According to a 2021 Pew Research Center study, 61% of American adults over 65 own a smartphone. This figure has risen by 35% over the past decade.
While it’s clear that the elderly aren’t afraid to embrace the tech revolution, some older adults may struggle with certain aspects of learning technology. Constant upgrades, tiny buttons and screens, and navigating social media all create new challenges.
Learning how to overcome these barriers is essential. Seniors are often victims of online scams. And innovations like food delivery services and video conferencing help those who are less mobile.
Read on to find out how to guide the older adults in your life into the smartphone age.
Focus on Useful Tech Skills First
Everyone learns the things they need or want to use the fastest when it comes to using technology. And older adults are no exception.
Some skills to focus on before anything else include:
- Understanding the parts of a computer
- Using email
- Accessing music, podcasts, and photos
- Adjusting device settings
- Saving, trashing, and recovering documents
- Safe internet browsing
- Recognizing spam, scams, and other security risks
- Opening and closing applications
- Using social media to connect with family and friends
Choosing a cellphone with a big screen, large buttons, an SOS feature, and an affordable plan can help, too.
Leave Lots of Time for Practice
Senior citizens often need more time than younger folks to pick up new skills.
As a teacher, you need to be patient with your older students. Take things slowly by focusing on the same skill over multiple lessons, even if it feels repetitive.
Once your student feels more confident, step away from them and let them explore independently. A sense of agency can aid the learning process in seniors.
Finally, encourage your senior student to practice, practice, practice! Whether completing an online crossword or sending an email full of photos to their grandkids, they may need to complete one task many times until they get the hang of it.
Create a Terminology Glossary
Seniors learning to use technology may get confused by technical language or slang. Try to relate technical concepts to things they may be familiar with. For example, compare Google maps to paper maps and spam to junk mail.
If there are a lot of words your student is unfamiliar with, or they’re having trouble remembering new terms, have them create a personal senior technology glossary. They can write the terminology on one side of a notebook page and the definition on the other and refer to the list as needed.
Learning Technology Is Possible for Older Adults
Learning technology can be more challenging for older adults, but it’s far from impossible.
The younger generations use technology to pay bills, order food, and watch shows; older adults also deserve this time-saving, brain-expanding access. By being patient and taking advantage of on and offline learning tools, teachers, family members, and caregivers can introduce the seniors in their lives to a whole new world.
If you’re looking for more advice on enhancing the digital lives of your aging parents, elderly friends, or senior charges, browse the technology for seniors section on our website.