woman explaining laptop to elderly woman

I remember a time when I used to mail letters to my children’s grandparents, containing the latest news and pictures. Now, I send email updates and digital pictures via the Internet every month or so, and they can be viewed instantly, 300 miles away at grandma and grandpa’s house.  I’m glad they have a computer and are comfortable using email to communicate. It makes it much easier for us to keep in touch across the miles.

Now, my teenagers are trying to convince their grandparents to take the next step: Facebook.  So far, this request hasn’t met with much success–but maybe the next time we visit, we will help them create their own Facebook profile. That way, when my teens post news and pictures, their grandparents will be able to immediately see updates, and they could even post comments full of encouragement, praise, and love.

Through the use of new technology (things like cellphones, laptops, tablets, the Internet, etc.) older adults can benefit from easier, quicker and more frequent communication with loved ones, and even with health professionals. More and more seniors are realizing the benefits of technology, but there are still many seniors who are reluctant to try new things. For example, the Pew Research Center reports that 50% of older adults (age 65 and older) use the Internet at least occasionally. That means that half of older adults surveyed don’t use the Internet at all. While 82% of all age groups are using the Internet, seniors who don’t use it are missing out on all of the advantages.

According to a study on the use of communication technologies by older adults, there are many reasons seniors may be reluctant to try new technologies. Most seniors say they would rather have personal visits, one-on-one communication from loved ones and friends. They don’t want technology to replace those visits. Seniors are also worried about the cost of technology. It can be expensive to buy the latest devices and invest in high-speed Internet. Devices can also be difficult to use and time-consuming to learn. Seniors who have declining health may not be able to push small buttons on devices or may find it confusing to remember how it works.

For older adults to want to try new technology, the benefits have to outweigh the disadvantages. Seniors will be reluctant to try something new unless they know it will greatly benefit their lives, making it worth the price and worth the effort to learn. With this in mind, families, friends and even caregivers, can take the time to show how technology enhances their lives and to teach loved ones how to use new technology. If possible, families can assist with the cost of a new device and installing it in a loved one’s home.

Seniors can find a local technology education program to attend or ask a family-member or friend to be a teacher–as long as that person is patient and willing to start with the basics. Grandchildren are great at this. My mom didn’t know how to send a text from her cell phone until her grandchildren sat down next to her and showed her what to do. They patiently walked her through each step of sending a text, and they were happy to send texts back and forth with her until she caught on. Now she texts! Often when it comes to new technology, our children become our teachers. They are not afraid to push buttons on a new device in order to learn how it works. And usually, they are happy to teach us what they know.

Most older adults are catching on to new technology and using it to enhance their lives and communicate with loved ones and friends. Those who aren’t taking the initiative to learn new technology may just not know where to begin. With the help of family, friends, caregivers, and even community resources, technology doesn’t have to be a scary, confusing thing. It can be a means of communicating more and more with loved ones, keeping in touch and sharing good news and family updates more often than before, especially with those who live far away.