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A guide for teaching tech to seniors

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Over the course of the past few decades, technology has transformed almost every aspect of our lives. From changing the way we communicate to improving our healthcare, technological advancements have, in many ways, significantly enhanced or at least simplified the way we live.

The stereotype that technology is a young person’s game is one that has long been upheld, not only by tech companies but, to some extent, by the elderly themselves. Our recent Real Retirement Report highlights that, while the majority (63%) of people aged 75+ consider themselves ‘adopters’ when it comes to technology, almost half (43%) believe that it isn’t designed with their age group in mind, and one in five (21%) indicate that they feel excluded or left behind as a result.

Around 1 in 5 over 45s feel as though they are being left behind by tech

However, the potential benefits technology can bring to the elderly – such as reducing loneliness through facilitating communication, or enabling bills to be paid from the comfort of people’s front room – cannot be overlooked. In fact, two thirds of over 75s (66%) say that technology has made their life easier and two out of five (43%) suggest that it keeps them well connected with others.

In spite of the fact many seniors acknowledge the benefits technology can bring to their lives, just over half (51%) feel as though it has become too complicated.

Tech coaching the elderly

Our survey revealed that the elderly often turn to people close to them for help with technology; almost half (48%) of over 75s ask their children, while one in five count on their family (19%) or friends (18%). It seems then, that it may fall on those close to home to bridge the generational technological divide.

48% of over 75's ask their children for help with tech

In order to shed some light on the best way to approach teaching older people about technology, we spoke to Katie Polloway from Attigo, a company that aims to reduce the digital skills gap and improve society’s understanding of technology by offering basic computer training to the elderly.

Patience is a virtue

As in many other areas of life, the proverb once again holds true. Polloway emphasises that “it’s important to remember that the elderly were not brought up around technology.” Consequently, “a patient, caring approach is essential.”

Highlight the benefits

Some elderly people may not know the benefits of using technology and, having lived the majority of their life without it, may not think it would be useful to them. Highlighting how technology can help could make all the difference when it comes to teaching someone about it.

Be sure to enhance the benefits and the positives, and how it will improve their life. If they feel it will benefit and help them, they will be more inclined to learn and get involved.

Avoid jargon

Jargon is often used to cut down the time it takes to explain or teach something. Yet this can often backfire, instead making it harder for people to learn. Polloway recommends avoiding jargon, as “you don’t want to confuse the learner and overcomplicate things.”

Keep it simple.

Learning environment is key

It’s no secret that environment and atmosphere are key to helping learners thrive; and the more comfortable people feel, the more information they’ll retain. Polloway suggests “keeping it fun, relaxed and friendly. If they feel pressured it will discourage them and cause upset.”

They don’t want to feel like they are at school and have to be there. You want them to want to be there!

Teach, don’t do

Numerous studies have shown that people pick things up easier by doing them, rather than merely being told or shown how to do them . It’s crucial, then, to allow the person you’re teaching to take a hands-on approach to learning.

Helping is great but it’s important to not just do it for them, as easy as that option may be sometimes! Show them and let them do it. This will help them learn and feel more involved.

Know your audience

Polloway states that it’s vital to “always focus on the individual, and what they want out of the training.” Before you start teaching someone, “clarify their needs and expectations first. Learn about them and what they’re interested in.”

Each individual has different learning approaches and skills, therefore a tailored approach is key when teaching others. People learn at different paces, in different ways. Building a relationship and getting to know the learner will help find the right approach for them.

The importance of technology for seniors

Technology has the potential to improve lives for the better and, as Polloway indicates, “it can help save time, money, whilst allowing you to connect with friends, family and to revisit the past.” While the purpose technology serves may vary with age, the older generation reap the rewards brought about by digital advances like any other demographic.

Polloway suggests that “the convenience is really what can change elderly people’s lives.” Being able to go online at any time, and at their convenience, allows the older generations to access products and services that would previously have been time-restricted. Helping the elderly maintain their independence is also a key benefit of technology. “Mobility issues are a common problem with the elderly” says Polloway, “using technology can enable them to complete day to day activities without leaving their home, which can help them maintain their independence.”

Consequently, keeping up with our ever-evolving digital world – one where an increasing number of companies are taking their products and services online – can be extremely significant for the elderly in order to not be ‘left behind’.

As Sir Tim Berners-Lee, the inventor of the World Wide Web, famously tweeted during the 2012 Olympics, “this is for everyone.”

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Additional sources

[1]The Real Retirement Report is designed and produced by Aviva in consultation with ICM Research and Instinctif Partners. Based on 1,700 UK adults aged 45 and over.
[2]www.sciencemag.org/news/2014/05/lectures-arent-just-boring-theyre-ineffective-too-study-finds

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