How to Help Your Senior Loved Ones Embrace Technology
When you’re constantly surrounded by technology, it’s easy to forget that not everyone is tech-savvy. Your senior loved ones, who have made it decades without smartphones and social media, might find the digital landscape daunting.
According to the National Institute of Health, digital technology isn’t just useful for seniors to stay connected to friends and family. It can actually help improve cognitive function as well as improve physical and emotional health.
Helping seniors with technology isn’t just a kind thing to do — it’s a crucial step in connecting generations and ensuring no one gets left behind. This guide will explain how to help your older family members and loved ones pick devices for their needs, how you can set them up, and how to teach them to use their new technology effectively.
Choosing the Right Device: Technology for Seniors Made Easy
It’s crucial to include your family member in decision-making. Talk to them about what they want from a device, how they hope to use it, and their comfort level with learning how to use their new technology.
Why choose a laptop for your senior loved one?
- Pre-existing skills: If they already have computer experience, a new laptop might be easier to learn than a smartphone.
- Keyboard and mouse input: While you and your friends may have a notch in your pinky from holding your phone, that position could be uncomfortable or difficult for an older adult. A keyboard and mouse may be more accessible for them to use than a small touch-screen keyboard.
- Size: A small touch screen may be more challenging to use if they have impaired vision, while a larger computer screen could be easier to see.
Is a smartphone right for your elderly family member?
If your loved one already has a working computer or simply wants a more mobile device, a new phone could be in order.
While you might be inclined to purchase the most basic flip phone available for simplicity’s sake, consider a smartphone. Rent-A-Center offers some of the best user-friendly smartphones for seniors, including features such as:
- Health apps: Most smartphones have a built-in health app or can download third-party health apps. These can help your family member track medications, measure metrics like steps and heart rate, and even keep medical records that are easy to share with their doctors.
- Connectivity with hearing devices: If your loved one uses hearing devices, most smartphones can connect to them directly via Bluetooth for even better sound quality and ease.
- Location tracking services: Location apps can help your family stay connected. This is especially helpful if your loved one has memory difficulties or even if they’re independent and frequently venture out alone.
- Take pictures and make video calls: Staying connected is difficult when family members are spread across the country or even different countries. It’s easier to stay connected with the option to take and send pictures and make video calls.
- Emergency services: Smartphones make access to emergency services easier. Many smartphones also allow users to make emergency calls through voice assistants. That means if your loved one suffers from a medical emergency and can’t reach their phone, they may be able to call 911 with voice activation.
Setting Up Your Loved One’s New Device
Once you help your loved one purchase a new device, it’s essential to help them set it up or to set it up on their behalf. If they choose a smartphone, help them select a plan that allows them to use their device to their desired extent while being budget-friendly. Compare plans and check if the network offers a senior discount!
Turn on accessibility features.
Customize the device to fit the user’s needs, from enlarging the text to setting up a screen reader and voice recognition.
Set up location tracking.
If you decide to utilize location tracking features on a mobile device, set them up. Your loved one might feel like you’re spying on them with these features – consider making location sharing go both ways so they can see where you are, too.
Install and log in to apps and software.
Be sure to install and log in to any apps or software they want to use, including connecting it to their vehicle if necessary. Other third-party apps they may appreciate include health-related apps, insurance apps, and their favorite news channels. Don’t forget games and music, if they want!
Bookmark their favorite sites on the home screen.
Add shortcuts to their favorite websites and the apps they’ll use the most for quick access. For a smartphone, consider taking it a step further and adding shortcuts to contact different friends or family members.
Keep it clean and simple.
Keep the home screen simple and essential features easy to find. Cluttered icons can be difficult to see and make finding necessary information difficult.
Set up security and safety.
If they want a password, make it easy for them to remember. Set up emergency contacts and sign them up for local emergency alerts.
How to Teach the Elderly to Use a Smartphone or Computer
Once you set up the device for your loved one, it’s time to teach them how to use it. These tips apply whether you’re wondering how to teach the elderly to use a computer or smartphone!
1. Pick which features they will use the most.
First, focus on the features they expressed the most need or desire to learn. For example, making a phone call, sending a text, and taking/sending photos may be their top priorities. You should spend the most time on these items and save the others for later.
2. Stick to simple language and clear instructions.
Remember that you’ve been using a smartphone for a long time, so the simplest tasks might seem natural to you. But for them, if this is their first smart device, unlocking it may seem difficult for them! Try to keep your explanations simple and straightforward – avoid going off on tangents and explaining miscellaneous features. Once they master the basics, you can teach them more!
Practicing is the best way to reinforce new skills. Ask your loved one to call you, text you, or any other task you’ve taught them. Try mixing it up and opening random apps so they understand how to get back to a familiar screen in case they accidentally open something they don’t recognize.
4. Be patient.
Remember: this is a new frontier for them. They aren’t “digital natives” like your generation. Don’t get frustrated if they struggle at first, and remind yourself of all of the skills they have that you don’t!
How to Help the Elderly with Technology Questions and Concerns
If your loved one is reluctant to adopt new technology, explaining the benefits and reassuring them that you’ll be there to help might be helpful. Their reluctance may not be due to stubbornness or luddite tendencies but fear or other worries you can address.
Deal with the fear of making mistakes.
As a generation that is comfortable with technology, you likely aren’t afraid of making mistakes. After all, if you accidentally open the wrong app, you understand that it’s easy to close and won’t result in something like accidentally buying an item you don’t want.
However, if your senior loved one doesn’t understand the fundamentals of how their phone or computer works, they don’t really know that. Their fear of making mistakes may seem silly to you, but reassuring them that mistakes aren’t the end of the world can be helpful. Teaching them skills like getting to the home screen from anywhere on the phone can help prevent this fear from getting in the way of using the device.
Manage frustration and challenges.
Just like learning any skill, they are bound to get frustrated. You mustn’t also get frustrated (or at least don’t show it!). Be kind, reassure them, and offer resources for remembering how to do important tasks, such as writing them down on an easy-to-follow sticky note.
Help them avoid scams.
Seniors are among the most frequently targeted groups for financial scams, with thieves and scam artists capitalizing on their technology challenges. Help your loved one prepare for scams by explaining common things (phishing, text scams, phone calls asking for personal information, recognizing spam websites, etc).
The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and Federal Trade Commission both offer excellent, plain-language guides on recognizing scams. Carefully emphasize the importance of caution without instilling too much fear in them – paranoia could backfire and cause them to avoid using their device.
Shop Laptops, Smartphones, and More at Rent-A-Center
Embracing technology doesn’t have to be a scary feat for you or your loved one. Equip them with the knowledge and tools they need to succeed by shopping user-friendly smartphones, computers, and affordable phone plans at your nearest Rent-A-Center.