technology, has recently taught its customers how to use Zoom and other video calling apps with downloadable guides and phone calls and, in some cases, by taking over their screens and showing them where to click. Candoo charges $30 for a one-hour lesson and $40 for support.