Monday, June 26, 2017

The Rise Of The Silver Surfer



One of the life’s frustrations is trying to explain to an elderly relative how to do their online shopping. The world has been so evolved digitally for so long that it doesn’t seem possible that there are still people who need help with their technology, and this is why there has been a huge rise in the older generation going online. Technology is constantly changing, and for those of us who were born into this digital age, it’s something we take in our stride. We queue for upgraded tablets and iPhones overnight. We update our software regularly and we even learn the HTML language of computers in schools. This change is so huge that the older generation of our parents and their parents often have no idea what we are talking about when it comes to our computers.


With the evolution of the digital world and the world of communications, it’s so important to remember that while we have grown with a changing world, they have not. Our parents and grandparents taught us to walk, to use the potty and to eat with a spoon, so we really shouldn’t laugh when help is needed to understand video chat and how to write an email! Instead, we should be thinking of ways we can help our older generation learn all about the internet and how to use their smartphones for something other than a phone call. The view that the internet is a young person’s prerogative is an outdated one, and we should be encouraging our elders to advance themselves as much as possible. The retirement age is further away than it used to be, and children flying the nest need to find cheaper communication alternatives than the phone. It’s for these reasons that we are seeing a rise in the elderly generations using and learning about technology, thus being dubbed ‘the silver surfers’.
It’s easy for us to forget that once we’ve left home, our parents will be just fine. However, it’s a lonely world out there, especially if they have mobility issues. It’s for this reason an understanding of the virtual world is important to be able to broaden their horizons, and it’s up to us to teach them how they can expand their knowledge. For those of us who grew up with the latest and greatest Skype advances, we often forget to consider that technology can feel like a huge obstacle to someone who still writes pen and paper letters. It’s one thing to teach someone how to write an email and quite another to assist them in Microsoft word training, where you may need to invest in programs explaining what to do. Assisting an elderly relative in getting online is actually valuable for their ability to communicate as they get older, so have some patience! Before you embark on teaching your mother or father how to use FaceTime, it’s all about the basics and understanding the biggest obstacles ahead is important. We’ve put together a list of things that elderly people struggle with the most when it comes to learning about technology.


  1. Health Issues. Have you ever sat in the office with repetitive strain injury in your wrists from prolonged typing? Imagine trying to handle that pain with arthritis. It’s all fine to teach someone how to do their online shopping or writing emails, but sometimes physical and mental health issues can hinder someone’s learning experience online. Even the simple things, such as remembering where the volume button is located and how to use a mouse can be beyond someone new to a computer or tablet. Creating an instructional booklet on the basics of turning a computer on is something you can do for them to read and slowly memorise in their own time.
  2. Accessibility. It’s common among the elderly that sight and hearing fail, so if you can set up their computer or tablet to have bigger writing and a louder volume, or narrating help, you would be helping exponentially. You’ll know that the options are usually found in the programs on the Start menu, but your elderly grandparent may not.
  3. Touch. A computer with the tiny letters written on the keys may not be the best option for an elderly person. There has been research that has shown that touch screens are actually easier to operate and as they are portable, the lack of wires is not as intimidating as a full desktop computer. The goal here is to make like as easy as possible so always assist with a tablet instead of a full computer. Be aware, that if your relative has shaky hands, you need to adjust the settings to make the screen less sensitive to be able to respond appropriately.
  4. Language Barrier. As you will have grown up with technology and digital education, you would recognise words like ‘buffering’, ‘cookies’ and ‘anti-virus’. Words that are strange to an elderly relative can be very intimidating, so when you set them up with their new technology, add a list of words NOT to worry about and a list of words that should be queried. Get this laminated and stuck to a wall or on the back of their tablet. This way, when they face something they don’t understand, they won’t panic and believe they’ve broken their kit.
  5. Going Live. You can teach the basics about a computer without it being complicated. If you have a tablet, discussing the apps they’d like to use (news sites, games, weather apps) and making them the forefront of the computer can really help. You can ensure that you aren’t going to scare them off with too many apps and things at once. Knowing that most of these are free will also go a long way, as it’s easy to mistake the fact that they won’t be paying every time they click on something.


Going online at an elderly age is all about confidence, and if you can help just one relative add themselves to a list of savvy silver surfers, you’ve done your bit!


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