Teaching Seniors How To Use New Technology: Bridging Yesterday And Tomorrow

It’s hard to deny that technology has come a long way in the 33 years that I’ve been alive. It’s easy for my generation to adapt and integrate new technologies into our daily lives, I mean face it, our whole lives have been one technological breakthrough after another, but for seniors, it can be difficult (not to mention downright frightening) to adapt. In this Hub, we’ll explore some of the best methods for Helping Seniors Adapt To Using New Technology. We’ll talk about what they should be using, why they should use it, and how to get them to make using these things, part of their daily lives.

Know Your Student

I mentioned above how much things have advanced in the 33 years that I’ve been here, well imagine what that same landscape looks like to my grandfather who was born in 1922. Seniors today have seen more advancement in the last 65 plus years, than any other generation in human history. When my grandfather was born in rural Kentucky, horses were still the primary form of travel. Cars were available, but lack of roads in most areas made them impractical. Let’s take a look at some of the advances in technology seniors have seen:

  • Cars capable of traveling hundreds of miles an hour
  • Electricity and Indoor Plumbing in every home
  • Commercial Air Travel
  • Space Travel
  • Advances in Modern Medicine
  • Telephones in every home
  • Cell Phones
  • GPS technology
  • Computers
  • Air Conditioning
  • Kitchen Appliances (like the coffee maker, microwave, and food processor)

The list goes on and on.

The reason most seniors are resistant to learning how to use new technologies is because they are part of a generation that was raised to believe that “technology” and “automation” were the enemy of the “working man”, and that using machines, to do what you were more than capable of doing yourself, was “lazy” and in some cases “unpatriotic”.

My grandmother still makes a huge traditional Sunday dinner every week. She gets up at around 5am and starts making biscuits, fried chicken, pies, cookies, stuffing, you name it, all by hand, and all from scratch. Oh sure, she has all of the appliances that she needs to make all of the same things in a quarter of the time, but she still won’t use them. Such is the measure of her resolve (and by resolve, I mean stubbornness, that’s right mamaw, I said stubborn)

What They Should be Using

First, when I say should, I mean “must”. These are things that you absolutely need to teach them to use at all costs. I’ll go over each one briefly and explain why it’s a necessity, so here we go:

Cell Phone ~ Forget the iPhone or Android, in fact, avoid smart phones all together. Stick with a basic cell phone, preferably one with a large display, big keypad, and loudspeaker. Not only are cell phones a huge convenience, they’re also a big safety feature.Recently, my grandfather fell getting out of bed in the middle of the night to go to the bathroom, he couldn't make it all the way through the house and downstairs to the closest home phone, but he keeps his cell phone beside his bed at night.

Long story short, he was able to hit the emergency call button on his cell phone and get help in a few minutes. If he hadn't had a cell phone- well, you know what probably would have happened.

Home Computer ~ Seniors should have, at the very least, a basic understanding of how to use a computer. How to turn it on and surf the Web are two essential skills that they should have. My grandparents love being able to go online and see pictures of their grandkids (and great grandkids) anytime they want. As long as you set everything up, most times they will be able to adapt to using things like Facebook and Skype to stay connected to the family.

Those are the things that they need to know how to use, now here are a couple things they will love, once they learn them.

GPS ~ My grandparents love going to yard sales, flea markets, and things like that. What once used to mean pulling out their detailed map of Central Florida (which neither of them could read very well) and searching for hours for a location, now takes a few seconds with the GPS system I had installed in their car. It’s voice controlled and has a large display that makes it easy for them to work with.

Web Cams ~ Having a web cam set up opens up the whole world of video chat. My parents, Brother and Sisters, Aunts and Uncles, Cousins, all of us can video chat with my grandparents now when ever we want. They get to see all of us, and of course, the great grandkids much more than they ever could without video chat. My daughter loves showing my grandmother all of her new clothes over the Internet in a little “fashion show”.

Digital Camera/Video Camera ~ This is just a half step below “must have” status. Not only are digital cameras cheaper and easier to use (no buying film/video tapes and then paying for prints), it’s so much more convenient. My grandparents were able to see my sons first little league game, his first school play, and his kindergarten graduation, all because of digital cameras. It also made it easy for her to take a picture of my grandfathers latest X-rays and send them to my Aunt (the cardio surgeon) who is stationed in Germany.

Keep Moving Forward...

As technology keeps increasing, you’ll need to spend more and more time with the seniors in your life, helping them adapt to the new gadgets. Remember, no matter how cool the gadget, no matter how impressive the technology, the greatest gift you can give the seniors in your life (be they grandparents, neighbors, or friends) is your time, a kind word, and a hug.

These are the people who not only built the foundation of our families, but of our country, remember that. They defeated the Nazis, they built the Interstates, they pioneered all of the advances that we take for granted today, and because of that, they deserve not only our help learning new technology, but also our gratitude, our respect, and our admiration.

Personal Recommendations

Below are links and information about some of the gadgets I have bought for my grandparents and taught them to use. Use this as a starting point for the seniors in your life, to get an idea on some things you can help them integrate into their life.

Garmin Widescreen Portable GPS Navigator

I paid a little extra for this model (and to have it installed without any wires hanging down), but this is the absolute perfect GPS device for seniors. It's got a very large, very bright, easy to see display, that makes interface a breeze. It's also voice activated for the most part, letting you just talk to it without having to fool around with it while you're driving.

My favorite part however, is the FM transmitter that let's you hear it through the car's stereo system. This makes it much easier for my grandparents to actually hear the instructions it's giving them. It has tons of extra features and gizmos that they don't use very often (like a picture viewer, audio book player, downloadable content, etc), but that make it a pretty handy little gadget.

Jitterbug J The Simple Cell Phone

This is a no-muss, no-fuss cell phone designed specifically for seniors. It has a large display, big keypad buttons that are backlit to make seeing them even easier, and a very loud ringer that makes it easier to hear. No more missed calls because they can't hear it ringing. It's also designed to work with just about any type of hearing-aid and has a compatibility rating of T-4 (the highest rating possible).

It doesn't have any of the "special features" that most cell phones have these days, like an MP3 player or Camera, but those really aren't necessary. It comes with a home charger and that's about all. The only other thing I'd recommend is a car charger, which you can pick up pretty cheap.

Acer AM3970-U5022 Desktop

This is a pretty decent desktop computer for anyone, but it's perfect for seniors. It's got tons of memory, a fast processor and a hard drive that they could never possibly fill up. This is truly the "set it and forget it" of home computers. With this computer, they'll be able to surf the internet, watch videos online with ease, and video chat as much as they want, no problem.

It comes with:

  • The Computer
  • Mouse/Keyboard
  • 3.1GHz Intel Processor
  • 6GB of Ram
  • 1TB (that's 1,000GB) Hard Drive

You'll still need a display for it (as it does not come with one), and a printer. I recommend the Acer 20-Inch Widescreen Ultra-Slim, and the HP Deskjet 2050 All-in-One. That's the setup I have for my grandparents.

Microsoft LifeCam HD-3000

This is just a basic webcam, nothing special. It is HD, and does have the "widescreen" format and a pretty high frame rate, which makes the video smooth, not the choppy "stop-motion" look you get with some cheaper models.

Pretty much you just plug this in and it's ready to go. It does have a microphone built in, so you'll get sound with the video.

Toshiba Camileo S30 Full HD Camcorder

This is another "perfect for seniors" model. It's got a flip-out, rotating display that makes it easy to see what you're actually recording. It records in HD and has a 16X zoom. The best part about this camera (and what makes it perfect for seniors) is that you can upload your pictures and videos to YouTube, Facebook, and more, straight from the camera, without having to hook it up to your computer.

You can, of course, still choose to hook it up you your PC if you want, but it's much easier to use the flash card to transfer files. You may want to pick up an extra flash card and a protective case for it, just to be safe and keep everything together, but it comes pretty well ready to rock right out of the box.

More by this Author

Comments 11 comments

carcro profile image

carcro 5 years ago from Winnipeg

I can really relate to this hub, our parents are indeed at the age where technology is a scary thing. But I must say they all use computers, hence I get a call at least once a week to resolve various problems. Good information. Thanks for sharing!

Billy Hicks profile image

Billy Hicks 5 years ago Author

@Carcro Lol, I know the feeling, I'm the only one in the family that lives in the same town as my grandparents, so I'm over there 3 - 4 times a week helping them fix something. I'm glad you liked the Hub.

Simone D 5 years ago

Great hub, thanks. I find it strange to think that 20 years ago, it was my mom teaching me about various things on her PC; now she calls me for help, asks me to set up Skype for her, and has decided Facebook is not for her. I know she has the ability to do all these things, but it's as though at some point, she lost interest, or it became less of a priority, and her time was better spent elsewhere, leaving the tedious setting up, to her offspring! As for cellphones, we'd tried a couple in the past, but it was only really with the introduction of senior cellphones, that we got her hooked. While the Jitterbug was a nice phone, the SVC offered much the same user friendly features, but at a fraction of the price, with the monthly payments, at under $10, not being a risk if she decided not to use it. Turned out she loves texting, even having developed her own style of the teen shorthand!

Once they've got the hang of it, technology can be an awesome tool. I don't think my mom could survive without her Skype now, and keeping contact with the grandkids, who live hundreds of miles away.

Denise Handlon profile image

Denise Handlon 5 years ago from North Carolina

Billy, this was an awesome hub-I can't tell you how many elderly people have struggled with computer technology, not to mention other stuff. Heck when I get stuck I ask my nephew.

Rated up. I think this one should be selected for the daily hub!

Billy Hicks profile image

Billy Hicks 5 years ago Author

Thanks for the feedback Denise, I'm glad you liked it so much. =)

FoodNation 5 years ago

Hey Billy - great article! I've been doing A LOT of research for my grandparents since they finally retired this year and I moved away for school. Keeping in touch with them is big with me and since they're so active, I'm glad to see a mention of a cell phone here since its something I've considered getting them. I actually noticed one a few days ago at KMart from that prepaid company Tracfone - it was called SVC and I think it was just for seniors. Since I saw you mentioned the Jitterbug and I know that one costs like $50+, do you know anything about this brand?

Billy Hicks profile image

Billy Hicks 5 years ago Author

@FoodNation The biggest thing you'll need to look for when picking a cell phone for seniors is it's M3/T4 compatibility. This tells you if it's compatible with hearing aids, and if it's going to be loud enough for them to hear (even if they don't wear hearing aids, M3/T4 compatible phones are still the best for sound volume and quality).

janet2 5 years ago

I heard of that svc thing! I was wondering where you could get it... kmart is the best option??? my mother used jitterbug... hated it. i feel bad saying that because she hates most technology. But also the costs were ridiculous considering the amount she was using it. Have you had much luck with the svc?

Bahamas Cruise Liners 4 years ago

For develop students mind these kind of activities are necessary, my sister's lids are very crazy about computer games because they use computer in his school, so they have good knowledge about computer system.

Kathleen Cochran profile image

Kathleen Cochran 4 years ago from Atlanta, Georgia

Thank you. I usually don't consider myself "a senior" but I sure an getting closer and closer every day. And I know I'm falling behind technologically - especially since I retired from the leaving-home-to-work-world two years ago. Your list encourages me because I have and can use all the things on it. I don't tweet, pininterest or linkedin and don't want any more holes in my damn keeping the rest of the world out of my life. Good to know those are not on you list.

Billy Hicks profile image

Billy Hicks 4 years ago Author

@Kathleen, I'm a firm believer in the K.I.S.S. philosophy. I think it's great to learn how to do anything you want to do on the computer, as long as it's something you really want to do. Fads change, websites that are popular one day are veritably ghost towns the next (just ask MySpace).

    Sign in or sign up and post using a HubPages Network account.

    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    No HTML is allowed in comments, but URLs will be hyperlinked. Comments are not for promoting your articles or other sites.

    Click to Rate This Article