Bridging the digital divide with the senior population
Adopting new technology can help older adults avoid social isolation, increase their brain health, and live healthier and happier lives.
Many seniors want to learn about new technologies and communication apps so that they can keep in touch with their friends and family and stay up-to-date with the virtual world. The ease of doing this anytime and anywhere helps seniors feel safer, secure, and more connected.
While there is a learning curve for some older adults, there are things people can do to help their parents and grandparents adopt new technology. Even companies are increasingly adapting to help this demographic, the most recent being the launch of a companionship-as-a-service startup backed by none other than industrialist and philanthropist Ratan Tata himself. This move certainly provides a much-needed impetus to focus on digital services that can be leveraged to help older adults live independently, and with confidence.
The USA celebrates Grandparents Day on the first Sunday after Labor Day since 1978, but India has no such official commemorative day to honour and celebrate our elders. It is our duty to arm the new generation with compassionate tools to help bridge the gap with their grandparents.
Encourage older adults to learn new things
A recent study by National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI) has found that learning new things keeps our brains healthy and prevents the onset of dementia and other cognitive disorders. Today, there are more resources than ever for older adults to learn technology at their own pace and for their own purpose, which need not be just entertainment.
There are classes taught by other older adults who understand where this generation is coming from when they teach them topics from how to use a smartphone to how to use Google photos to share the latest pictures with friends and family.
Bridging the digital divide for seniors
It has been a slow wake, but the promising $15 billion market opportunity is paving way for private players to join in and segregate a wide variety of offerings, directed at agecare. There is much more impetus for startups now than a few years back in the market and among the investor community as well.
Goodfellows, a companionship as a service startup, has captured attention on the needs of the modern older adult to deal with loneliness. Yet, there are many companies looking to scale services to reach even more people through virtual opportunities to bridge the digital divide and help combat social isolation.
For instance, GetSetUp is on a mission to help the third of the world’s population who are over 55 to learn new skills, connect with others, and unlock new life experiences. Older adults can learn all kinds of technology, business, and other hobbyist skills through the peer-based learning model on this social community platform.
There are others like Alserv, Evergreen Club, Khyaal, Easy Hai, 60+ and Reverie with various offerings.
Ways to help encourage older adults to learn
Children and grandchildren can supplement what older adults learn in online classes by reinforcing what they’ve learned and encourage them.
- Help seniors purchase devices like laptops or tablets; if possible, buy them new ones so there aren't any issues with viruses or malware on older models that could cause problems during setup (as well as after). Make sure these devices are refurbished if necessary so they'll run smoothly. Make sure they know what technology is available and what its uses are. Teach them how it can help them now or in the future; give examples that relate directly to their life and interests.
- Assure them that the devices are easy to use. For example, voice search allows users to speak into their device instead of typing in the text which can be difficult for those with arthritis or other issues that make it difficult for them to press keys on a keyboard. And, gestures like swiping left or right allow users to navigate through different screens without having to touch anything at all.
- Make sure the classes they’re taking are easy-to-follow and don't use jargon that may be confusing or overwhelming. A few things to keep in mind when introducing new technology - many older adults are used to their own way of doing things, so they may not be receptive to change. It's essential for kids and grandkids to understand that the old way isn't necessarily wrong or bad—it's just different.
As society becomes increasingly reliant on technology, it's becoming important that older adults understand how they can adapt and use technology to their advantage. As time goes on, more people are going to need help with their computers and other tech-related devices, whether from family members, paid services, or local organisations.
The bottom line is that adopting new technology can help older adults avoid social isolation, increase their brain health, and live healthier and happier lives.
Edited by Megha Reddy
(Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of YourStory.)