Helping the Elderly Adapt to Technology
Time and again you’ve tried to help your nan figure out Facebook but somehow she keeps mistaking the status update field for the Google Search bar. It’s an almost-universal experience that older adults have trouble using technology. But with technology rapidly changing and many essential products and services becoming more high-tech, it won’t be surprising that even the most technologically-resistant seniors need to learn how to use the Internet and mobile phones. So what’s the best way to help the elderly adapt to the times?
Before anything else, it’s important to recognize why your loved one isn’t inclined to new technology, and from there, we can figure out how to assist them.
Common issues the elderly have with technology and how to address them
PROBLEM 1: Lack of confidence – Admittedly, there’s bound to be a learning curve especially if your mum or dad has never been handy with gadgets, so they might be somewhat nervous. Self-doubt and feeling as though they’re too old to learn is not uncommon.
SOLUTION: Ease them into it, little-by-little, and be patient. Serving up all this new information in one fell swoop – regardless of how beneficial it all is, will likely just scare them off.
PROBLEM 2: No motivation for using tech – Perhaps your grandfather just doesn’t think he needs those newfangled gadgets or maybe he doesn’t see any advantages to iPads and laptops. Still, it’s worth teaching him because he may need them in the future.
SOLUTION: If those are his main concerns, then the best way to illustrate the perks of Facebook and FaceTime is to actually have him use the platforms. It may sound like an unusual situation (to get him started, he has to start) but having him try the technology for himself, and letting him actually experience their value (being able to communicate with family and friends, or access information he wants more easily, among others) really is better than just describing what’s good about these gadgets.
PROBLEM 3: They lose their temper when they’re frustrated – Some people just get cranky when they’re impatient or if they’re overwhelmed, regardless of age. And people don’t always understand what they’re trying to learn at once so it can get dizzying, discouraging, and annoying.
SOLUTION: Be respectful when teaching your elderly friends how to use their apps, and take your cues from their response. If it’s taking them a while to grasp the steps, slow your instruction pace down, and give them a chance to let it sink in. If they’re think you’re treating them with kid gloves wee bit more than they like, speed it up a little. Always be encouraging.
The tips above are just some ways you, as a family member, friend, or caregiver, can help seniors learn how to utilize unfamiliar technology, whether it’s for fun or to accomplish important tasks.
Of course, tech designers also play their part in making technology accessible to people of all ages, but especially non-digital natives. These can be as simple as adding options to existing apps to make fonts and images larger so they can see better, or by creating tech that can make life easier for them such as reminders, games for hand-eye coordination, and communications tools.
The truth is, given the opportunity and proper guidance, it’s been found that a growing number of older adults enjoy using Facebook, Skype, and even video games – they just need a little bit of practice and motivation.