Teaching Old Dogs New Tricks 

11 September 2023

Combating Isolation with Tech-Savvy Solutions

Welcome to the second installment in our 5 part series: “Combating Isolation in Your Aging Parent”.  In an era where being tech-savvy can mean the difference between connection and isolation, our guide offers you a comprehensive toolkit to help your aging loved ones adapt and thrive. 

We blend senior friendly tech recommendations with practical advice to ensure that seniors can bridge the digital divide confidently. With sections covering everything from essential tech products designed for the elderly, to the minimum 5 skills they need, to a step-by-step guide on teaching digital skills, this installment aims to be your go-to resource for ensuring that age is truly just a number, not a barrier, when it comes to digital connectivity.

Understanding the Digital Divide

and old woman having trouble in learning how to use tech solutions

The studies titled “Older Adults and Technology Use” by Aaron Smith (April 3, 2014) and “Tech Adoption Climbs Among Older Adults” by Monica Anderson and Andrew Perrin (May 17, 2017) emphasize that a significant majority of older adults express their need for assistance when navigating new technology devices. In the former study, a staggering 77% of respondents indicated that they would require someone to guide them through the process of learning to use a new technology device, whereas only 18% felt comfortable learning independently. The latter study further underscores the sentiment, revealing that 48% of seniors felt the need for external assistance in setting up and using new electronic devices.

Senior Friendly Tech

GrandPad Tablet, Jitterbug Smart2 Smartphone, Amazon Echo Show, Nucleus Anywhere Intercom, ElliQ

This section highlights elderly isolation tech solutions designed to combat elderly isolation, catering to their unique needs and facilitating a more convenient lifestyle enriched with virtual activities for aging parents.

  1. GrandPad Tablet: A senior-friendly tablet with a simplified interface, large icons, and pre-installed apps for video calls, emails, photos, and games. It encourages seniors to stay connected and explore digital communication at their own pace.
  2. Jitterbug Smart2 Smartphone: This straightforward smartphone with large text and an emergency button empowers seniors to maintain connections through calls, texts, and social media. The emergency button provides peace of mind.
  3. Amazon Echo Show: A smart display with voice control for video calls, content streaming, reminders, and information access. It facilitates video calls, voice interactions, and provides entertainment and information.
  4. Nucleus Anywhere Intercom: Designed for easy household communication, this intercom system supports video calls between devices, making it convenient for seniors to interact with family members even if they’re physically separated.
  5. Companion Robot (e.g., ElliQ): These robots offer companionship, reminders, and engage in conversations with seniors, reducing feelings of isolation and providing a friendly presence.

These senior-friendly tech products cater to the needs of seniors, enabling them to connect with loved ones and the digital world, ultimately enhancing their quality of life.

Integrating the Minimum Tech Skills: TOP 5 things they need to know how to do.

an old man trying to learn the basics of using senior friendly tech solutions

Integrating minimum tech-savvy solutions for aging parents can greatly enhance their daily lives and overall well-being. Here are the top 5 things aging parents should know how to do with technology:

  1. Sending Messages – Aging parents should be familiar with basic communication apps such as messaging apps (e.g., WhatsApp, Messenger) and email. They should know how to send and receive messages, photos, and attachments.  Understanding these apps allows them to stay in touch with family and friends easily.  How they access the messaging is also important.  Voice activation may be easier.
  2. Connecting via Video Calls – Being able to make and receive video calls is essential for maintaining connections, especially if they can’t meet in person. Aging parents should know how to use platforms like Zoom, Skype, or FaceTime for video calls. This skill enables them to see and interact with loved ones virtually.
  3. Accessing Needed Information Online – Familiarity with internet browsing is valuable for accessing information, news, and staying informed. Aging parents should know how to use a web browser (e.g., Chrome, Safari) to search for information, read articles, and navigate websites safely.
  4. Basic Device Management – Aging parents should understand how to perform basic device management tasks. This includes tasks like adjusting screen brightness, volume, and notification settings, as well as updating software and apps. These skills help ensure their devices are functioning optimally.
  5. Staying Safe Online – It’s crucial to educate aging parents about online safety. They should be aware of common online threats like phishing scams and how to recognize them. Teach them the importance of strong, unique passwords and how to use security features such as two-factor authentication to protect their accounts.

Using these basic tech skills, aging parents can enhance their independence, stay connected with loved ones, access information, and navigate the digital world with confidence. Encouraging them to explore and practice these skills gradually can help build their tech proficiency.

Teaching the Tech: A Patient Path to some Digital Proficiency

children teaching their aging mother to use senior friendly tech

In today’s digitally connected world, acquiring tech proficiency is not just a personal skill but a necessity. It’s not just about what you teach, but how you teach it. Let’s explore a practical approach to introducing someone, like your mom, to the world of technology, focusing on a simple premise: a video call with the family.

Step 1: Set Realistic Expectations

Before you begin, understand that technology can be overwhelming for beginners. Your mom may not grasp everything immediately, and that’s perfectly normal. Set realistic expectations for both you and your mom. Rome wasn’t built in a day, and neither is tech proficiency.

Step 2: Start with One Premise

Don’t overwhelm your mom with all the features and options technology offers. Start with a single premise: the video call. You can choose to focus on Zoom, or try other alternatives such as Skype, FaceTime (Apple Devices), Facebook Messenger, and WhatsApp.

Step 3: Schedule Training Sessions

Instead of cramming all the information into one session, schedule daily training sessions.  Consistency is key when it comes to learning new skills. Dedicate a specific time each day for these sessions, ensuring your mom has the opportunity to practice and reinforce what she learns. Not only will this consistency pay off, it will give you the opportunity to connect on a regular basis.

Step 4: Patiently Demonstrate and Repeat

Begin by demonstrating the basics of joining a Zoom call. Show her step by step, patiently explaining each action. Use simple language and avoid jargon. It’s easy to take our tech knowledge for granted, but remember that not everyone is familiar with the terminology. 

Step 5: Practice, Practice, Practice

After the initial demonstration, let your mom practice on her own. Encourage her to make mistakes, as they are an integral part of the learning process. Correct gently and provide positive reinforcement for her efforts.  

Daily practice sessions, as mentioned earlier, can be beneficial to reinforce learning and build confidence. However, the frequency can be adjusted based on your parent’s progress and schedule.

Remember, teaching tech is not a race; it’s a patient journey. By following these steps, you’ll not only connect with your loved ones but also build a supportive network for your parents, alleviating sadness and loneliness.  See our article on Building a Supportive Network HERE.

FREE Senior Friendly COURSES to Help You and Your Parent

If you’ve ever worried about how you will be able to teach your aging parent then you’ll be thrilled to hear about Learn My Way. This incredible program teaches tech proficiency in a user-friendly way, making it perfect for seniors who are new to the digital realm. 

Case in point: Barbara, a retiree who was feeling isolated, used Learn My Way to not only become tech-savvy but to build a whole new social circle and keep in touch with her family abroad. She even brought a friend along, and now they’re both enjoying the benefits of being digitally connected. With Learn My Way, your parent can learn essential skills like sending messages, making video calls, and even managing their device settings—all at their own pace and with expert guidance. Curious? Click here to discover how Learn My Way can be a game-changer for your parent’s social life and your peace of mind.

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