New Technology to Try in the New Year

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New Year, new you? The one constant in life is change, and each new year usually brings some changes our way, both big and small. Are you planning any major transitions in 2024? Whether you are downsizing or moving to a new community, these periods of change offer us all an opportunity for a fresh start.

While these transitions take focus and planning, our later years often present us with the gift of extra free time, too. Instead of withdrawing into the things you are familiar with, take the opportunity to embrace new technology that can enhance your life and encourage lifelong learning.

Here are five ways that new technology can benefit your life in your later years:

1. Virtual Reality

Imagine a world without limitations on where you can go and what you can do. It’s a world where your imagination can unlock new doors to creative engagement, socialization, cultural learning, and more. People are using virtual reality to travel to foreign countries they’ve never been to in person, watch live sporting events and concerts, or enter digital universes to create works of art, play games or connect with friends. It’s a limitless opportunity for social connection and lifelong learning, all from the comfort of your living room.

2. Conversational AI

Conversational artificial intelligence is not just a tool for tech-savvy youth; it’s a game changer for adults over the age of 50 looking to seize the most out of every day.

By now, you’ve likely heard of ChatGPT, a conversational AI that learns and improves with each interaction. Essentially it operates as a giant brain, connected to data from books, articles, and the internet, and can process your questions to provide accurate and contextually relevant answers.

This free, digital friend can help you with daily tasks like keeping schedules, making grocery lists and setting reminders. It can fuel your creative juices by assisting with creative writing, producing poetry or ideas for works of art. It can even spark deeper levels of cognitive function with thought-provoking discussions and access to a digital world of research.

3. Continued Education

Avoid over-scrolling on social media apps and embrace the chance for continued education. One positive result of the pandemic was an increase in online education services, meaning you can engage your mind no matter where you live! Here are two free learning sites for older adults:

  • Senior Planet
    There are thousands of classes to broaden your horizons on Senior Planet. They have designed courses specifically in mind for those over the age of 60, focused on five impact areas: social engagement, financial security, health and wellness, civic engagement and advocacy, and creativity. Some examples of their introductory courses include “Digital Storytelling,” “Etsy for Entrepreneurs”, “Ready, Set, Bank” and “Fitness Essentials.”
  • Academic Earth
    Whether you are looking for a certificate, a bachelor’s degree, or even a doctorate, Academic Earth has the lessons to get you on your path to more knowledge. They’ve been around since 2009, offering free online college courses from the world’s top universities. Explore more than 60 complete courses in art, business, engineering, humanities, medicine, science, math and more!

    Some state universities and colleges offer free class audits for individuals 65 and older. Check your local community to find out more.

4. Social Gaming

A recent study on senior gaming showed that 44% of Americans age 50+ now enjoy video games at least once a month. That’s nearly 51 million gamers and counting who are benefiting from the digital age and forming new relationships online to stave off social isolation.

Especially for those who may be moving to a new state and located farther away from friends and family, social gaming is a great way to stay in touch. Play your favorite classic board games online or try out interactive games on new systems like the Nintendo Switch that encourage you to communicate while playing.

5. Creative Design Apps

The worlds of photography, videography, art and creative design are now open for non-professionals to get their feet wet and enhance their online presence. Thinking creatively has been proven to increase brain health as we age --- even simple activities like coloring and taking pictures. All you need is a smartphone and you can get started! Here are three apps you can try out today:

  • Paper
    Ironically enough, the Paper app gives you digital “sheets” to make it easy to sketch, collage, paint, draw and journal right on your smartphone or tablet. It’s simple and intuitive, offering drawing tutorials and workbooks to help you sharpen your skills and “sketch with confidence.”
  • Canva
    Whether you want to share a favorite quote in a fun way, design a logo, create a meme, add variety to your Instagram post, or create a printable poster, Canva is a great place to get started. They have amassed thousands of professional templates and images to bring your best ideas to life. A step-by-step guided process makes it easy to do, right from the palm of your hand!
  • A Color Story
    Don’t just post a raw photo. Try downloading A Color Story, where you can easily edit and add effects onto your pictures with colors that pop! There are over 500 stackable filters that will make the colors in your photos come to life, plus you can use touch tools to remove unwanted objects with ease!

The possibilities are endless! What new technology will you try this year?

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