While they initially fear them and believe that they will not know how to work them, seniors can learn to use different devices and digital applications with the right type of help.
Rosa Isabel Correa Arbeláez. Clinical Psychologist and Neuropsychologist, practitioner at Coomeva Private
Healthcare Adriana Morales Computer Teacher.
Inspired by her granddaughter’s trip abroad and with the help of her family, an 86-year-old woman began to use a tablet to talk over the Skype video call application. She also learned to use audio chat to talk with her daughters. “How did I not know about this sooner? To think of what I was missing out on!” she said.
Another 74-year-old woman admitted that before, she was reluctant to learn about technology, but then she got the motivation to take classes and now she uses e-mail, watches videos and is learning how to use a cell phone. She goes to classes because she gets to share with her peers and always learns new things.
For Rosa Isabel Correa, clinical psychologist, neuropsychologist and Director of the Clínica de la Atención y la Memoria (Awareness and Memory Clinic), technology is important for older adults. In addition to being able to interact with their family and friends through video calls, chats, social networks and e-mail, they also keep their minds active by performing Internet searches, participating in online courses, playing games on websites and engaging in mental exercises to strengthen their memory. In this way, “…they are socially and mentally active.”
She also points out, “Since they are learning new skills, accessing these tools activates the brain and they age well, preventing mental illnesses from developing.”
A computer teacher for seniors, Adriana Morales adds that learning keeps them sharp and active because it raises their self-esteem and keeps their mind attentive.
For them, the first obstacles to overcome when learning to use technology are fear and thinking that it is complicated, difficult and that they will not be able to use it. Rosa Isabel Correa suggests that family members are those that can inspire interest in them by sharing messages and the photos of family members and friends sent through the network. “Show them that using these tools is easy and simple and explain the benefits of staying in touch, learning and entertainment to them,” states Adriana Morales. She adds, “You have to put trust in them and allow them to feel like they can ask questions several times without fearing being judged.”
Patience and tolerance
There is nothing that could be further from reality than thinking that seniors have nothing to learn. “You have to let them know that life isn’t over, there are always new opportunities,” Morales states.
Since this population was not born with technology, incorporating this tool is a process that requires time and energy. “You have to explain them the most basic steps and not saturate them with information. Go slowly and teach them with patience, tolerance and a positive attitude. The best people to do this are older adults,” Correa shares.
Another option is for them to take an on-site course with a teacher and other students that can share with each other and help each other out. “You have to pass these concepts on clearly, and above all, motivate them with positive attention so that they feel confident and capable of learning,” Morales adds.
Devices and applications
- WhatsApp: This is a mobile application. The option of recording an audio and sending it makes it easier to communicate because they do not have to deal with a keypad. For those with physically visible ailments, audio chat is also recommended; and for those with hearing problems, text and images are best.
- Computers: Having a larger keyboard, mouse and screen is helpful for seniors that have vision or fine motor problems.
- Tablets: These are a good option because they have a touch pad that makes them easier to manage. The majority of these include a camera and apps that serve as entertainment. They are easier to look at and to read on due to their size, use of images and information.
- Cell phones: They are now bigger and lighter. One that is mid to high-end is most suitable for older adults because they are easier to handle, come with the option of making its icons and font size larger and have virtual keyboards.
- Skype: An application that is perfect for communicating with children or grandchildren that live in other cities or countries by making a video call through a phone, tablet or PC.
- Facebook: It is the most popular social network out there. It is perfect for connecting with people or reconnecting with groups of friends, colleagues and family members.
- E-mail: This allows them to write more extensively and to attach images and documents.