The road to becoming a technologically-adept senior is paved with many challenges—both for the teacher and the student. One might even find themselves spending hours explaining to their aging loved one how to perform simple tasks such as making Google search queries, sending texts, or even closing specific apps.
Studies showthat even if the senior is eager and interested in learning a new device, the lack of clear, concise instructions from the device’s user guide makes it difficult for them to adapt. They’d have to resort to asking their younger relatives for help. Meanwhile, others simply feel they do not need to learn how to use these gadgets at such a late age.
However, one should not underestimate the importance of technology. Technological advancements provide us the speed, power, and logistical solutions needed to perform various everyday tasks at a quicker, more efficient pace.
For example, if you wanted to send a message to someone from another country without using a phone, you’d have to wait weeks for your recipient to get your letter, read it, and make a written response. On the other hand, one who knows how to use a smartphone can connect with anyone from anywhere across the globe in just a matter of seconds.
Common Issues When Helping Seniors Learn How to Use Modern Gadgets
A good approach to teaching is to put yourself in the position of the student. In this case, get a good feel of what it’s like to be a senior learning new technology by understanding the common barriers and challenges. Pattern your approach to teaching style accordingly for a more efficient process.
1. Failure to Understand the Need for Technology
Many seniors fail to learn new technology because they don’t understand the need for it. You can’t learn anything you don’t want to learn.
The elderly often feel this way because the need to adopt a new concept so late in life is not something they think would be beneficial. After all, they’ve been fine all these decades without modern technology. Why change now?
If you want your aging relative to learn a new piece of technology, the very first thing you have to do is help them understand how they would benefit from these gadgets. List down all the pros and explain how their lives would become so much easier. It’s a time-consuming task, but worth it.
2. Anxiety and Intimidation
Everyone is afraid of something. Kids fear the dark, teens are scared of their parents’ lectures, and many seniors become anxious when faced with new technology. In fact, studies show that unknown technology stimulates more anxietyfor the elderly than strange noises at night, dentist visits, and doctor appointments do combined.
To make the learning process easier for your aging loved one, try to ease off some of their anxiety first. Be subtle about it. Reassure them that there’s nothing wrong with not knowing how to use specific pieces of technology.
3. Decline in Cognitive Ability
Have you ever noticed how children are quicker to adapt to technological advancements as compared to older adults and seniors? Almost every five-year-old in the country knows how to use YouTube already.
There are many factors involved and results vary on a case-by-case basis, but oftentimes, seniors are less better at adapting to new technology due to the decline in their overall cognitive ability. One’s ability to process, retain, and utilize information weakens with old age.
You don’t necessarily have to restore your aging loved one’s cognitive abilities, but rather, keep these weaknesses in mind the next time you’re teaching them. Imagine how embarrassing and confusing it must feel for them.
4. Old Habits Die Hard
There’s a reason why people say you can’t teach an old dog new tricks, and it’s because old habits are hard to replace. If your senior relative has been sending snail mails for the past five decades, you can’t expect them to magically transition to text messaging out of the blue.
Instead, slowly ease them into the process. For example, if you want to help your aging loved one use text messaging services, start by texting them more often. Practice for a few minutes daily. Save all their messages so you can assess their overall improvement after a few days or weeks.
5. Lack of a Structured Lesson Plan
A very common mistake digital natives commit when teaching the elderly how to use various gadgets is failing to create a structured lesson plan. Do not just teach what you think your student does not know. It’s better to mistakenly explain the same concepts multiple times than risk skipping important topics and ideas.
Create a lesson plan structured specifically to suit the student’s specific needs. Utilize their strengths and build on weaknesses. Also, set goals and expectations for you and your student to meet every week or month. Don’t forget to celebrate them, of course.
6. Instructor’s Impatience
Patience is the key to teaching. Bear in mind that what you consider to be a very simple task may be a big challenge to someone who’s in their 60s and hasn’t even touched a smartphone before. Be more considerate of your senior student’s situation.
Instead of blowing a fuse every time they can’t follow your directions, stop to ask what they’re having problems with. Troubleshoot the issues one by one. Yes, it’s time-consuming, but it’s all necessary if you want to make your aging loved one’s golden years easier by helping them become a technologically adept individual.
7. Pride and Ego
There are cases where the senior simply refuses to accept help from someone younger than them. As far as they’re concerned, they are an accomplished individual who has achieved higher education, earned prestigious awards, and gone far in their career, so there’s no reason for them to succumb now.
When it comes to situations like these, patience and empathy are especially crucial. Rather than fighting fire with fire, try to help them understand that there’s nothing wrong with seeking help about something new and unfamiliar to them. Remember, pride is often driven by shame and anxiety, so don’t be too harsh on your elderly student.
8. Lack of Money
Modern gadgets aren’t cheap. Sadly, one needs to invest in these devices if they want to learn how to use them properly. In fact, most of the devices big brands such as Apple and Samsung release cost upward of $1,000. This is not a small sum of money.
A good approach here is to look for cost-efficient options. Go with a competitively priced device that offers the standard smartphone services, is easy to learn, and if possible, is fit for first-time users.
9. Fear of Online Privacy Risks and Dangers
Yes, internet activity does pose some privacy risks, but there are plenty of ways to protect oneself. Don’t download unusual files, never open spammy/questionable e-mails, always double-check payment gateway pages when online shopping, and run a reliable antivirus software program at all times.
Benefits of Being a Tech Savvy Senior
Modern technological advancements can help make your senior loved one’s golden years easier, safer, more efficient, and overall happier. Technology grants them access to:
Real-Time Long-Distance Communication
Gone are the days where people had to wait weeks or months just to get a reply from a faraway penpal. These days, you can contact anyone you want from anywhere in the world with just a few clicks. One can even use their smartphone for real-time audio-video calls.
Safety and Medical Assistance
Surveys show that around 93.5% of seniors choose to spend their days at home rather than a senior care facility. The freedom of living in a familiar, comfortable environment can be quite liberating, but it can also be dangerous and unsafe for patients with preexisting medical conditions.
Meal and Grocery Delivery Options
Many seniors living alone have trouble preparing their daily meals. With limited mobility and dexterity, standing up for a few minutes of cooking has become quite a tall challenge—going out for groceries is probably out of the question.
Fortunately, modern gadgets allow seniors to have all the meals and groceries they need to be delivered straight to their doorstep. All one needs is a smartphone, food delivery app, and stable WiFi connection.
Unlimited Collection of Books and Movies
The internet serves as a home to millions of books and movies from various timelines. You can access everything from classic pieces of literature such as the original translation of Romeo and Juliet to restored versions of nostalgic movies such as The Kid by Charlie Chaplin.
Bills Payment/Pension Claims
There’s no need for your senior loved one to go out to the bank every time they have to pay bills, receive payments, or claim pension allowance. As long as they have a smartphone, online banking application, they can do all these from the comfort of their own homes.
At what age can you be considered a senior citizen
The age at which an individual can be considered a “senior citizen” varies on a case-by-case basis and depends on multiple factors. For example, the AARP believes that those over 50 already qualify for senior citizen privileges. Meanwhile, government legislators are discussing whether to push the required age to apply for senior benefits from 65 to 67.
Common barriers when seniors attempt to learn modern gadgets
This study published in 2017 shows what the most common barriers are for seniors who wish to learn how to use modern gadgets.
How did you or your aging loved ones adapt to modern technological advancements? Share your experience with us in the comments section below!