The internet and technology have become an essential part of our lives, giving us access to a lot of information, communication tools, and online services. However, it can be intimidating and overwhelming for many older adults.
Messaging apps have become invaluable tools for older adults, fostering meaningful connections with loved ones nearby. These user-friendly platforms offer intuitive interfaces, making it easier than ever for seniors to stay in touch through text, voice, and video messages. As a result, older adults can share cherished moments, seek support, and engage in social interactions, promoting mental and emotional well-being. Moreover, messaging apps often feature safety and privacy settings, allowing seniors to communicate confidently, free from unwanted disturbances. In an age of digital communication, these apps bridge generational gaps and help older adults maintain strong connections with their families and friends.
With the help of experts on the topic, we created this resource on how to use the internet and technology to get the most out of its benefits. This guide provides helpful tips on picking the right devices, searching for information, and staying safe online. Whether you’re a senior looking to expand your digital skills or a family member helping a loved one get started online, this article will provide you with valuable tips and insights to make your internet experience as safe and enjoyable as possible. By the end of this guide, you’ll have the tools you need to explore the internet with confidence and ease.
Internet and technology
One of the first steps to take when learning how to use the internet and technology is to acquire a device such as a computer or a smartphone. Once you have a device, learn the basics, such as turning it on and off, navigating the computer or phone interface, and using keywords and the mouse.
Diving into the digital realm also means understanding internet safety for seniors. It’s crucial to navigate online spaces safely, from spotting suspicious emails to setting strong passwords. Being informed is your best defense against potential online threats, ensuring that your online journey remains both enriching and secure.
What are the benefits of social media for older adults?
“To sum it up, in today’s world, I think that social media can be a huge blessing to older adults. For those people that don’t get out and about as much as they used to, it can be a way to meet others, be inspired, or even just learn more.
I consider some aspects of social media to be a book made up of short stories or chapters. You get bits and pieces of other’s lives in many social media posts.
The world today is much more open about issues that plague us, and I consider it beneficial to see that other people are struggling with some of the same issues we have. Plus, we can learn how to overcome many mountains and be unique.
While some people say that society is very youth-oriented, I follow many accounts that are geared toward older adults and have a wealth of knowledge associated with them.
I’ve learned some of the ins and outs of being happy with my time on social media, and it boils down to following people who are authentic and share both the good and bad in their lives. If we only see the highlights of another’s life, we feel bad about our own life. So it’s important to realize that no one person is perfect and that we all have ups and downs.”
Jodie from Jodie’s Touch of Style
What are the benefits of internet use for older adults?
“If the internet was made for anyone, it was for older adults. It is better than any library in the world and accessible from anywhere. Most older people will remember going to the library and getting lost in the World Book or Encyclopedia Britannica. It was the grandest of all adventures…people, places, and ideas; and luckiest if all were those who had an Encyclopedia at home.
The internet is like the encyclopedia of old, on steroids.
- Allows the user to travel to any place in the world, even those places that would be inaccessible in real life.
- It provides them with information that allows them to make better decisions about health and wellness, finance, and so much more.
- Perhaps the most powerful is the internet becoming a portal for social interaction with friends and family. This is particularly valuable, knowing that social isolation is a killer… the equivalent of smoking 15 cigarettes daily.
- The internet provides ready access to more entertainment than one could consume in 100 lifetimes; reading materials, movies, and short and long videos.
- It allows older people to shop from home for anything from clothing to groceries to technology, even prepared meals from restaurants delivered to the front door.
- Tremendous convenience: banking, bill paying, and prescription refills.
The internet has the ability to create a richer, more meaningful life for older people.”
Steve Moran from Senior Living Foresight
Gadgets That Can Help Older Adults To Live Independently
As our loved ones age, their independence can be bolstered by some innovative gadgets designed to assist with everyday tasks and health monitoring.
Medical alert systems, for instance, offer peace of mind, as they can instantly connect seniors to emergency services at the press of a button. Similarly, Amazon’s Alexa devices can perform tasks like setting reminders or calling family members just by voice command.
Medication dispensers are another boon, ensuring regular medication intake without confusion. Blood pressure monitors keep track of health vitals, while grab bars and railings provide physical support around the house.
Smart watches aren’t just trendy; they can monitor heart rate, sleep patterns, and even detect falls. In conjunction with motion sensor lighting, navigating the home becomes safer and easier.
Adjustable beds offer comfort and help maintain mobility, and automatic jar openers and grip aids can prevent unnecessary strain. Auto shut-off devices ensure safety by turning off appliances after use.
Robotic vacuum cleaners take care of cleaning, while lift chairs assist with standing up. Easy-to-wear slip-on shoes and reachers or grabbers help with dressing and picking items up. And for those with vision impairment, a lighted magnifying glass can be invaluable.
Each of these gadgets offers a way for older adults to maintain their independence while ensuring their safety and well-being.
Esther Kane, C.D.S. (retired Occupational Therapist) from Seniorsafetyadvice.com
What are some ways that technology can improve the lives of older adults, and what types of technologies are most effective?
“There are a variety of technologies that can help improve the lives of older adults depending on the difficulties they face in their day-to-day lives. For example, if hearing is difficult, an alarm that flashes or shakes a bed to alert of a fire alarm going off may be helpful. Or if they have difficulty with turning knobs due to a condition like arthritis, touchless faucets or automatic door openers can be great. If remembering to take their medications is a problem, there are alarms on smartphones, reminders through devices such as an Alexa, or even automatic pill dispensers to take, remembering when and how much medication to take out of the picture. I recommend getting a referral for occupational therapy (OT) as it is not a one size fits all solution! OTs complete a holistic activity analysis to help determine the exact type of technology that would be most helpful in increasing quality of life.”
Mandy Chamberlain MOTR/L, Founder, OT Flourish
“86% of Americans 65 and older intend to remain in their homes for the rest of their lives, according to AARP. As they age, Boomers must eventually upgrade their homes to maintain their desired lifestyles. Two broad categories of home technology will address many of the age-in-place needs facing an aging Boomer population:
- Assistive Technologies – Big strides are being made in products that help older adults live alone and age in place. These high-tech solutions for lifestyle decline range from ambient computing and smart speakers like Amazon Echo and Google Nest to companion robots and home automation devices that link home security with lighting and other controls. These technologies are especially beneficial for aging adults committed to living out their lives in their own homes.
- Health & Safety Technologies – Personal Emergency Response Systems (PERS devices) like Life Alert and non-invasive remote monitoring systems provide comfort and confidence for the age-in-place senior, as well as his or her loved ones. Telehealth is also growing exponentially in popularity among older adults. Seniors are seeing physicians more frequently in the safety of their own homes and are becoming more comfortable getting medical consultations online. Doctors are making house calls again – virtually!
Boomers are committed to remaining in their homes and have the financial wherewithal to make the technological upgrades needed to do so.”
CIRCA 46, a Slingshot company
How is technology improving the quality of life for seniors in retirement communities?
“From home security that can be managed from your phone to programmable smart safety features that alert loved ones if emergencies arise to more fun smart home features like voice-activated lights, thermostats, and entertainment—homes in today’s 55+ and retirement communities are built to make life easier for seniors. At PrivateCommunities.com, we work with hundreds of the nation’s top real estate developers and communities that are specifically designed and built with senior-friendly amenities and technology. By providing enhanced comfort, entertainment, safety, or even medical care, older adults are embracing the tech found in today’s communities to enjoy a connected yet independent and stress-free lifestyle.”
Ben Keal, Director of Sales and Operations, Private Communities Registry
How can digital communication tools, such as video chat and messaging apps, help caregivers stay connected with older adults and provide real-time support?
“Digital communication tools such as video chat and messaging apps can help caregivers stay connected with their loved ones, provide real-time support, and ensure that older adults receive the care they need.
As we learned during the COVID lockdown, video chatting can be a great substitute when face-to-face conversation isn’t possible. Video chat is especially important for long-distance caregivers who cannot easily visit their loved ones to help them stay connected with their family and friends, reducing feelings of loneliness and isolation.
Messaging apps can be used to quickly and easily communicate with older adults. Caregivers can use these apps to send messages, photos, and videos to check in on their loved ones and provide updates on their own lives. This can help older adults feel connected to their caregivers and the outside world.
Beyond the social value of digital communication, these tools can also be used to send reminders and notifications to older adults. Caregivers can use these tools to remind their loved ones about upcoming appointments or to take their medications. They can also use them to send alerts in case of an emergency. Even if your loved one has a cell phone, it can still be a good idea to use a dedicated medical alert in case of an emergency.”
Max Gottlieb from Senior Planning
“In today’s fast-paced world, we often find ourselves juggling multiple responsibilities, including taking care of our loved ones. This can be especially challenging when they are not physically nearby or require constant care. Luckily, with the advancement of digital communication tools, staying connected with loved ones and caregivers has become easier.
By using digital communication tools, you can bridge the gap between you and your loved ones, no matter where they are in the world. This can include using video conferencing apps, messaging platforms, and social media to stay in touch. Video conferencing tools like Zoom and Skype are great for having face-to-face conversations with loved ones, even if you are miles apart. Messaging apps like WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger allow you to chat and share photos and videos instantly, while social media platforms like Facebook and Instagram let you stay updated on the latest happenings in your loved ones’ lives.
In addition to keeping in touch with loved ones, digital communication tools can be incredibly helpful for caregivers. Caregivers can use digital communication to coordinate care with other family members, share updates on the patient’s health, and receive emotional support from other caregivers.
Overall, digital communication tools have made it easier than ever to stay connected with loved ones and caregivers. By taking advantage of these tools, you can bridge the gap and maintain strong relationships, no matter where life takes you.”
Richard Young from Assisted Living Help
“GPS trackers are a wonderful way to help you keep your loved one safe and allow them to maintain their independence. These comfortable, lightweight trackers are often stylish and discreet, meaning mom or dad won’t be embarrassed to wear them. And caregivers especially love seeing being able to check in with their loved ones no matter how far away they are.
Using GPS Trackers Outdoors: Tracking your loved one’s location outdoors is much less stressful when you use a GPS tracker. Each device maps the wearer’s location in real-time and can provide this information to a dedicated caregiver or caregivers via a mobile app. Most devices also allow you to set up safe zones (e.g., your yard) and receive notifications if your loved one crosses outside the boundary. Additional features often included are one-and-two-way communication between you and your loved one and SOS emergency buttons to alert you or the authorities if your loved one needs immediate assistance.
Using GPS Trackers Indoors: Typically, using GPS trackers indoors isn’t accurate because they require a line of sight with satellites. However, with a few products like AngleSense’s GPS4 device and watch, you can locate your loved one indoors using Wi-Fi hotspots. Imagine your loved one wanders while shopping with you at the mall. Their device can detect and show the hotspots of nearby stores, which you can then use to narrow the distance between your phone and their location.
Safety, comfort, and security are core tenants of a GPS tracker. Maintaining regular communication with your loved one is important, and using technology can help them maintain a more independent lifestyle while giving caregivers greater peace of mind.”
Embracing Technology: How the internet can enhance our daily lives
Technology has revolutionized how we communicate, work, learn, and even shop, making it an essential part of our daily lives.
For older adults who may have been apprehensive about using technology, embracing the internet can open up a whole new world of possibilities. With just a few clicks on a computer or smartphone screen, you can connect with loved ones all over the globe through video calls and messaging apps.
You can access knowledge on any topic through search engines and online portals such as Wikipedia or YouTube tutorials. Online shopping is another area where technology can enhance our daily lives.
E-commerce platforms such as Amazon or eBay offer the convenience of shopping for groceries or ordering other necessities from the comfort of your home, eliminating the need to brave crowded stores or wait in long lines at checkout counters.
Overall, embracing technology is about finding ways to make life easier and more enjoyable. Whether connecting with friends and family members virtually or learning a new hobby with online resources, let’s not be afraid to embrace what technology has to offer!
What are some specific technological advancements that have enhanced internet use among older adults?
Remember when your grandparents struggled to figure out how to turn on the computer? Well, times have certainly changed! Technological advancements have paved the way for a digital revolution, empowering older adults to embrace the internet with open arms.
Here are 4 ways tech advancements have enhanced internet use among older adults.
- User-Friendly Devices: Navigating the Digital Realm with Ease Gone are the days of complex interfaces and confusing buttons. User-friendly devices, like tablets and smartphones, have become seniors’ trusted companions in their internet journey. These intuitive gadgets boast larger screens, simplified operating systems, and voice-activated assistants, making browsing the web a breeze.
- Accessibility Features: “Who says you can’t teach an old dog new tricks?” Well, technology certainly can! Accessibility features, such as screen magnifiers, adjustable font sizes, and voice-controlled navigation, cater to the diverse needs of older adults. A good number of older adults use adaptive features to make their online experience more enjoyable.
- Social Media Platforms – Connecting Generations in the Digital Sphere: Imagine Grandma sharing funny cat videos on Facebook and Grandpa tweeting witty remarks. Social media platforms have become playgrounds for intergenerational connections. 2021 social media statistics published by Pew Research reveal that 45% of older adults aged 65 and above use social media to stay connected with family and friends. Who knew the internet could bridge generational gaps through fun?
- Online Learning Platforms – Lifelong Learning at Your Fingertips: They say you’re never too old to learn something new. Of course, there is no limit to learning. Online learning platforms have become a virtual treasure for seniors seeking knowledge and personal growth. Older adults who engage in online learning are likely to have improved cognitive function and overall well-being. So, why not become a tech-savvy scholar while sipping tea and enjoying a good laugh?
The digital landscape is no longer an intimidating wilderness for older adults. Thanks to technological advancements, seniors are embracing the internet with enthusiasm and a sprinkle of fun. User-friendly devices, accessibility features, social media platforms, and online learning opportunities have revolutionized internet use among older adults, enhancing connectivity, knowledge-sharing, and overall well-being.
Staying safe online
As the internet continues to grow and evolve, it’s important for users to stay vigilant and protect themselves from various online threats. Numerous risks come with using the internet and technology, including viruses, scams, and phishing attempts, among others. For older adults who may not be as familiar with technology, it can be especially challenging to detect and avoid these dangers. However, by taking some simple precautions and learning to recognize and respond to potential threats, you can keep yourself and your personal information safe while using the internet.
What are some strategies for promoting safe and responsible internet use among older adults?
“As the digital world continues to evolve, promoting safe and responsible internet use among everyone, including older adults, has become increasingly important. Here are several strategies to enhance:
- Provide education on safe Internet practices: One way to promote safe Internet use among older adults is to educate them on protecting their personal information online. Platforms like GetSetUp offer classes on cybersecurity, online scams, and identity theft that can help seniors learn how to stay safe online.
- Encourage privacy settings: It is important to encourage older adults to use privacy settings on their social media accounts, banking apps, and other online platforms. This can help protect them from unwanted attention or potential scams.
- Promote two-factor authentication: Two-factor authentication adds an extra layer of security to online accounts, making it more difficult for hackers to gain access. Older adults should enable this feature on their online accounts to help protect their information.
- Offer tech support: Many older adults may not be comfortable using technology or may not have access to reliable internet services. Platforms that offer tech support services to help people troubleshoot problems and get the most out of their devices are important to ensure confidence.
- Encourage socialization: Finally, promoting safe and responsible internet use among older adults can be achieved by encouraging socialization through online platforms. This can help them to stay connected with family and friends, pursue their interests, and practice safe internet use.
Virtual communities for older adults are great spaces for people to learn and practice tech. When people have a chance to learn from peers and practice with peers, it boosts confidence and offers empowering motivation for impactful change. People feel more comfortable asking questions from peers who have similar experiences and reference points. Help older adults use, understand, and be empowered by tech through peer-to-peer online education and socialization opportunities.”
Liz Miller, Director of Communications at GetSetUp
What are some common online safety risks that senior adults should be aware of when using the internet and technology?
“Nowadays, it is very common for all of us, including senior adults, to use various online technology apps and websites in our daily life. Some of the key risks that seniors need to be aware of when online are:
- Safeguard against phishing emails and messages that can take your passwords or other private information and can use to cause harm
- At times seniors share their user IDs and passwords with others. One needs to be very wary of sharing your credentials because these individuals will have full access to your accounts and can initiate money transfers without you knowing about it.
- Government agency scammers act as Medicare and IRS representatives and ask seniors to verify their Medicare number or social security nos. It can be through an email or social media pop-ups or by somebody calling the senior.
- Sometimes scammers would tell online seniors that here computers have a very serious virus and that they need to download anti-virus or anti-malware software to their computer. These downloaded software packages can be trojan horses in seniors’ computers and provide user passwords and related information to these scammers.
- When seniors have Alexa or Google smart speakers in the room, they should switch off the microphone by pressing the button on these speakers when talking to anybody with whom they are sharing confidential information.
- Also, seniors are frequently targeted with investment scams online, and they should interact online with individuals they know.”
Shaun Mitra from BrioCare
What are some strategies for older adults to recognize and avoid online scams and fraudulent activities that target older adults?
“Every day someone is coming up with new ways to try to scam us online or by phone or text, and although we’re all trying to fight them off, it is becoming a huge problem.
Here are my top ten strategies for older adults to recognize and avoid online scams:
- Never give out your passwords, credit card details, or bank details via email or SMS.
- Call the company or organization (particularly if it’s your bank) to verify that they were actually trying to get in contact with you. But don’t call the phone number they’ve provided. Check it first before phoning.
- Report all non-branded scams directly to the appropriate authority in your country.
- Forward any suspicious SMS or emails from senders claiming to be a particular company to your mobile phone or email provider.
- If you have received a suspicious phone call, report it by calling your mobile phone provider.
- If you think you might be impacted financially, call your bank immediately. Change your passwords too.
- Ensure your passwords aren’t something easily identifiable, like your birthdate or dog’s name. Keep your passwords protected by using one of the password manager apps like Keeper.
- Consider implementing multi-factor authentication on your online accounts.
- Use secure Wi-Fi. Public wireless networks and hotspots are not secure, which means that anyone could potentially see what you are doing on your laptop or mobile phone while you are connected to them.
- Never ever let strangers remotely access your computer, even if they claim to be from a well-known company.”
Kathy from 50 Shades of Age
“While there are many different types of scams targeting seniors, I see some common themes in my office:
- Winning a lottery or a contest where claiming your prize requires you to send someone money in advance to claim your prize.
Have a trusted friend or family member help you research the validity of any contest or lottery that calls you. It’s almost guaranteed to be a scam if you don’t remember entering a contest or playing the lottery to begin with! It’s 100% a scam if you need to pay money to gain access to the “prize.”
- An unsolicited investment opportunity.
Have an independent professional financial planner review any investment offered to you (especially if an unsolicited “opportunity” from a telemarketer who called you first!)
There are certainly plenty of other scams out there targeting senior citizens. Many can be avoided by remembering the common adage: If it seems too good to be true, it likely is.”
Jason from Elder Needs Law
How can senior adults protect their personal information and privacy online?
“As people age, they may become more vulnerable to scams and identity theft online. Here are some tips for senior adults to protect their personal information and privacy online:
- Use Strong Passwords: Create strong and unique passwords for each account, and avoid using personal information or common words. Use a mix of upper and lowercase letters, numbers, and symbols.
- Enable Two-Factor Authentication: Two-factor authentication adds an extra layer of security by requiring a second verification step, such as a code sent to your phone or email, in addition to your password.
- Be Careful with Personal Information: Avoid sharing sensitive information such as Social Security numbers, bank account information, and passwords. Be cautious of phishing scams and fraudulent emails, and never give out personal information in response to unsolicited requests.
- Keep Software Up-to-Date: Keep your computer, smartphone, and other devices up-to-date with the latest security updates and patches. This helps protect against vulnerabilities and exploits that cybercriminals can use to gain access to your personal information.
- Use Privacy Settings: Adjust privacy settings on social media accounts, and limit the amount of personal information visible to others.
- Be Wary of Public Wi-Fi: Public Wi-Fi networks are often unsecured and can be used by hackers to intercept sensitive information. Avoid accessing personal accounts or sharing sensitive information while connected to public Wi-Fi.
- Be Careful with Links and Attachments: Avoid clicking links or opening attachments from unknown or suspicious sources, as they can contain malware or viruses that compromise your personal information.
By following these tips, senior adults can better protect their personal information and privacy online.”
Sharne from Evergreen Lifestyle
There are several options available to help you get started using technology and the internet, like online tutorials, including hiring a tutor, enlisting the help of family and friends, or taking advantage of resources available at a local senior center. Additionally, the best way to improve your skills is through practice, and online tutorials are a great way to learn at your own pace and on your own schedule. In this article, we’ll explore these different options and provide tips and strategies to help you start using online tutorials to learn and grow your knowledge about the internet and technology.
What are some effective teaching strategies for older adults who are new to using the internet and technology?
“Our expertise is in traveling, and as tour leaders for older travelers, so we have had fairly extensive experience in introducing our clients so technology that makes traveling simpler.
We emphasize the two aspects of traveling: what’s happening on the road and what’s happening at home while you’re gone.
First, we introduce apps, mostly for the smartphone, that allows everything from researching flights and hotels, such as Google Flights and Booking.com, to an app, such as Tripit, which aggregates all the information in one place so you can keep track of all without having to search.
Equally important, though, is the emphasis on apps that manage your life while you’re out of your home. The most important probably is having a good handle on your bank account, including having access to the account itself and setting up autopay for all your bills. It’s a good idea to go paperless on your bills, too. Also, two important things we do while on the road are program our home’s lamps to go on and off at semi-random schedules so it appears someone is home and program our thermostat so we aren’t unnecessarily heating or cooling the house while we’re gone.
Finally, there’s connecting with loved ones while traveling. Texting, social media, and email are tools most are familiar with. But these tools only work if you can connect to the internet. Learning how to set up your phone with roaming data – at a reasonable cost – if you are out of the country is critical, as is making sure the lodgings you use have Wifi. Another tool we emphasize is using a VPN (virtual private network) when connected to public Wifi, such as in a cafe or hotel, to help protect you from data and identity theft.”
Tom Bartel from TravelPast50.com
What are some common barriers older adults face when using technology, and how can these be overcome?
“Some common barriers older adults face include physical barriers, cognitive barriers, and emotional barriers.
Physical barriers include vision or hearing loss and mobile impairments. This may be overcome by using assistive technologies, including screen readers. By using accessibility menus, the font size and light/dark contrast of the screen can be easily manipulated. Animations can also be paused, thus making the visibility of websites clearer for those having difficulties.
Cognitive barriers include memory, attention, and problem-solving difficulties. Many seniors struggle to understand and process information. With training and support, mostly through user manuals, online tutorials, and video demonstrations, seniors will be given the tools they need to understand how to use the technology offered.
Emotional barriers include the fact that older adults may be apprehensive or fearful of technology. By encouraging older adults to connect with family, friends, and peers through computers, their emotional barriers can be overcome, and their confidence will improve.
In addition, they may be concerned about privacy and security issues. An explanation should be presented of the measures taken to protect their personal information and provide them with the tools they need to manage their accounts.”
Rochelle Long from Guide for Seniors
“The use of technology can be a wonderful addition to an older adult’s life, often helping with isolation and loneliness. Engaging in Zoom or Facetime sessions with grandchildren and loved ones is a much-loved activity. But first, an older person needs to have a device (tablet, laptop, desktop), an internet connection, and the digital skills to use that device. In addition, if you are using technology for the first time, taking a class in Internet Safety is a must, which includes creating a safe password, protecting yourself from fraud and abuse, avoiding scams, understanding what is safe, and, more importantly, what is not safe when participating in our digital world. To navigate coming online for the first time, learning how to use a device, connecting with a trusted person like a family member or friend, or perhaps a community Digital Navigator can make the experience fun to learn and easy to understand. Most importantly, reach out for help when needed and ask lots of questions!”
Susan from National Digital Equity Center
“There are three general challenges that older adults may face using the Internet.
The first challenge is physical limitations – many older adults have physical conditions, like arthritis, vision or hearing impairments, or other difficulties with fine motor skills – that could make it difficult for them to use the computer keypad or mouse, which are typically necessary to access and navigate the Internet.
The second challenge is knowledge and comfort – many older adults did not grow up with access to technology, and they might be deficient in some of the skills needed to navigate the Internet today. They might not know how to use a computer, search the web or send an email, much less how to bank or pay bills online, so digital literacy can be an issue, especially for adults aged 80 and older. However, this knowledge is a teachable skill for those who are willing to learn and able to explore! I have seen great interest in older adults who want to stay connected to family.
Finally, one of the biggest and most concerning issues I see is privacy and security concerns. Older adults are more trusting in general and are susceptible to scams and fraud – especially internet fraud. Romance scams and solicitation scams are some of the most common. An increasingly common scam, according to FBI sources, are people posing as technology experts to help seniors “fix” their computers and then get access to their personal information, which results in identity theft. Digital safety needs to go hand-in-hand with digital literacy.”
Anne Sansevero, President of the Aging Life Care Association® Board of Directors
What are some common challenges that older adults face in using the internet and technology, and how can these be overcome through education, training, and support?
“New technologies can be intimidating at any age, but if you don’t think they’ll improve your life, you’ll likely resist learning how to use them.
Many older people steadfastly refuse to embrace the digital universe, content without it, and unwilling to leave their comfort zones. Digital technology has confused and frustrated them when they’ve tried to work with it beyond sending simple emails.
They think there’s too much to learn, too many details, and too easy to make mistakes. Besides, they could never remember it all. And when they’ve asked a young friend or relative for help, both of you become exasperated.
If they could more easily understand and experience how technology would benefit them – without the frustrations – they would surely integrate it into their lives.
A successful approach would teach them about processes and applications most relevant to their interests and lifestyles. It would be delivered in “digestible” pieces, using relatable language, and from teachers to whom an older community could relate.”
Geri Brin, Founder at faboverfifty.com
What are some of the barriers and challenges that prevent older adults from accessing and using the internet and technology?
“What makes using the internet challenging for some seniors is how quickly technology is evolving. The way we navigate computers and use the internet is very different than it was 10 – or even five – years ago. At Senior Resource Alliance (SRA), we partner with providers to offer a variety of workshops to keep seniors informed on how to use modern-day technology in an effort to close this gap. We also use several cutting-edge technologies to help our seniors age in place – including Ring Doorbell cameras, motion sensors, and healthcare monitoring devices – all of which the seniors are taught how to use, so I’d say they know more about technology than some might think. The stigma around seniors and technology comes down to a lack of education and resources, which SRA is working to mitigate.”
Karla Radka, President and CEO at Senior Resource Alliance
How to be successful in implementing technology in the home of seniors
“With the growing gap between supply and demand of caregivers, nurses, and other critical staff, it is becoming clear that a change is needed if we want to provide seniors the care that they need.
The most promising avenue to bridge that gap is technology, but implementing technology with seniors does not come without its own set of challenges.
Technology can be met with distrust and resistance, especially by the sector that could benefit most – seniors. How can you be successful in integrating technology in the homes of seniors?
The first step is choosing the right technology. You may only have one chance for a senior to allow technology in the home so you have to ensure it is easy to install and simple to use, actually provides value, and respects the privacy and dignity of the senior.
Effective communication is also essential when integrating technology with seniors. To successfully position technology, one must understand both seniors and their loved ones’ perspectives. Seniors want independence and safety, while their family members seek peace of mind. Therefore, highlighting the technology’s value rather than technical details is more effective. Delving too deep into the technology and how it works will often increase resistance and ultimately backfire.
For a home care agency or facility that is bringing on technology as an organization, successful integration of technology requires top-down enthusiasm. It is essential that everyone, from the deputy to the caregivers, understands the value of the technology and how it benefits them. This approach ensures that the adoption of technology is a team effort, with everyone invested in the process.”
Hannah Liberman from Sensi.AI
How can seniors who may be less familiar with technology get started with using the internet and social media to stay connected with others?
“I have found some of the best technology trainers for older adults to be young people. When I was sandwiched between caring for my mom while raising my kids, my children often explained how to use something with my mom. If I tried to explain it, I would often lose my patience. This was likely because I had my hands full doing something else for my mom when we visited. My kids helping my mom was a win/win/win situation for all of us. My mom got to spend some quality time with her grandkids, my kids could show off their expertise, and I got some uninterrupted time to cross something off my list. My mom got to be quite good with her iPad. She would do digital puzzles, watch animals in their habitats on YouTube, log her books on Goodreads, and FaceTime her family members. We tried to help her keep stuff tidy on her iPad by deleting unused apps and moving frequently used apps to the front page. Later when mom became bedridden, her iPad was her lifeline to the outside world.”
- Elizabeth Miller, Founder of Happy Healthy Caregiver
- What are the key skills and knowledge areas that older adults need to learn to effectively use the internet?
- “Among the key ideas anyone of any age would need to understand is the concept of digital citizenship, which I have previously defined as “the quality of habits, actions, and consumption patterns that impact the ecology of digital content and communities.” In short, seeing the ‘internet’ as a kind of system that we all participate in, depend on, and contribute to no matter the (lack of) quality of our online behaviors.
- Knowledge depends on many factors, but I’d start with understanding privacy, safety, and identity/visibility. Also, users should understand what a ‘search’ is and that a huge portion of any ‘searches’ doesn’t result in specific or credible information because of the nature of how the search works. Keywords, for example, are important for the quality of the search results. Skills would include keeping and maintaining a password manager, using the browser to download apps – such as email apps/clients – to perform other functions beyond the broad concept of an ‘internet.’ This, however, underscores the fine line between knowledge and skills in a purely digital domain. A digital ‘skill’ could include anything from texting to using search to bookmarking content and more. But preceding these skills is a knowledge that these skills exist and that they are important when anyone uses ‘online’ tools or participates in digital communities. In short, ‘older adults’ need to know what to use (which platform or tool) to perform which action (search versus private messaging) and the privacy and visibility concerns of both. They also need to have knowledge of what’s possible ‘on the internet’ in the same way a traveler would need to understand what’s possible geographically. Knowing that Wikipedia, Google Earth, Google Scholar, and other digital libraries exist can inform and shape unique knowledge demands for any specific generation or demographic.”
- Terrell Heick from TeachThought
Nowadays, the internet is invaluable for staying connected, accessing information, and completing some everyday tasks. While it may seem challenging at first, learning how to use the internet and technology is a worthwhile investment. By following the advice of the experts, older adults can become more confident using the internet. Whether for staying in touch with loved ones, learning new hobbies, or managing finances, the internet can be a powerful tool for seniors to enhance their quality of life.