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9 Steps For Teaching Technology To Your Senior Loved One

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The benefits of technology are extensive. Not only does technology keep people connected and engaged, but it helps older adults successfully age in place, and offers access to unlimited resources.

Being able to utilize technology in a successful manner, can give your loved one increased independence and feelings of purposefulness. Even basic computer skills can increase connection and expand the ways in which your loved one can support themselves in their daily lives. New advancements in technology increase accessibility for those who may have limited mobility and wish to stay connected as well.

In this article, we will explore the steps to take for teaching technology to your loved one. We’ll focus on covering the three primary types of technology such as tablets, computers, and smartphones. It’s important to keep in mind your loved one's previous experience with technology.

For your loved one, it may be their first time ever using a device. For other elder adults, perhaps it’s been a few years and this guide can act as a refresher. You may have to adapt slightly based on your loved one's unique needs.

Additionally, it’s important to consider who will be the best teacher for your loved one. Family caregivers may find it adds to their growing list of caregiving responsibilities. Whereas, a grandchild might find teaching tech to a family member to be a rewarding way to connect with their older loved one.

Brainstorm who may be the right fit to teach technology to your senior loved one and suggest they use these nine steps below.

 

What Are 9 Steps To Consider When Teaching Technology To Your Senior?

Learning a new skill can have a positive impact on your loved one and bring on a sense of accomplishment for your senior.

Technology is ever-changing and can be frustrating to navigate, especially for older adults who may be less familiar with different types of technology.

Consider these nine steps when trying to teach your senior about technology.

1. Identify Your Loved One’s Technology Goals 

Before beginning to teach your loved one how to use a device, speak with them about their technology goals. Find out what they are hoping to use their device for. 

    • Tablets:
      They may wish to play games, video chat, or use social media. Depending on their provider, they may even be able to and wish to connect with their medical provider.

    • Cell Phones:
      Making phone calls, texting, video calling, or “Facetiming” with family members and taking photos may be primary reasons for your loved one wanting to use a smartphone.

    • Computers:
      Your loved one may wish to email, write documents, or surf the web on their computer. They may hope to attend Zoom classes or community meetings - things that have become widely available during the COVID-19 pandemic.

2. Review Technology Terms & Definitions Together 

Speak the lingo with your loved one! Go through important terms they will need to know in order to learn and operate their device. 

    • Apps:
      Show your loved one what an app is by demonstrating downloading one or two onto a device. Try showing them different categories of apps so they can become familiar with the concept.

      After all, apps can allow you to do everything from check-off tasks, play games, monitor healthcare updates, check emails, and more.

    • Charging:
      Most devices require having their battery be charged. Show your loved one where their charger is, where to insert the cable, and how to connect it to an outlet.

    • WiFi:
      While you may not plan on teaching your loved one how to connect to the WiFi, make sure they are familiar with the term in order to help with troubleshooting later on. Explain that WiFi is what gives them internet access.


3. Label Key Pieces Of Technology

Labels can be helpful reminders for later on. Try labeling the following technological devices for your loved one:

    • Computers

      • Use tape and a marker to label important buttons- like the power button.

    • Cellphones, Smartphones, and Tablets

      • Label the charger cables and keep them plugged into an accessible outlet. 

      • Make sure the charger cable does not create a tripping hazard for your loved one.


4. Start With The Basic Devices First 

If your loved one has limited background knowledge, be sure to start simple. If possible, try to associate devices with technology that may be familiar. For example, if your loved one is used to using a smartphone, introducing them to a tablet first may be simpler.

Even a landline may be a helpful comparison for a smartphone. Here are a few more things to focus on for each device:

    • Computers:
      First, show your loved one how to turn a computer on and off. Then show them how to access the web and what to click using a computer mouse.

    • Smartphones:
      Second, if your loved one has never used a smartphone before start by turning the phone on and off before making calls. Then try moving on to tasks such as practicing creating a text message or checking the weather through the weather app.

    • Tablets:
      Lastly, same as with computers and smartphones, begin with showing your loved one how to power the tablet on and off. Then begin using apps with your loved one that they’re interested in using - but remember, keep it simple and in line with their end goals.


5. Keep It Simple 

Oftentimes, devices come preloaded with lots of bells and whistles. Consider removing apps that may make the device appear overwhelming to your loved one. You can always add back the apps later on. 

 

6. Set Aside Time 

Don’t try to teach your loved one everything all at once and don’t try to teach them technology while other things are going on.

Be specific and mindful about when your lesson will be. If your loved one has better times of day, take advantage of those times. Remove any distractions when teaching, such as the TV or radio. 

 

7. Find Resources 

There are lots of online resources for seniors to learn how to use various technology devices and tools.

YouTube and AARP both have many step-by-step tutorials for using technology. Some local senior centers or community centers offer in-person sessions on using devices as well.

 

8. Review Internet Safety 

While the benefits of technology are extensive, there can be some dangers that can come along with it - especially for those who may be less tech-savvy. Review any dangers of scams with your loved one and be on the lookout for signs of security breaches.

 

9. Be Patient! 

Learning a new skill takes time, and teaching tech is no easy feat.

There are lots of details and complications that can arise through the use of technology. It can be easy to become frustrated when teaching someone else, especially when you're in the midst of carrying out other caregiving responsibilities.

While it may be a process to teach tech, tech skills can open up doors for older adults so remember why you’re doing it in the first place. It’s never too late to learn a new skill and use it to make daily life easier.

Laurel McLaughlin

Laurel McLaughlin has over a decade worth of experience in various sectors of the elder care field- home care, senior living, and non-profits. She has a Master’s in Gerontology and is a certified dementia practitioner.

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