Introducing the Elderly to Technology

older adult hand holding smartphone

By Alison Wood, Contributing Writer

COVID-19 has meant that many older adults are more isolated than ever.  However, even without the complication of a global pandemic, many seniors don’t live close to their offspring or friends, and therefore aren’t able to visit them in person. 

Before the advent of technology, this would have meant that letters and phone calls were the only ways to keep in touch between visits. But the good news is that today’s digital age can help bring family and friends closer.

That said, introducing seniors to technology isn’t always the easiest thing to do. For one thing, a senior might have some resistance to learning new things — including, more specifically, technology. Furthermore, there could be a big learning curve for the senior to overcome, as he or she comes to grips with acquiring new skills.

Here are our tips for making the learning process go more smoothly — whether you are teaching someone how to do a video call, browse the Internet, or connect on social media.

Make the benefits clear

None of us like to learn something new if we don’t truly understand its value to us. So rather than talking about the actual technology, first explain how the technology will benefit them. Discuss what it could mean to be in touch with children, grandchildren, and friends on a more consistent basis. Explain also how the Internet can be a window on the world, allowing them to explore new places, learn new skills, and connect with new people, right from the comfort of their own home!

Choose technology wisely

Computers and cell phones exist that are designed to be easier for seniors to access and use. If you are going to be purchasing new hardware and equipment, look into helpful options that will make learning and using the technology easier for the senior.

Leave tech talk at the door

You might know technical jargon, but someone new to this arena will need such things explained in straightforward terms. A senior doesn’t necessarily need to know how or why something works, nor do they need to know all the acronyms and vocabulary surrounding its technology. They just need an easy way to access it and learn how to use it. So keep what you teach as simple as possible.

Take it slow and repeat, repeat, repeat

Just like learning how to swim, ride a bike, or drive a car, we all need to repeat the actions before they become second nature. You will therefore need to explain things as many times as needed and at a pace that is right for your student.

It’s also vital that you don’t just show how to do the task but instead, allow and watch the person you are teaching do it for themselves themselves, with you there for support. We often learn best when we try things for ourselves. If we get stuck, that’s just a new opportunity to learn more.

Patience is a virtue

The process of introducing a senior to new technology is one that is going to require a lot of patience. Therefore, ensure you pick time that’s best for both you and your student. Neither you as the teacher nor the senior as the student should feel rushed, pushed, or hurried, so allow enough time for each lesson. On the flip side, don’t make lessons so long that the extended periods make concentrating and keeping one’s attention on task more difficult. Also, don’t pick a time of day when either of you is tired or hungry. No one learns easily under such circumstances!

Write down the steps

You won’t always be around to help the senior, so write down each step for him or her to follow, no matter how small. Think about the process, and record every action the senior will need to take to get the desired outcome. If you can provide your contact details, or the number of someone supportive they can call if they get stuck, that too will be helpful.

Confidence is key

When you think of your own learning experiences, you might find that you’ve always do better when someone encourages you. The same would be true of the senior. Make the process as fun as you can, and again, keep reiterating the benefits of understanding how to use technology to its fullest. A granddad who knows that he can use technology to connect more regularly with a granddaughter is going to be much more motivated to keep learning when he finds himself inside a steep learning curve.

There are so many resources online for people of all ages to enjoy that it’s a shame for anyone to miss out. Once the older student has become accustomed to new skills, make sure you point him or her in the direction of some websites that will be helpful and enjoyable. Doing so will encourage the continued desire to pursue these new horizons that have now opened up.  To learn more, click HERE to read our article on websites that specifically help seniors beat the COVID-19 blues. Also check out our article on how the Internet can benefit seniors by clicking HERE.