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Bridging the Technology Gap for Seniors
Wednesday, February 2, 2022

old man staring at computer

Can the Generational Technology Gap Be Closed?

Helping Our Seniors Learn New Technology

In 2016, research conducted by the Stanford Center on Longevity Studies showed that nearly 1 in 4 adults over the age of 65 felt isolated. This was prior to the onset of a global pandemic that would cause more widespread experiences of isolation and loneliness for seniors, particularly those living at home alone. During the pandemic, many of us turned to technology to stay connected to our families and friends. Suddenly, Zoom happy hours and birthday parties and FaceTime conversations became the norm—but this proved challenging to seniors who either lacked the technology or the technical knowledge to participate.

Several years before the pandemic, a PEW study found that only 73 percent of people over the age of 65 use the Internet. That number drops significantly for seniors over 80, with only 44 percent of those seniors online. At the time, only 59 percent of people ages 65–69 owned a smartphone—and that percentage drops to only 17 percent for seniors over 80.

How can we bring our seniors into the fold of technology, help them understand its value, and teach them how to use it to communicate and engage with others? If there is a senior in your life, perhaps a family member, friend, or neighbor, who is hesitant to learn new technology, consider taking them under your wing. You could help them shop for and set up a smartphone, tablet, or laptop. These steps will get you started:

1. Determine the senior’s learning style first. Imagine holding a smartphone in your hands for the very first time, without ever having used one before. The technology can be overwhelming, and seniors may fear that they will never be able to use it with ease. Before you attempt to teach a senior any new technology, make sure you know their preferred learning style. For example, if they are a visual learner, you may create an illustrated step-by-step troubleshooting guide. Or, if they are an auditory learner, record yourself walking them through the process of turning on their device and navigating to a specific program or feature, like making a FaceTime call to a loved one.

2. Focus on the value and meaning behind using the new technology. What will they be able to do now that they weren’t able to do before? Maybe it is logging on to Facebook to see pictures of their grandchildren or participating in a family Zoom game night. Explain how technology in many cases gives them the opportunity to talk “face to face,” rather than just talking on the phone. Knowing the value they’ll gain may motivate them to overcome any roadblocks to learning the technology.

3. Determine if they need any additional equipment or modifications. Maybe a senior is frustrated with their smartphone because they can’t read the font—that’s an easy fix of increasing the font size on the device or adjusting the brightness levels. Perhaps headphones would help them to hear and participate in conversations. Think about how you can improve their overall experience using the technology.

4. Address their fears about online security. The unknowns of technology can be scary for seniors, who might worry about data breaches or other online threats. Make sure they understand the password protection feature on their device, how to enable two-factor verification, and what types of emails or text messages to ignore or delete.

We hope you find these tips useful in teaching an older loved one to use a new technology. If you or a loved one is experiencing feelings of isolation and loneliness and would like to increase your social interactions and opportunities, the PACE program may be for you. Please reach out to our team to learn more.

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