Teaching technology to older adults

There are many reasons why seniors can benefit from embracing technology. Staying connected to friends and family is easier than ever with platforms like Skype and Facebook. Additionally, the internet provides seniors with a wealth of information and resources at their fingertips. Therefore, teaching seniors to use technology can help them stay connected and give them the tools they need to lead healthier, more informed lives.

Importance of seniors using tech

Various tech tools can be valuable to older generations, from online banking and shopping to more complex medical and home care devices. Not to mention the inclusion of such features as 5G connectivity, which is crucial for senior living, for health and safety reasons.

Seniors need the opportunity to learn about and engage with technology. After all, if they're not using tech, they're at risk of being left behind by an ever-growing digital world. Not only for personal use, but technology has taken over professional and educational settings as well. By understanding and monitoring their digital well-being, seniors can take advantage of all the opportunities and resources the Internet offers.

Considerations for seniors using tech

Though technology improves the lives of seniors in several ways, there are some considerations regarding their digital safety and well-being. Scams and cybercrime are always a risk when going online, and such schemes often target seniors. The American Journal of Public Health estimates that around 5% of America's senior population falls victim to fraud yearly. This translates into a multibillion-dollar industry preying on seniors.

Scams come in all forms, from phishing emails and phone calls to fake websites and social media profiles. Seniors must know how to identify these threats and report them to the proper authorities.

Online scams

When it comes to online scams, there are a few that target seniors specifically. The first is the grandparent scam, where a criminal contacts someone pretending to be their grandchild in need of money. This is usually through text, email or social media, and the scammer will use personal information about the victim's loved ones to make the request seem more legitimate.

Another common online scam is the fake antivirus software scheme. In this case, a criminal will send an email or pop-up message claiming the computer is infected with a virus. They'll then offer to sell bogus antivirus software to fix the problem. Unfortunately, this software does nothing to protect the computer and instead gives the scammer access to their personal information.

To avoid such schemes, seniors should:

  • Never click on links or attachments from someone they don't know.
  • Be cautious of unexpected messages or calls related to their computer's security.
  • Understand wireless consumer safety issues when using mobile devices or laptops to go online.

With more information about the risks associated with going online, seniors can better protect themselves.

Phone scams

In addition to online scams, there are also phone scams that target seniors. In the Medicare scam, a fraudster calls pretending to be from Medicare or another health insurance provider. They'll try to get personal information like a Social Security number or bank account number to commit identity theft or to bill the senior for bogus services.

To avoid such scams, seniors should:

  • Never give out their personal information to someone they don't know.
  • Ask for the caller's name, company and contact information.
  • Hang up if the caller refuses to answer questions or becomes agitated.

Seniors can be easy targets without knowledge of these scams or how to block them. Therefore, it's best to provide them with information and tips on how to identify an account hack and how to use account security features.

Misusing tech

Seniors may unknowingly download malware onto their computers by clicking on a malicious attachment or ad. They may also accidentally share personal information online, leading to identity theft.

Likewise, many seniors might be unfamiliar with how to use social media safely. They may friend or follow people they don't know, which could make them vulnerable to scammers and cybercriminals. 

It's critical to educate seniors about the dangers of misusing technology, as well as how to use it safely. Here are a few tips:

  • Only friend or follow people you know and trust on social media.
  • Use strong passwords and never reuse them.
  • Keep your software and antivirus programs up to date.

By following these simple tips, they can stay safe when using new technology.

Tech tools for seniors

While technology isn't always intuitive, it may benefit seniors. Tech tools can help seniors stay connected, stay active and engaged, and age in place.

  • Fitbit: Wearable devices track fitness data like steps taken, heart rate and burned calories.
  • Amazon Echo: A hands-free speaker seniors can use to play music, get weather and traffic updates, and set alarms.
  • iPads: Tablets seniors can use to stay connected with friends and family, play games, read books or work.
  • GPS trackers: Devices that can be worn or placed in a car to help loved ones keep track of a senior's location.
  • Screen readers: Software programs that read text aloud, which can be helpful for seniors with vision impairments.

There are many other tech tools available to seniors; the key is to help them find the right one for their needs.

Emergency dialers

Emergency dialers are devices in pendant or bracelet form, with which you can call for help in the event of a fall or other emergency. They typically have a large button that can be easily pressed, and they're often equipped with GPS tracking so responders can locate the senior in need. A few on the market, such as MobileHelp and Medical Guardian, can be valuable tools for those who live alone or have health concerns.

Communication tools

There are many communication tools available to seniors, such as:

  • Skype: A video chat program to stay in touch with family and friends.
  • FaceTime: A video chat program to make calls from an iPhone or iPad.
  • WhatsApp: A messaging app that sends text messages, voice messages and video calls.

Aside from apps, there are phone plans and devices for seniors that can be tailored to their needs.

Community tools

Many community tools are available to seniors to keep them connected to their community. Some examples include:

  • Transportation apps: Apps like Uber and Lyft can help seniors get around town without driving.
  • Social media: Social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter can help seniors stay connected with their friends, family and community.
  • Community apps: Apps like Nextdoor can help seniors stay up-to-date on what's happening in their neighborhoods.

Beyond these examples, many other resources and support tools are available.

Tips for helping seniors with tech

Learning new technology can be daunting for anyone, but it can be especially challenging for seniors. That's why it's best to have a support group. A support group allows them to ask questions, talk to peers and get help when necessary.

Local classes

The local library or community center may offer classes on using technology. These can be a great way for seniors to learn about new devices and software in a safe and supportive environment. Likewise, local tech stores may offer classes or workshops on using specific devices, such as iPhones or iPads.

Connecting online

There are many online resources available to help seniors with technology. Some of these include:

Sharing personal experience

One of the best ways to get grandparents to use smartphones or computers is to show them how to use them in their everyday lives. Try sharing your personal experience with technology and how it has made your life easier. This will help them understand how technology can benefit them. For example:

  • Send a photo of the grandkids: Show them how to use their phone or computer to send photos of their grandchildren.
  • Check the weather: Help seniors understand how to use their devices to check the weather forecast.
  • Get directions: Show them how to use their device to get turn-by-turn directions.

These are just a few examples, but the possibilities are endless. The key is to find ways that technology can help make their lives easier.