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Helping Seniors Embrace Technology

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With help, what was once scary, can keep your parent engaged.

 

Technology can be scary for older adults. While young people spend hours on social media, emailing and even banking online, a much smaller senior population has embraced the use of electronic devices to enhance their quality of life.

According to a recent Pew Research study, a whopping 60 percent of adults ages 75 and older say they never use the internet, and less than half (41 percent) say they do not have broadband services.

"Learning new things definitely takes more time as you get older," says Neil Charness, a researcher at the Center for Research and Education on Aging and Technology Enhancement. He says older people often decide whether to adopt technology only after weighing its perceived benefits.

With frequent news headlines about banks being hacked and stories about elder-fraud, the thought of becoming a newbie within the daunting world of technology can seem overwhelming.

Through the support and involvement of family and friends, older adults have the opportunity to experience meaningful rewards for their efforts in adopting technology. These experiences can add joy and fulfillment through time spent together as well as uncovering tangible benefits of the technology that enhance the lives of all involved.

Here are a few ideas to help your older loved one learn to embrace technology:

 

Discuss the Benefits

Today’s technology keeps families and friends more connected through email and social media platforms, while instant photos and video chat can make distances seem shorter between long-distance loved ones. Technology found in smartphone apps also makes tracking your health easier for both the patient and caregivers and can provide reminders, including those designed to reduce medication errors.

 

Give Them a Show-Me Moment

Overcoming fear often involves a hands-on demonstration of how something works. Sit down with your loved one and set up new devices together, discussing key functions and features to remove the mystery for your parent and ensure confidence. It also helps you to become more familiar with the details of the device should questions come up by phone when you can’t be there in person. You may also want to suggest additional resources such as a service plan or books for seniors from their public library or online sources.

 

Adjust Settings for Special Needs

Most devices have the ability to adjust the text size for better readability, among other features. Look at these settings together so your loved one will start with each at a comfortable setting and know how to change them should the need arise.

 

Engage Regularly

Check in frequently to answer questions and ease potential frustration. Create lots of opportunities to enjoy the benefits of the new technology by including some fun. Have a grandchild send a nice e-card or play a current iPad game together. Connect your parent with a long-lost friend or relative and encourage correspondence. These positive experiences can have an endearing effect that encourages persistence in the learning process.

 

Ensure Internet Safety

Unfortunately, seniors are at an increased risk for being targeted by fraud. Be sure to discuss the importance of safeguarding information shared online and what types of information should never be shared. Educate them about using unique and secure passwords and staying up-to-date on security software as well as current scams and schemes. As a caregiver, this is an important and ongoing role. With this type of help and support from loved ones, seniors can overcome their fear of technology and embrace its many benefits.