Before he retired, John had been a history teacher at a high school in Santa Clara. He used to like to say that “geography is destiny,” meaning that where a country was located was a huge factor in its success. As he got older, he realized that applied to life as well. Even though his physical capabilities had diminished, John was able to get around, go to dinners with friends, see shows with his husband, and enjoy the beauty of the Bay Area. He was thrilled by the fact that he lived in an area with the technology and the will to help its older adults. Indeed, thanks to a drive to use technology to make life easier for older adults, San Francisco, Silicon Valley, and the entire Bay Area are wonderful places to retire.
With more cities in the region becoming equipped with assistive technologies, opportunities for older adults to remain independent increases. These autonomous additions can make a big difference to your or your aging loved one’s quality of life, especially as developments continue. With Silicon Valley on its side, and a public commitment to change, San Francisco and the Bay Area is arguably poised to become one of the best regions for aging in place. With each passing year bringing about more positive change for senior care and accessibility, the list just seems to be growing.
Ideal Technology for Retirement Cities
Climate, proximity, cultural opportunities, and cost of living may be some of the major determining factors when looking for the ideal retirement location, but a city’s technological benefits should also be considered. The following are a few of the categories where a city’s tech can really benefit older adults.
Most major cities these days feature accessible internet connections: whether 3G on smartphones or WiFi in coffee shops, there’s bound to be a way for your aging loved one to connect. A few years ago, San Francisco unveiled free WiFi across Market Street—a main hub for transportation, shops, and more. Meanwhile, numerous parks, libraries, and housing areas now also feature this complimentary service. It isn’t just San Francisco, either. Santa Clara is using smart meters to offer WiFi to all its citizens, and San Jose has some of the fastest public WiFi in the country. While much of the Bay Area’s younger population already have comprehensive mobile phone plans, many low-income citizens and older adults don’t: having access to free WiFi means they can easily use their phones or tablets to check transit schedules, use medication management apps, stay in touch with family, or consult online maps to get around. This can help your aging loved one stay more independent and safe when out and about exploring during retirement.
Forward-thinking transit solutions
It’s great how the Bay Area boasts a ton of options for getting around. There’s BART, MUNI, and a variety of senior-oriented private car services available. But, like most transit systems, there’s definitely room for improvement: there’s more pressure than ever on Bay Area-based companies to invest in transit developments, whether adding extra routes to pre-existing systems or creating new ones entirely. At the same time, initiatives like Bay Area Bikeshare plan to expand throughout the region, enabling additional access to bikes across the city. Your loved one can enjoy cycling without needing to worry about investing in a bike, regular maintenance, or having it stolen. In the future, navigating the Bay Area sprawl will be based on using a multimodal model: more transportation options will offer better choices for older adults wanting to navigate this incredible city safely, affordably, and efficiently.
And that’s to say nothing of the possibility of more self-driving cars in future. As demand for self-driving vehicles increases in the delivery industry, everyday people will benefit from the advancements, too. Not only will older adults be able to get more products and services delivered to them—rather than having to leave their home to get it themselves—they’ll benefit from being able to use self-driving cars for their own purposes to get from A to B. As safety and security improve with this new technology, self-driving cars, which will be more like taxis, might soon allow your aging loved one to live more independently in tech-savvy locations like the Bay Area.
There are some cities and regions that have more of a commitment to making aging healthier and more productive. The Bay Area is especially interested, and it is reflected in both public and private commitments. The innovators in Silicon Valley are very interested in developing new technology to make aging at home easier (and were behind a lot of the push for public WiFi). As go the leaders of the business world, so goes the community: San Francisco, in particular, devotes a lot of time and resources into its Department of Aging, running programs to help seniors. While most major cities have this department, San Francisco’s is considered to be one of the most energetic and engaged.
There’s also useful organizations like Teach Seniors Technology that connect volunteers with older adults eager to learn how to use tech products. As more services aimed at older adults are released in future, everyday living is likely to become even better.
Of course, there are so many factors to think about when helping to guide your aging loved one’s decision on where to retire. But technology should definitely play a role in the areas you consider, as it becomes increasingly important to our health, happiness, and overall lives. The Bay Area, and perhaps San Francisco in particular, also provide a wealth of opportunities for older adults to get more comfortable with technology. From hosting tech expos geared toward local seniors to affordable internet for low-income older adults to conferences led by organizations like Institute on Aging, the Bay Area is packed with possibilities for older adults aging in place. Both now and in the future, there are myriad ways for your aging loved one to improve their understanding of technology—and, most importantly, reap the benefits it has to offer in this tech-savvy region.
For caregivers and family who want to better support their aging loved ones, Institute on Aging is proud to offer a range of resources and services in the Bay Area and beyond. Don’t hesitate to connect with us today to find out more.