A few years ago, a video showing two teenage boys trying to figure out how to use a rotary phone went viral. On the flip side, many older adults can’t figure out how to use a smartphone, let alone tablets, computers, and other smart devices.
A survey conducted in September and October 2020 by AARP, found that older adults cited cost, knowledge gaps, and privacy concerns as top reasons they may be hesitant to adopt the technology. Fifty-four percent admitted they want a better grasp of the devices they’ve acquired, while 37% said they lacked confidence when using the technology that has otherwise become so much more prevalent in their lives.
Iris Stein, mother of our staff writer Susan, explained why she finds smart devices “somewhat” difficult to use and frustrating.
“I’m afraid. I don’t know if I have hit the wrong button, or if I click on the wrong spot, what do I do? I’m afraid I might lose something,” Iris said. “I’m just not computer savvy. I’m continually learning how to use my smartphone. I am more freewheeling with that than with my laptop.”
Susan and Iris recently took a road trip and utilized Google Maps to find their way through Arizona, New Mexico, and Colorado. Though they did have maps from AAA on hand as a backup.
Technology frustration isn’t just for seniors. “Despite his use of a remote control since puberty, my husband, James, still can’t grasp how to record a show or movie on the DVR or access live streaming on TV,” Susan points out.
How you can transition
Today we can control the temperature of our homes, monitor security, be reminded to take medication, flip on the lights, and so much more from our smartphones. Technology is designed to make our lives easier and it can once you get the basics of your smart device down.
Start small. If you currently have a flip phone and just want to use social media, email, surf the web, and video chat, buy a “beginner” device. Consumer Cellular has some good options with affordable pricing.
Lou Nappe, Susan’s uncle, is tech-savvy. “His family was the first one I knew who had a home computer (probably a Commodore 64) and an Atari,” Susan said.
A retired commercial printer, Lou, had to keep up with technology for his business. As for those new to smart technology, he encourages people to embrace it. “Don’t be scared or panic before you attempt anything. Explore your own computer (device). There are so many YouTube instructions on every possible subject. Watch them and learn how to use your device.”
Of course, the first hurdle to overcome could be knowing how to get to YouTube in the first place. Click Here or enter www.youtube.com in your computer’s browser. Type “how to use (your device)” in the search menu. A cornucopia of videos will populate.
There are also a variety of services available to guide you.
- Get set up: An online place for active older adults to learn, connect and share with peers in small intimate classes.
- Generations on line: An easy-to-read, large-print click-through tutorial that takes readers through the steps of mastering devices and applications (apps). Plus, they have a tutorial for accessing YouTube.
- Cyber-seniors: Pairs older adults with high school or college students who serve as technology mentors. First-time device users can call (844) 217-3057 and be coached over the phone until they’re comfortable pursuing online training.
- Senior Planet: Senior Planet, in partnership with Older Adults Technology Services, harnesses technology to change the way we age. Their courses, programs, and activities help seniors learn new skills, save money, get in shape, and make new friends. Their initiative, Aging Connected, is focused on bringing one million older adults online by the end of 2022.
As you become accustomed to and enjoy technology, upgrade your device(s) to complement the apps you want to use.
Help someone else
Technology moves quickly. Many people can’t keep up with it. If your parents, grandparents, siblings, friends, or anyone else needs help, and you have the knowledge (and patience), lend them a hand (or stylus). Share the resources mentioned above. Better yet, visit in person and walk them through step-by-step. The irony here is while teaching someone how to use smart technology, they will be writing down the information.
It can be hard to make the transition. Iris bought her “big girl” phone two years ago. There are still apps that she is hesitant to use on her own. But Susan is just a call or text away.
“I am moving in the right direction,” Iris said. “Between my phone and Kindle, I use my weather, news, and library apps, check email and voicemail, do my banking, and download books.”
Video chat has not yet been mastered. Baby steps.
“We take our time and walk through the processes as often as she needs to,” Susan said. “Mom taught me many more skills (such as using utensils) than my teaching her how to use technology. So, what if during our trip, I found her writing down the directions that Google Maps displayed on her phone?”
Some habits are hard to break.