There has been a common misconception for a long time that technology and seniors simply do not mesh. Although it is true that a portion of seniors feels slightly intimidated by newer technology or unequipped to use it correctly, the truth is that more and more seniors are embracing technology each year.
Many seniors are overcoming barriers and adapting to technologies such as computers, tablets, smartphones, and more. These seniors are finding that technology can open up new possibilities for them and can make them feel more independent.
When it comes to the numbers, it’s reasonable to assume that seniors will always be later to adapt to technology than those who are younger. The more important distinction lies within the trends in the senior community. Are seniors using technology more than they were in the past? What types of technology are they using?
According to a study done by the Pew Research Center, 59% of seniors reported that they went online and used the internet as of two years ago (2014). This figure was a six percent increase in the span of just one year. This same study revealed that 77% of elderly adults had cell phones. This number was an eight percent increase from two years prior.
The Pew Research Center also noted that higher-income seniors who were on the younger end of the spectrum and highly-educated used the internet at rates that match, and sometimes even exceed the general population.
Barriers Between Seniors and Technology Use
One of the main issues facing seniors and technology is that there are quite a few obstacles and hurdles for them. Sometimes the problems can be physical. Other times, seniors may be anxious about using new technologies or be uneasy about attempting it. In many cases, it’s also tough for seniors to learn and adapt to the new gadgets or technologies which they’re presented.
It’s not always a learning barrier or age gap that can be prohibitive when it comes to technology and seniors. It can also be physical. According to a study, 23% of older adults indicated that either health or physical conditions make it difficult to read. Additionally, 29% have either a handicap, disability, or chronic condition that prevents them from partaking in many daily activities.
A condition such as arthritis can also make technology use difficult for the elderly. Attempting to type on a keyboard, maneuver a mouse, or hold a tablet can all be challenging with painful or inflamed joints.
Anxiety and Apprehension
Many feel overwhelmed and apprehensive when it comes to electronics for seniors. Especially if they have no one to help them learn. They may feel like it is simply too much to learn on their own or that it is information overload. The Pew Research Center revealed that among seniors who do not own a tablet, smartphone or e-book reader, just 13% would feel comfortable enough to attempt using these devices with no assistance.
Another common worry amongst the elderly is that they may believe most technology is simply too expensive. Seniors also fear damaging equipment or looking foolish.
How Technology Can Aid Independence
Technology and seniors can be a major recipe for maintaining independent living well into the golden years. If it weren’t for technology such as medical alert systems, GPS trackers, or cellular phones, it would be tough for seniors with limitations to live without constant supervision.
According to a survey, an overwhelming 82% of elders described having a smartphone as “freeing” as opposed to describing it as a “leash.” Having a smartphone supplies seniors with ways to connect with both friends and loved ones. It also adds a layer of protection because they can take it anywhere and call for help if an emergency arises.
Technology is also a great way for seniors to connect with their communities and find more social contacts. A few opportunities may arise as a result which may include:
- Volunteer or paid work/activities
- Interacting in new ways with family and friends
- Learning and developing new skills, gathering experience
- Sharing these new skills and experiences with others
Computer and Internet Use
Seniors who are age 60 and older are the fastest growing group of computer and internet users. There are numerous classes available which are designed to help the elderly learn basic computer knowledge. Having this basic understanding enables them to enjoy communication with friends and family through mediums like Facebook, Skype, and E-mail.
E-mail is a simple, and convenient way for seniors to keep in touch with loved ones and communicate with others. Most e-mail services are free and easy to use. E-mail is also a great way for seniors to receive photos and other documents as attachments from their children, grandchildren, and other family or friends. Seniors should keep these privacy and safety tips in mind when using e-mail services:
- When you create a new e-mail account, you will also need to create a password to access it. Make sure this password is unique. Write it down and store it somewhere safe
- Do not share this password with anyone unless it is a close family member that you trust
- After accessing your e-mail, be sure to log out of your account. Particularly in public places such as libraries
- Do not click on any links or download any attachments from people you don’t know
- Do not open or reply to mail in your “spam” folder
- Do not send bank account information, your social security number, or any other private information in any e-mail
- Make sure all of your computer software and updates are current
Much like e-mail, Facebook is an excellent way to keep in touch with friends and family. Facebook is much more involved than e-mail, however. This social media platform entails profile photos, videos, a news feed where you see updates from everyone you are connected with and much more.
Facebook can be an excellent place for seniors to connect not only with family and friends but also with people in their area. They can join special interest groups as well. With all of these features, also comes a need to take the necessary precautions to protect your privacy:
- Be careful about the things you share and always take into account who can see it
- Specify your privacy settings. Facebook allows you to edit your settings so that only those you are friends with can see any of your information
- Check the conditions before authorizing certain apps or games. Some of these will share your information or activity if you do
- Use e-mail or text message login alerts. This way, if anyone else logs into your account, you will be notified immediately and can take action
Skype is a video calling application you install on your computer. Using your camera and microphone, it allows you to video chat with friends and family. You can also send messages back and forth. Skype is free when you call other Skype users. It’s a great way for seniors to see and speak to grandchildren, children, and other relatives.
Here are a few other things you can do with Skype:
- Send files and photos
- Call landline or mobile phones (you need “credits” to do this)
- Screen sharing
- Video messages
- Group videos
Wireless internet has created a host of mobile technology. These electronics for seniors can provide them with devices that they can enjoy. We are no longer limited to cellular phones. We now have tablets, health trackers, GPS devices and more.
Tablets have become very popular over the last few years, and a major reason is their portability. The screens are larger and easier to read than smartphones, they come in many different sizes, and their battery ls also better than their smartphone counterparts.
A significant advantage for seniors when they are using tablets is that it is much easier for them to operate. Using a mouse and physical keyboard can prove to be a tall task for many seniors. Tablets are portable so that they can be utilized anywhere. The interface is also usually easier to understand and operate than most desktop computers or laptops.
64% of Americans now own a smartphone. This number has gradually climbed over the years and will likely continue to do so. Many seniors are a part of this demographic and now find themselves using smartphones as well.
Smartphones allow seniors to connect to social platforms, surf the web, talk to family and friends, and more. The variety of phones offered has never been greater, and some companies are designing models made specifically for the elderly which are exceptionally easy to operate.
Health trackers are a relatively new technology, and they can benefit people of all ages. There might be a preconception that they are made only for younger, more athletic people but this is not the case. Technology and seniors go together quite well when it comes to health tracking devices and gadgets for seniors are on the rise
Many seniors are finding that a wearable health tracker can inspire them to reach health goals and focus more on their well-being. These health trackers are not difficult to use and can provide the elderly with all types of information including how many steps they’ve traveled in a given day, how many calories they’ve burned, heart rate, sleep tracking, and much more.
Technology and seniors no longer need to be a taboo in our society. Along with all of the advances have also come simpler devices that are easy to use and operate. Using technology can provide seniors with numerous benefits and many seniors are enjoying them tremendously.
Do you have a story to share about the way technology has improved life for you or a senior that you care for? Feel free to share it in the comments section below!