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Making Technology Senior Friendly

Added on February 16, 2018 by Kristen_Heller

Technology is our way of "keeping up" with an increasingly hectic world. With it, we have the tools to stay as up-to-date as we can manage; without it, we're left to mainly fend for ourselves. Technology - specifically the internet - is considered the supreme tool of a younger generation, though there's no reason for it to be age-restricted. As it turns out, seniors also want to join in on the fun.

Today, four-in-ten seniors now use smartphones, which is more than double the share observed in 2013. This is a sign that seniors want to get into the tech game - they might just need someone like you to teach them.

Whether you're caring for a senior family member or loved one, or if you've recently begun offering your services as a family caregiver, teaching a senior how to use a new technology offers them a huge lifestyle improvement.

Of course, this path of education should be taken on carefully. After all, seniors come from a time long before the internet. If you're looking for some key teaching points, scroll down and we'll start you off in the right direction.

Use Familiar Concepts

Teaching a senior how to use the internet is like dropping them in a foreign country with no notion of its language or geography. Learning how to navigate online is especially difficult if the senior has no frame of reference. As you begin to educate your senior, think of introducing them to tech-related ideas by using what they're familiar with as a framework. 

For instance, when introducing web addresses, you can compare them to street addresses. Just as we use street addresses to direct us to where we need to go, web addresses also pertain to a certain online area. 

Rather than grasping to understand digital concepts afloat in the abstract, a senior's introduction to modern technology will be much smoother if they compare what they're learning to what they already know.

Touch Screens Are More Intuitive

The elderly experience a much smoother learning curve when using a tablet compared to a traditional computer. Touch screens are much more naturally picked up than the drag-and-click functions of a mouse, not to mention their convenient portability. Seniors also tend to be far less intimidated by the lack of wires. Keep in mind that, even when presented with the conveniences of touch screens, it's important for seniors to be taught the basics of their technology patiently and thoroughly before diving in by themselves.

Relevance Before Detail

If your senior is new to technology, they'll likely be overwhelmed by the specifics of most tasks that you're introducing them to. As you teach them the ropes of the internet, keep in mind that they're turning to technology for practicality or entertainment. Explain the practical value of a gadget, app or website before giving them a run-down of its mechanics. 

For example, if you're giving them a run-down of Facebook, start by taking them through the profiles of their family members. After being shown how easy it is to navigate the website, your senior will have an idea of what they're trying to learn. They'll have more patience to soldier through the technological details, and they'll be much more eager to learn how to use the software themselves.

Get the Lingo Down-Packed

Since the rise of the internet, we're now using a number of terms that, before mass inter-connectivity, were seldom needed. Terms like 'upload', 'URL', 'cookies' and browser are mainstays in internet-speak, though they won't mean much of anything to the uninitiated senior. Don't scare your senior off by asking them to load up the browser and type in a URL. As you begin to help them transition to a more tech-savvy lifestyle, set them on the right track by creating a list of popular internet terms kept close to their computer.

Be Wary of Hidden Costs

Thankfully, most services on the internet are free - daily news, YouTube videos, Facebook, etc. Seniors will be pleased to hear this, coming from a generation used to paying money for a service or piece of content. Still, it's important to urge them to read the fine print if they're unsure whether an online service costs any money.

Battery Life Reminder

Older technologies required constant charging in order to be used. Now, our devices can be loaded to function all day through a simple overnight charge. When introducing your senior to new technologies, it's important for them to understand how their batteries work. 

Ensure that your senior understands how and when to charge their device, and teach them to subsequently monitor its battery life in order to avoid over-charging. Let them know the importance of conserving battery life, but make sure they aren't shutting their devices down between usage, since this will prevent their friends and family from contacting them.

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