More and more older adults are embracing the “digital age” as technology becomes convenient and easier-to-use in our everyday lives. According to Pew Research, the number of seniors adopting digital technology is growing at a rapid pace: research finds that four-in-ten adults over the age of 65 own smartphones, and 67 percent of seniors report using the internet on a daily basis.
Today’s technology makes it possible for people to stay connected to family and friends anytime, anywhere. While technology can’t take the place of in-person interactions, it can help older adults stay socially engaged, helping to prevent loneliness and isolation. If your parent or older loved one is curious about the benefits of learning technology, follow this guide to help them get plugged in:
Smartphones are intuitive devices that can be used by people of all ages. Today’s phones can do so much more than make a phone call; they can play music, provide hours of entertainment, and keep seniors connected to family and friends via email, text messages, and video chat. If your senior is interested in getting a smartphone, consider how you can customize it to their needs. Maybe they need the font a little bigger, or the ringtone set to a higher volume. You can also set up voice commands with most smartphones so your senior can simply speak into his or her phone without worrying about typing on a small screen. It’s also a good idea to look into protective cases for your loved one’s phone to make it easier to hold and prevent damage if it’s dropped.
Social media has opened up a world of possibilities for older adults to stay connected and communicate with others. A growing number of older adults are using social media sites like Facebook as a tool to see and share photos, videos, and updates from friends, family, and other users. Some studies even find that social media use among older adults may help decrease feelings of loneliness and depression and improve their cognitive abilities and overall well-being. If your senior is interested in using social media, help them set up the account and take time to answer their questions. Once you set up their account, it’s a good idea to leave your loved one with written step-by-step instructions so they can access their social media on their own.
Helping seniors stay safe online
Online safety is a prevalent issue for people of all ages. Older adults are often vulnerable targets for cyber-theft and online scams which may lead to financial exploitation or stolen personal information. It’s important to teach your parent about ways to stay safe online and protect themselves from scammers. Here are a few basic tips:
- Create strong, unique passwords – The safest passwords include a mix of capital and lowercase letters, symbols, and numbers.
- Social media etiquette – Always think before you post. Remember that others can see what you post, so be careful not to share personal information.
- Protect your personal information online – Never give out personal information to strangers (name, age, phone number, social security number, credit card information).
- Learn how to recognize spam emails – Don’t open emails from suspicious addresses and never click the links inside of unsolicited emails.
Many retirement communities offer educational technology classes to help residents stay safe online, in addition to providing computer labs and Wi-Fi access throughout the community. If your loved one is interested in learning how to use technology, taking an introductory class is a great place to start.
Learning something new can be challenging, but most seniors are eager to try technology that can help them stay in touch with their family and friends. Focus on the benefits technology can bring to their lives and if possible, enlist the help of tech-savvy grandchildren to show your senior some skills. You might be surprised at how quickly they catch on!