Seniors and technology sometimes go together like oil and water – or so many people think. We’ve all seen the memes of what it’s like to help Mom or Grandma navigate the Internet. It’s downright frustrating for everyone involved, and doubly so because seniors are the demographic that can most benefit from technological advances, says Devon Sicard, Executive Director of Bridges® by EPOCH at Pembroke, a memory care assisted living community in Pembroke, MA.
“The digital world can sometimes be overwhelming to seniors because so much has changed in such a short amount of time,” she says. “Think about it: twenty years ago, Facebook was a site that connected college classmates and Amazon was an online bookseller. Sixty years ago, computers took up entire rooms, there were only three channels on network television and cordless phones were something out of science fiction movies. Small wonder that today’s multimedia, multidimensional world can seem surreal and overwhelming.”
Even seniors who are pretty “with it” can struggle with technology, which can make it difficult for them to adapt to new innovations that could seriously benefit their lives. Here are five of the top reasons why some seniors struggle with technology, and what we can do to help them overcome the tech barrier.
Issue #1: Mind the Gap
As we mentioned previously, our world became digital – and fast. Older adults grew up with maybe one TV in their home and a phone plugged into the wall. Within the course of their lifetime, they’ve seen computers shrink from the size of a room to fit in the palm of your hand, and that’s just for starters. The gap is enormous and is increasing every day – and it can be, simply, overwhelming.
How to overcome: If you’re helping a senior navigate the wired (or, technically, wireless) world of today, don’t leap into anything too complex or overly intricate. Understand where they’re coming from, and introduce them slowly into new technologies. Too much too soon will be more hurtful than helpful.
Issue #2: Relevance
Seniors who don’t use technology every day (or ever) often don’t know what benefit they’d get out of it. For example, if Grandpa has never used the Internet, he doesn’t see why he should “waste his time” in front of a screen. Seniors are generally very task-oriented when it comes to learning skills and will need to know why learning a technology is beneficial if they’re going to use it.
How to overcome: Lead with the benefits of technology instead of the bells and whistles. For example, show Grandma how texting can allow her to get in touch (and responses from) her grandchildren more quickly and efficiently than through a phone call or letter.
Issue #3: Fear of the Unknown
As humans, we tend to be wary of things we don’t immediately understand – and seniors may be afraid of everything from looking foolish to “messing something up” when it comes to technology.
How to overcome: Make technology harmless and (dare we say it) enjoyable. Reassure seniors that even if they make a “mistake,” they aren’t going to break or ruin anything. Most of all, make sure that when you’re teaching them, you’re allowing them to interact with it. Provide positive feedback and make the experience fun.
Issue #4: The Aging Body
Unfortunately, when we get old, our bodies and minds just aren’t what they used to be. Our memory plays tricks on us, it’s hard to focus and we aren’t able to see/smell/taste/hear/whatever else as well. This can be very frustrating for seniors who are used to being capable, sharp and “with it.” Everyone knows what it’s like to have something on the tip of their tongue, or a memory that they just can’t grasp. As we get older, this becomes more and more common – which leads to both frustration and difficulty with learning new things.
How to overcome: Be patient and understanding. (Honestly, that’s the answer to most issues.) Understand that adapting new technologies won’t come as naturally as easily to older folks as it does to younger people, and that’s okay. Be encouraging and take frequent breaks – remember, Rome wasn’t built in a day, and Nana may not learn how to send emails in a day, either.
Issue #5: Habit
Habits are the glue that hold our lives – and society – together. Think about the things you do every morning that you can do without even realizing it: waking up, drinking coffee, driving into work. We do these things over and over again without even realizing it. Seniors have habits that are 40, 50 or 60+ years in the making – and those are hard to break. After using a corded phone for the better part of a century, it can be strange and disconcerting to pick up a cell phone, and some seniors may long for the security of “what they know.”
How to overcome: The old adage goes that it takes 21 days to break a habit, so repetition is key for helping seniors learn new technology. Have patience and persevere.
“Technology is daunting for the best of us, but it doesn’t have to be impossible,” says Devon. “While it may take a little prompting and more than a little time to get seniors in the tech groove, it is possible to teach an old dog new tricks. Simply be patient, understand that repetition is your friend, write things down and be positive … and your senior may surprise you with how quickly he or she adapts to these newfangled gadgets.”
Expert, Life-Enriching Memory Care
Bridges® by EPOCH at Pembroke provides memory care assisted living that is comfortable, positive, safe and engaging. Exclusively dedicated to caring for those with Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia, our community promotes a wellness-focused lifestyle that emphasizes dignity and individual preferences. Our memory care professionals receive specialized, ongoing training designed to help residents maximize their independence in a secure, calm environment – making a truly positive impact on the lives of our residents.
Inspiring Programs for All Stages
Bridges® by EPOCH at Pembroke’s services are designed to recognize and adapt to the unique challenges and individuality of each resident, while ensuring comfort and safety. We believe in a full-service approach to care and provide personalized attention and programming for residents in every stage of memory loss.
Purposefully Designed Community
Within a beautiful residential design, Bridges® by EPOCH at Pembroke provides everything residents with Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia need to enjoy comfort, familiarity and security. Soft colors, directional cues, aromatherapy and interactive life stations create a soothing and secure environment where residents feel at home.
Contact us today to learn more.