Getting to grips with new technology can be difficult – and understandably, many people have a fear of the unknown.
This can be especially true for older people, who can be immediately turned off at any mention of engaging with digital devices.
As people age, they may face a number of challenges that can make it difficult to stay connected with others. These challenges can include limited mobility, social isolation and changes in cognitive function.
However, technology can in fact play a valuable role in helping older people stay connected.
Here, Rex Fan, Lead Behaviour Insights Advisor at Bupa UK, explains the ways technology can open doors for older people. He also shares advice on simple ways to introduce gadgets and help your loved ones to fully embrace their life enhancing capabilities.
Start small… and go slowly
Introducing an older person to the power of technology may be overwhelming for them at first, so it’s advisable to start small and slowly. Try to digitise a thing that they do every day, so that it becomes a routine for them.
When selecting what kind of tech to show, try to find ones with an easy user interface (easy to navigate, and not too much functionality). Some smart devices have a special mode for older people, such as having larger display text.
Ways you can show a technophobe how tech can enhance their everyday life include:
- Encouraging them to try an eBook, perhaps via the free library app Libby
- Showing them an electronic photo frame
- Playing their favourite song on a smartphone or listening to an online radio podcast
- Introducing digital versions of their favourite games and puzzles, eg crosswords or Sudoku.
Showing something they’re already familiar with within a technological capacity can help explain the value and impact the technology could have on their lives. For example, they could then meet like-minded friends online with similar interests to them, or easily have access to a wider range of information.
Everyday technology can make a huge difference in helping older people stay connected. For instance, with an internet connection or smartphone, older adults can
- use social media to stay in touch with friends and family,
- join online forums, and
- meet new people.
Social media especially may help create conversation starters, encouraging an older person to feel more in the loop with their loved ones.
WhatsApp is a safer option if there is a risk that they may be taken in by fraudsters through dodgy adverts or friend requests.
Your loved ones can also use video chat to have face-to-face conversations with family and friends who live far away.
Learn new skills
Online learning programmes and local adult education services can help older adults to build on their new skills.
From keeping an eye on their finances without having to visit the bank, or even getting an essential shop without leaving home, making them aware of these services can help them gain confidence and make the most of technology.
In our Bupa care homes we are also exploring how technology can support our residents to live well with dementia. For example, there are interactive memory games and apps that are designed to help them recall loved ones before visits.
Health and wellbeing
Online health and wellbeing services can help older adults to take stock of their health, from accessing online fitness routines to making appointments with health professionals.
Technology can also help people access online support groups that can provide a safe space for older adults to share their experiences and get support from others if they are isolated from family and friends.
How to get started…
If you are an older adult, or if you know an older adult who could benefit from using technology to connect with others, there are many resources available to help you get started. For example, many libraries offer free computer classes for older adults, and there are many online resources if you already have access to the internet.
Here are some additional tips for older adults who want to use technology to connect with others:
- Ask for help. If you need help learning how to use a particular technology tool, ask a friend, family member, or neighbour for help. There are also many online resources that can provide help and support.
- Be patient. It takes time to learn how to use new technology tools. Don’t get discouraged if you don’t get it right away. Just keep practising, and it will eventually turn into a routine and become second nature.
- Have fun! Technology can be a great way to connect with others and have fun. So don’t be afraid to explore and try.