A Step-by-Step Guide To Introducing Older Relatives To Tech

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Great tips in this contributed post for teaching your older relatives the benefits of technology.

The internet and technology have changed the world. The way we live our lives today is unrecognizable from just 20 years ago; we buy our groceries online, we organize our to-do list with an app, we talk to friends via Skype, and we can manage our entire financial affairs from the comfort of our own sofa.

As a member of the digital immigrant generation, you’ve experienced life without tech and have now embraced life with tech. You might not be a digital native, but you can’t imagine returning to a tech-free time when everything was slower and even the most basic of problems took weeks to resolve.

The same, however, cannot be said for some of the older people in your life. We all have older relatives who have a tendency to resist the tech wave; they fear it’s too complex, or they lack the confidence to try and learn. This can be disheartening, especially if you can see the myriad ways that tech can benefit an older person.

If you are experiencing the above, why not make 2018 the year when you finally convince your older relatives of the benefits of tech and the internet– and give them a few lessons in how to make the most of it? If this idea appeals, then you’ll need this step-by-step guide to help you along the way.

STEP ONE: Express Your Thoughts On Their Need For Tech

If you’re trying to convince an older relative to learn more about tech from you, then it’s best to phrase it as if they would be doing you a favor. So rather than saying…

“I really think you should learn more about tech and the internet. I think you’ll love it.”

… you should opt for something like:

“I would feel so much better if you were comfortable with tech and the internet. It would mean we’d be constantly connected and always organized; I wouldn’t worry so much.”

The method of requesting they learn for your benefit is particularly useful, as it helps to circumvent the fear or wariness they may otherwise be experiencing in regard to technology. Older people struggle to learn new things, which can make them wary of the attempt, but if you present the idea as something you’re going to do together, that makes a big difference.

STEP TWO: Explain The Benefits

It’s at this point you can explain the benefits of technology. Here are a few points you might want to make:

  • “We can be in touch all the time, so we never have to worry about one another.”
  • “You’ll be able to connect with friends and family you’ve lost touch with.”
  • “If you’re having a bad day, you can order groceries online or treat yourself to a gift to cheer yourself up– but you don’t have to go out to do it.”
  • “You’ll be connected to information all the time, such as warnings about tornadoes or other adverse weather conditions.”
  • “There’s plenty of other people of your age online and you can build friendships with them.”

Hopefully, one of these techniques — combined with your own plea — will be enough to convince them to have a few tech lessons with you. When this is agreed, you can move onto…

STEP THREE: Starting Small

Many older people avoid technology because they don’t understand it. What seems intuitive to us, as experienced digital immigrants, may be the exact opposite to the older generation. So you have to start small.

There are various ways to do this, but here are a few ideas you may want to consider:

  • Show them the benefits of a cell phone by choosing a simple phone from snapfon.com for them to use. This will help encourage the usage of the phone, but without the confusing world of touchscreens and apps. These phones are specifically designed to be suitable for older people, so they should get along well with the device.
  • Start with videos rather than text. In fact, youtube.com should be one of the first sites you show them. Videos are easy to understand and friendly to older audiences, which helps to ease them into the world gently.
  • Explain a list of the basic tech terms using flashcards. You’ll want to include: upload; download; web; browser; social media; search, USB, HDMI, and ISP. These are terms that seem very unfamiliar to older people who have never embraced the internet or technology before, so you should start with the basics and then work up.

STEP FOUR: Show, Don’t Tell

Every internet and tech lesson you have with your relative should focus on showing rather than telling. There’s little point in clicking around a screen, explaining things at speed, and then expecting your relative to be able to do the same. Instead, they should be the one in control of the mouse/remote/keyboard/delete as applicable, and you guide them.

STEP FIVE: Encourage Them To Try Things

Most digital immigrants learnt about tech through trial and error, and you should encourage your older relative to do the same. If they want to do something, click something, or try something, then don’t overrule them– let them try it and see what happens. This builds far better comfort with a specific gadget or general internet browsing, as it encourages them to learn from their mistakes, rather than yours.

STEP SIX: Be Prepared For Repetition

You may find yourself needing to repeat basic lessons, which can be difficult if you’re keen to move onto the next lesson–but it’s all in a good cause. Stick to the principles above; show, don’t tell, and let them make mistakes, but be there if they need advice. It doesn’t matter if it’s the 20th time they have done the same thing; if they need to repeat it, then they need to repeat it. Over time, their confidence will build, and they may even be comfortable exploring for themselves.

In Conclusion

The steps above should be able to help you introduce an older relative to technology. Some may take to the experience like a duck to water; others will dismiss the idea as rather pointless and go back to their analog ways. However, you tried, which means you did a good thing– and hopefully, they will be able to see the benefits of the internet and technology, too.

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