Seniors are discovering the power of technology to keep them connected with friends and family, keep up with the news, and learn new skills. However, because many left the workplace before technology became ubiquitous they often lack some foundational knowledge. They want to learn, and we need to teach them!
10 Tips on giving technology help to seniors.
- They know basic vocabulary. For example, they may not realize that “online” means being connected to the internet.
- They understand what a router is or what social networking means or how folks might access their private information.
- They understand the difference between a web-based app and a device-specific app.
2. Be patient! The ins and outs of technology use are second nature to many of us, but it’s not to many senior citizens. We would be flummoxed if suddenly we had to live with the technology of the early 1950’s–think about wringer washing machines, the mangle iron, or televisions with tubes! Remember what it’s like to be totally uncomfortable learning something new and act accordingly.
3. Make sure they write down passwords. Too many times people show up to take a class and don’t know their passwords to access their email or Facebook account. Frustration sets in. Have a conversation about where to list passwords safely and perhaps devise a simple code to help them quickly recall the passwords. For example, Chris from BoomerTECH Adventures reminded me that the phone numbers from our youth had both letters and numbers in them. So, I use a phone number from my childhood that is forever etched in my brain as a password. Then on my cheat sheet for passwords I simply write Pittsburgh phone#, and I immediately remember the password.
4. Let them drive! By drive, I mean, have them work the keyboard. If you take over and click here and scroll down there, the process remains a mystery to the person watching. Walk them through step by step how to turn wifi on and off, how to cut and paste, or how to attach an image to an email. All of us, no matter our age, learn best by doing. Remember to be patient—all of these procedures and terminology may be new to someone in their 80’s.
5. Have them write down step-by-step directions for basic tasks. We all forget steps if we do not repeat a process multiple times. Having a step-by-step set of directions handy will be helpful, especially after you have gone back home.
6. Teach them how to “Google” their questions. Build your parents/grandparents’ independence in all things technological by showing them how to “Google” a question. Want to review texting on an Android–it’ll be on YouTube. If the answer is not on YouTube, it will be in WikiHow or Apple Support. Help them with searching so they can answer their own questions in the future.
7. Be prepared to go through procedures more than once. Remember, the person you are working with probably has little experiences working with the ins and outs of technology we use every day. One complaint I have heard over and over is that “My son goes so fast I just can’t keep up.” Slow down, explain what you are doing each step of the way, and repeat. Your folks want to learn, but they do not possess the same background knowledge that you have,
8. Have them practice while you are sitting next to them. Run through a process a couple of times so your parent practices the correct steps.
9. Share how you also sometime get frustrated with technology. No matter our age, when we get frustrated with learning something new, we assume we are the only ones who struggle. By sharing your occasional frustrations you demonstrate that everyone get befuddled by their device once in while.
10. Communicate with them via online apps once you go home so they will practice. Practice makes perfect goes the old saying. Providing opportunities to use their technology will help your parents or grandparents feel more comfortable and confident while building their competence with a new app. Don’t call—text or Facetime.