Peggy Fossen DNP, RN, CNE
Challenges of Technology
Seniors face unique challenges when using today’s technology. Keeping up with all the different devices, programs, applications, and social media platforms can be very overwhelming to say the least. Add the physical and mental changes associated with normal aging and things can become even more challenging.
We are all aware of the changes which occur as we age. But how does this impact how we interact and engage with today’s technology? The physical limitations which occur can create barriers restricting participation in the world of technology. Those who experience arthritis or chronic pain may have difficulty maneuvering and operating handheld devices or keyboards. When someone has limited vision, operating a computer or mobile device can be extremely difficult, if not impossible.
While there is little we can do to slow down the aging process, there are actions we can take to adapt and even enjoy technology. There is a growing number of Seniors participating in the world of technology. This growing interest has not gone unnoticed, and assistance is becoming more available and accessible.
Assistive Technology is available for Seniors struggling to cope with technology. You are probably wondering what exactly Assistive Technology is and how does it help. Assistive Technology is equipment and devices that assist with difficulties Seniors may have with technology. Some examples are accessible mobile phones, visual aids, screen savers, and memory aids. There is even assistance in activities of daily living, including medication reminders. The benefits of Assistive Technology include improved communication and easier access to the internet and social media. Additional benefits can be explored at: https://www.agespace.org/tech/assistive-technology.
So, why is it so important for Seniors to have easier access to internet and social media? The prevention of isolation is undoubtedly an important reason. The increased interactions provided by technology significantly decreases the feelings of isolation, loneliness, and even depression. Having that feeling of being connected to others is crucial in preventing isolation.
Isolation and Technology
At times, understanding and remembering all the information required to navigate the many devices, programs, internet, or social media can result in feelings of frustration and hopelessness. For some, these feelings become so overwhelming they give up, pack the device back in the box and put it back on the shelf. While this may give some instant gratification and satisfaction, the long-term result could be increased isolation, loneliness, and depression.
Staying connected through technology is becoming an extremely important strategy in the prevention of isolation and depression within the Senior population. Networking on social media platforms can provide a support system for many older adults. Connections with family and friends are strengthened by sharing photos and memories.
There is attention being given to the correlation between technology and isolation, and a recent research study demonstrates technology does improve the social wellbeing for older adults.
So, keep your devices out of the boxes and start looking for resources to help you stay connected.
Resources for Seniors
A common myth related to Seniors and technology is that Seniors are opposed to technology. This is just not true. Also, the stereotype that Seniors are less competent than other generations in learning and navigating technology is not deserved. Perhaps the problem is not the Senior’s knowledge and abilities, but the technology itself. Technology is not specifically designed with Seniors in mind. Hopefully, a change in how Seniors and technology are perceived is around the corner.
Perhaps change is already occurring, as there are many wonderful resources available to assist Seniors with technology. If you are a Senior struggling with technology, check out some of the resources on these sites. Help with passwords and social media, free online classes, and information on virtual reality are just a few topics you will find.
Remember it is OK to feel overwhelmed or frustrated with technology. It is not OK to give up on it. Ask for help, check out the resources, try Assistive Technology, take a basic computer class offered at the local library. But stay connected!
Carevision. (2017). Top 5 challenges for seniors using technology. https://carevision.com/top-5-challenges-seniors-using-technology-2/
Graham, J. (2021). Calming computer jitters: Help for the elderly who aren’t tech-savvy. KHN. https://khn.org/news/article/calming-computer-jitters-help-for-seniors-who-arent-tech-savvy/
Kassler, W. (2020). Technology can help the lonely elderly endure social distancing. Forbes. https://www.forbes.com/sites/ibm/2020/04/08/technology-can-help-the-lonely-elderly-endure-social-distancing/?sh=2e23693a4480
Olson, M. (2022). Contributed: Seniors aren’t tech adverse. We’re just not designing for their needs. Mobile Health News. https://www.mobihealthnews.com/news/contributed-seniors-arent-tech-averse-were-just-not-designing-their-needs
Right at Home. Technology for seniors made easy. https://www.rightathome.net/blog/technology-for-seniors