Imagine there was a bus, and that bus allowed everyone who could jump on to catch a ride to their destination. It moved at a slow pace, maybe five or six miles an hour. Most who could walk briskly enough would be able to keep up and get where they want to go. Then one day, a mechanic comes and adds new features to the bus: a new engine, a faster motor, and all of a sudden, the bus is moving at speed’s that only some can keep up with.
Really, only the young and nimble are able to get where they want to go, because their bodies still allow them to. But the rest, well…the rest are left on the platform, watching the bus speed by with their loved ones in tow. They begin to rethink about going anywhere at all. This new bus would requires their bodies to move at an unrealistic speed, getting anywhere may not be worth it anymore. The folks who can run fast enough to make it on are carrying too many things to extend a hand to their aging loved ones to help them aboard. They promise to come back and get them, but the bus moves on, from town to town, and never quite makes the loop back around.
In many ways, this bus is like technology. It seems to move so quickly that our parents and grandparents who have lived most of their lives without needing it, now find that it’s just about the only way to keep connected to their families. And it’s more elusive, because it’s mechanisms and features change all the time. When they get use to one thing, another thing is introduced, and because they are not necessarily living in a way that is influenced by these changes, they feel further behind in the game.
Precious families, I write this both to shed light on a perspective we may not see form the eyes of our aging loved ones, and to encourage you that while there is still time, stretch out your hands and walk with them. Because technology was never meant to create a divide between our generations. Use it as a tool to bring your family closer together.
Ages and Stages
As a general rule of thumb, learning to be a conscientious teacher will serve you and your loved one the best. If your attitude is rushed and annoyed, they will sense that and not be willing to learn. If it’s that difficult to make time to teach, why is it worth learning?
Where to Go for Help?
I recently walked into an Apple Store to ask about classes offered to learn their products. One manager who runs the classes was eager to share her experiences about the retired folks who come early to make sure they get a seat or have their questions answered.
“They prefer that face to face time, they’re not as likely to look through a manual, find instructions online, or figure it out themselves. They want to sit right here and have the hands-on experience… I have an 88 year-old woman who comes in every week. She said, “Show me how to use googles.” Some come in and stay all day. “They’re excited and they’re grateful,” she said.
One woman shared tight the Apple manager, “My kids have been yelling at me, they bought me this iPad and I can’t even use it.” After she got some training at the Apple store, she could FaceTime without any instructions.” “My kids were so proud of me!” she shared.
“They call themselves stupid… old…,” the manager said. “They come in panicking when thy get emails that say their account has been hacked… there are scammers out there who prey on them, so they’ve developed this fear of technology out of keeping themselves and their information safe.”
According to this manager’s experience helping to train seniors in technology, here are the most common basic needs they have:
- Stay in contact with family; FaceTime with the grandkids
- Find information quickly (people are not using phonebooks & encyclopedias anymore)
- Access their medical, social security, information and relevant government websites
When you sit down to show them things, ask this question first: “What do you expect to learn…what is your greatest need?” We may think they need to learn email or social media, but they may need something more basic. Start with one thing at a time. Start with something they want to learn, and go from there.
- Understanding passwords and usernames, remembering where to put them
- Personal deficits like memory loss, agility in their hands due to age, eyesight, hearing
- Accessibility – they need to see and hear what’s happening on the device. (Apple products have these accessibility features for hearing and vision disabilities. You can even program your hearing aide to the phone!)
- Not wanting to ask another question because they feel stupid. Young people tend to teach without patience.
- Teaching them about appropriate & inappropriate content (i.e., scammers, clickbait images, advertisements)
How to Help
Here are some basics to remember when helping seniors learn new technology:
- One thing at a time
- Write down steps for them
- Don’t spend more of your time convincing them that technology is a good thing. Spend your time helping them. Caring for them, about them, as they attempt to figure out a new mode of living.
- Don’t sigh, rush, talk too fast. Be patient.
- Don’t do it for them, show them. They still have dignity and don’t need to be talked down to like a child.
- Come back. Intensity does not replace consistency. They need to know they can ask you and you’ll be willing.
“When people took the time to teach me [computer skills], I knew they really meant it, and I got excited about learning.”
“Technology keeps us connected, feeling safe, and communication strong, but for seniors it can be scary and intimidating. There can be physical limitations, chronic disease, heart issues. When trying to teach our loved ones new things, we face the dynamics of aging, patience, & time. But through the process, we need to keep encouraging our seniors that they matter, that they have immense value and worth. Technology should not be a barrier, but a mechanism that brings us closer together.”
Listen to my conversation with Janet here –> Episode 030 | Tech & the Senior Population
“Explain it to them this way: your phone is like the house, and different things happen in different rooms. This (fill in the blank) happens in the kitchen. Coming in and out of rooms to get to the central communication center (the kitchen, or “C Drive”) is how you can direct them in an out of programs or apps. Tell them that some of the “doors” require a password and email, and those things need to be kept in a digital “safe” somewhere.”
She goes on to say, “The senior needs to be open to learning a new way to communicate. Young people can help them by writing down the steps. It’s a foreign language… and they learn by association.”
Make some time this week to reach out to your parents or grandparents. First and foremost, communicate your desire to see or talk with them. Help them to feel loved by taking that time out of your busy family life to honor them and their legacy. Ask them about their lives growing up, what they used to keep in touch – let them teach you first before you offer what you think are “better” solutions. Remember, they lived an entire lifetime without these things. Offer your help to show them easy and simple ways to keep connected, at their own pace, on their own time.
Allow this time to be an opportunity to bond, because tech, after all, is just a tool. Walk with them, and catch that bus together.
Visit Apple.com/today for more educational opportunities!