Overcoming Seniors’ Technology Fears

Heard this one before:  “it’s too complicated for me” or maybe “I’ll get my grandchildren to explain it” coming from elderly family members or friends when dealing with electronic devices?  Regardless of the reason given, some (certainly not all) of our senior loved ones are avoiding the new technologies that can add to the quality of their – and even their families’ – lives out of fear.

At Senior Care Corner we’ve heard similar refrains lately from seniors.  Some know their computers are out of date and are frustrated from sloooowwww speeds or really want to get wireless capability, but are convinced changing to a new one would be much more trouble than its worth.  Another just the other day mentioned having purchased a new printer we encouraged but has it put aside out of fear for the complexity of the setup.

Devices Becoming Less Complex

Yes, in the past many (okay, most) devices were complex and required complicated setup, but the situation has changed – don’t let the salesperson at the big box store tell you otherwise in an effort to sell you services! Most computers are usable when you pull them out of the box and moving files is easier than ever.  Printers that once came with setup disks are now plug-n-play, meaning functional right out of the box.  Heck, we’ve found the most difficult aspect of setting up a new printer to be finding all the tape they put on it to keep things closed – like finding all the pins in a new shirt!

Some key technology activities still have degrees of complexity, such as setting up a wireless network in the home, but even most of those are MUCH easier than in the past.  Companies have learned that sales are better when people don’t fear the product.  Maybe even more importantly for the companies, they have also learned that providing products that are more customer friendly greatly reduces their customer service cost – and improves customer satisfaction.

Helping Seniors Overcome Fear

What’s the answer for our seniors?  For most of us, overcoming a fear requires a “show me” moment, a demonstration that things are better than last time we tried it.  For technology that might mean helping your elder loved one pick out the new computer based on desired functions and then starting it up together.  That has an added benefit of doing something together.  Another hint – if you start it up together it is easier to answer those phone calls and emails asking for support later (true whether a senior living at a distance or college student living on campus, as we’ve learned).

Don’t Forget Service Needs

Another key may be to make sure that technology items in our senior loved ones’ homes are either easily self-serviced or you arrange for accessible service, maybe a nearby friend or family member.  It also pays to have the same software versions on their device(s) as you have on yours, which makes it easier to step through questions over the phone.

When (not if) things go wrong with devices, the last thing we want is for them to sit unusable.  Our loved ones are no longer getting the benefits they derive from the devices and may be replacing those benefits with that technology fear – which is often harder to overcome a second time.

It is becoming more important and more beneficial every day to get our senior loved ones of all ages connected to us and the world via the internet and social media.  Let’s make sure fear of the technologies they need are not keep them disconnected!

Please share your comments and stories to help us all learn!

6 thoughts on “Overcoming Seniors’ Technology Fears”

    • Thank you for sharing that. We can see many more seniors using tablets because of the touch capabilities.

  1. My mother in law was really afraid of the computer but, she really wanted to get the video phone which is very simple to use. She had to get the internet and have a computer hooked up in order to use the video phone which plugs into the modem of the computer. I sat down with her and taught her by writing notes to give her the basics of the computer. Now she loves it. She can call us with her video phone to see and talk to us face-to-face and she can chat with her friends on facebook. At first she was afraid but, now she loves it. Take time to show the elderly how to properly use items and they won’t be afraid to use them. Make it simple for them to use by writing down directions to help them and tell them to call you if they have any problems. She doesn’t want to use skype but she loves to use the simple home video phone.

  2. I actually forwarded this article to my sister since she and I take turns taking care of our grandmother over the summer while we are in town from school. My relationship with her is really important to me so over the last month, I was determinded to get her a cell phone and teach her how to use it – I really wanted us to keep in touch more often and I thought it might give her a little bit more independence. I found something easy to afford in her price range from Tracfone’s prepaid senior SVC line — I liked how the phone had a big screen and numbers for her and few options to keep her from getting confused. Its taken her a few weeks to get used to it, but I just got her first text yesterday and so glad she’s enjoying it. I think seniors really need to become more used to technology and what better way then something you can kind of share together?

    • Thank you, Toni, for sharing that wonderful story with us! I know others in similar situations feel the same way and maybe your story will give them the confidence to take those steps. Best wishes to you, your sister and your grandmother!

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