Keeping up with technology can be tough for anyone, even for the most tech-savvy. Yet it’s even harder for those who haven’t grown up with the amazing advancements in communication we see every day. Still, many seniors want to learn how to better use new technologies on the market.
Here are some of the ways you can help the seniors in your life learn about new advancements and stay “in-the-know” with technology.
Determine Interest First
It’s common for family members to gift a senior family member a cell phone or tablet with the intention of keeping in closer contact with them. Unfortunately, sometimes the best of intentions can go awry.
Before you give that well-meaning gift, find out how interested your loved one is in learning to use it. While many seniors are anxious for the opportunity, there are some who just aren’t, and that’s fine. It’s just best to know that upfront.
If the interest isn’t there, the gift of a new piece of technology can feel like a burden or a pressure to someone who isn’t familiar with the idea of it. So have a conversation first and get a sense for how receptive your loved one is. Sometimes it just takes a couple of conversations to “warm up” to the idea.
The Most Popular Devices
The most popular devices right now are smartphones and tablets, according to Polly Bateman, who teaches technology classes for residents at The Palms of Largo, a senior living and health care campus in Florida. “It’s about communication for them, with their family or friends,” she says. According to Pew Research Center, four in ten seniors now own smartphones with tablet ownership quickly growing as well.
Polly says many seniors are comfortable using email, but their preferences are changing as more of their friends and family are texting. “They feel they’re one step behind,” she noted. At the same time, that’s exactly “what makes them want to learn.”
Helping a Loved One Learn New Skills
One of the most important ways to help seniors using new technologies is for them to learn through repetition. Polly points out that the concepts of “the cloud” and icons and apps are all “foreign to them.” So, while they’ll learn a new skill quickly, it’s important that they’re shown the technology or use the skill as often as possible.
They know that technology can help them stay in touch with family and friends. One trick is to call or text your loved one daily. It may be as simple as saying “Hi, just thinking of you.” This will encourage them to answer their phone, listen to a voice message, or read a text. That repetition will solidify the skills and instill confidence to learn more.
The Most Important Skills are the Basics
When working with seniors, Polly suggests keeping it simple. The tasks that help them the most are often very basic. They include:
- Turning on and charging the device (and understanding that it doesn’t always have to be turned off)
- Making and answering calls
- Receiving and sending texts
- Receiving, viewing, and saving photos
Remember to be patient. Learning technology can be difficult for anybody, but these skills will be a true gift to them, and to you.