Approaches for Helping Seniors Navigate Technology

Caregivers can help improve the lives of seniors by helping them achieve a longer period of independence and self-sufficiency. One way caregivers can do this is by teaching them how to navigate the world of technology. 

Technology doesn’t need to be frustrating for an older adult. It can actually improve their quality of life! For example, staying connected with loved ones who live far away provides emotional healing and eases stress. And with a range of services and resources available online, such as virtual doctor visits, technology can also help seniors stay healthy. 

Of course, learning how to use new technology can be difficult for seniors, so use positivity, patience, and lots of practice to make tech more approachable. Here are five tips for creating a smooth and positive experience as you help teach seniors how to use technology. 

Set Them Up for Success

When helping an older adult set-up their smartphone, tablet, computer, or TV remote, be prepared to accommodate limitations right away and try to head-off unneeded frustration. Increase the size of fonts, set the default view of browser windows to a larger magnification, simplify the desktop and home screen by eliminating unnecessary shortcuts and apps, and even use stickers to mark important buttons. 

As you begin to teach, try comparing a new technology to a concept an older adult is already familiar with using. For example, when explaining web browsing, web addresses could be compared to street addresses. Also, consider creating visual how-to guides that your senior can keep handy for when you’re not around. 

Explain the “Why” to Build Excitement

Before launching into every detail of a new device, take a moment to explain why they might enjoy the technology. For example, if you’re helping set-up a Facebook profile, show them how they can see new pictures of their grandchildren. 

If they’re learning how to browse the Internet, make them smile by showing them their old childhood home on Google Earth. Teach them how to find the online menu for their favorite restaurant or a YouTube tutorial for a hobby they already enjoy. 

Are you teaching them how to use a smartphone? Demonstrate how a new app will save them time. Help them complete their first FaceTime call with an old friend. Download a crossword puzzle app to tap into a hobby they may already enjoy. 

Your goal? Elicit a “wow’ response and get them excited about learning! You are not just trying to get them to use technology for the sake of technology. You are trying to help them improve their daily life with the help of modern tools. 

Minimize Jargon

Teaching tech is a great lesson in simplification. Your daily vocabulary may not be familiar to an older adult. Words like handle and catfish have a completely different meaning in the world of technology and social media, and abbreviations like URL and LOL will likely need an explanation. 

Be Patient While Teaching

You might be a digital native for whom new tech comes naturally, but your grandparent or parent is not. Be patient when teaching an older adult how to use new technology. They may not ask you to slow down or pause, and they may not ask questions, but build in time for both.

Avoid information overload. Don’t try to teach the computer, smartphone, and tablet in one day. Tackle one device at a time – even a few lessons on each – and then build on their new skills as they gain confidence. 

Lastly, if they want to take handwritten notes – let them! This may be part of their learning style, and when it’s time to practice what they’ve learned, they might appreciate having a guide in their own handwriting and words.

Provide Time to Practice

Give the senior time to practice their new skills while you are available to answer questions. While teaching, let them navigate the device themselves instead of showing them everything. This is where your lesson in patience comes in handy!

Again, knowing how to click, tap, and swipe comes naturally to a digital native, but these are new dexterities that an older adult needs time to master. 

We hope these tips are helpful for teaching seniors about technology! Remember, Best Care is your go-to resource for family caregivers. Are you caring for a family member and would like to know how you can get paid? Contact Best Care today! A staff member will be happy to help you.