Seniors and technology

My neighbour’s 95 year old auntie was beside herself with excitement when her daughter had got her an iPad one Christmas and shown her how to use Facetime and email. She then learned how to do searches and they installed apps with her that she liked. For the first time in a long time she could have daily contact with her family and friends and she could feel like she was part of the world again. Last year I was sitting next to an older lady who was trying to use Google voice to find CostCo. “Okay Google”, she said very confidently , “Find Costco.” She started tutting and was repeating her instructions. I had got my phone out, connected to 4G and searched on Google maps app. It was quicker. I showed her and she was happy to know how to get there so she could tell her husband. So why hadn’t the Google voice thing worked? Her connection may not have been solid. We were in a noisy place so the instructions may not have been heard. Siri and Google voice have their uses but they are still in the development phase and will will improve as people continue to use them.

Older people are no different with technology needs than younger people. We are constantly having to review and refine what is on offer. What suits one age group does not suit the next. What works with one group does not follow through to the next. No matter who we are discussingt we have to be in constant conversations about what users need. We have the internet. We have connectivity. We have a capacity to learn and share together. We have the opportunity to get the needs and requirements out there so that changes can be made. We need the sites which allow us to share the information for seniors so we can know what they need and share what is working. Some only want their landline. They don’t want a mobile phone. Some will use a mobile phone if someone shows them how to use it. Some just want a phone and not a smartphone. Some need a tablet rather than a phone because they have vision problems or they can’t hold onto a small device.

Sometimes it’s the labelling. Not every older person recognises the “done” button as meaning that they have completed a task or install on their phone or tablet. Some don’t understand the need to install updates and just find all those messages confusing and annoying. Seniors want clear instructions and uncluttered screens from my experience. Our area runs a lot of small groups to help older people sort out their issues with technology. It works. Like younger age groups, it is needs based and personal learning. One to one works. Showing is better than telling.

The needs are going to change according to the group. A lot of people in their 60s and 70s are very competent with technology because of workplace training and experience or families. Some older people want nothing to do with technology because they don’t like what they call all the rubbish. They want something more sensible. There are people in ther 80s and 90s who are also very competent with technology but others who avoid it. Some of that is cost and availability. It will also depend on what health issues are being experienced. Older people and their advocates, where applicable, need to be able to freely share information about needs. We need to get that sharing of information going because we do have lots of options available to us in terms of technology.

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