Tech seminar helps keep seniors engaged

Living & Aging Well Seminar gives info on using technology for independence

Posted 10/2/18

Michelle Rahn took the lectern at the Lone Tree Arts Center Event Hall Sept. 29 and started with some words of encouragement. “We need to learn right to the very end,” Rahn said. The words opened …

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Tech seminar helps keep seniors engaged

Living & Aging Well Seminar gives info on using technology for independence

Posted

Michelle Rahn took the lectern at the Lone Tree Arts Center Event Hall Sept. 29 and started with some words of encouragement.

“We need to learn right to the very end,” Rahn said.

The words opened up the Living & Aging Well Seminar, a lecture series featuring guest speakers to educate seniors about how to live fuller lives in a fast-changing technological world. Rahn, the 2004 Ms. Senior America, emceed for the seminar's guest speakers of the day: representatives of the Centennial Senior Commission and Mohammad Mahoor, an associate professor at the University of Denver.

While the Centennial Senior Commission educated the room of seniors on how to take advantage of technology to make traveling in the ever-growing city easier, Mahoor presented what could be the future of senior living.

Chris O'Mara gave a brief presentation on the Mobility Ambassador Program, a group of volunteers designed to help seniors plan a trip or find transportation services. Susan Pye followed after with a presentation on how to utilize transportation services like Uber and Lyft to ease the stress of navigating heavy traffic in and around the city, particularly in common situations like visiting the Park Meadows mall.

“Use it before you need it,” Pye said, in her blanket advice to seniors new to the technology. “Because when you need it, you're not going to be thinking right.”

Mahoor introduced his artificial-intelligence senior social companion Ryan, a robot designed to help patients with dementia by comforting and keeping them active through interaction. Ryan can reciprocate empathy and engage in conversations, as well as play familiar music and challenge users in cognitive brain games. Ryan can be used for reminders or simply as a friendly companion to talk to.

“It's meant as a complement, not a replacement, to assisted-care givers,” Mahoor said. “They are super busy and do not have time to serve the population. Just to use the robot, to help them, at times when the caregivers are not available.”

The audience got to try out Ryan for themselves after the presentation. Carol Rossi, of Centennial, tested out Ryan. She used to work with autistic children for 33 years and said the companion bot would serve well helping the students with cognitive disabilities.

“I think that would be a wonderful thing for them to be able to relate to,” Rossi said. “I'm 81, and I know that at some point I could be using the robot.”

The next seminar from the Lone Tree Living & Aging Well committee will be Oct. 15 when speakers will educate seniors on living options, like transitioning into an assisted-care home, what a person's options are and how to have the difficult discussions to plan to move a loved one into assisted care.

Rahn's words at the beginning of the seminar reconciled the purpose of the Living & Aging Well seminars.

“It has to be a choice,” she said, “that we remain active.”

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