It is no secret that seniors are not as tech-savvy as the younger generations because they did not grow up with computers and smartphones.
Technology can bring many benefits and advantages for seniors who live independently enabling them to communicate with family and friends, buy groceries and other essential items online, remain entertained and up to date and ability to call a car on doorsteps for traveling (via Uber or Lyft).
But why do elderly struggle with technology? well, there are many reasons and barriers including health issues, lack of senior-friendly tech and low motivation to learn and adopt.
Why Do Elderly Struggle with Technology? – The 12 Reasons
Here are the 12 most common reasons why the elderly struggle with learning and embracing technology.
1. Technology Can be Overwhelming
The user interfaces of tech gadgets are not designed for the elderly so they can have a hard time with too much information on the screen. User names and passwords can be hard to remember, menus and buttons can be overwhelming.
Information overload is one reason why the elderly struggle with technology because they are exposed to more information than their brain can process.
2. Readability Issues
Smartphone screens are too small for the elderly to read on them. The app icons, menu buttons, controls and keyboards are too small on smartphones. Although the latest smartphones come with accessibility options to customize them for seniors, you cannot do much to make them senior-friendly.
Declines in vision and hearing with age make things worse for older adults as they have a hard time focusing and using screens.
3. Lack of Familiarity with Modern Technology
One of the main reasons of elderly struggle with technology is a lack of familiarity with modern tech and gadgets. They were not born with computers and smartphones around them unlike children today. We should not expect them to understand technology as fast as the new generation because they were not exposed to technology at a young age.
They feel more comfortable using a landline phone instead of a smartphone. TV is easier for them for video content than browsing YouTube. They grew up in a different world and are exposed to technology at a stage of life when embracing technology and learning new things is not an easy task for them.
4. The Decline in Vision and Hearing
Vision and hearing impairments can be a normal part of aging for many people and it becomes hard for them to use technology that requires good eyesight. It can be frustrating for them to look at the screen and that may lead to a reluctance to use technology altogether.
Hearing impairment also brings challenges for seniors who want to adopt new technologies. For example, it may not be easy for older adults to follow Google map navigation voice commands during travel or communicate with Siri or Alexa.
5. Cognitive Decline
As seniors age, they may suffer from cognitive decline affecting their memory skills and understanding of different things. Dementia can make it harder to focus and learn new technology and remember what you learned.
6. Lack of Senior-Friendly Technology
Modern technology and gadgets are designed by the young generation, for the young generation. Companies fail to design products with seniors in mind. The user interface has to be simple and minimal with easy-access menus for seniors. There is a need for technology products that are specifically designed for the elderly with large screens and bigger buttons.
Read more: Best gadgets for seniors
7. Seniors Do Not See the Benefits of Using Technology
One reason for seniors to avoid technology is that they think they do not need the latest technology and feel comfortable with their old habits and lifestyle. They do not understand the benefits and advantages of technology in daily life activities like communication, health benefits and access to endless entertainment material online.
They feel it is okay to go to their bank and stand in queue for something that they could do through online banking in minutes because that is what they have been doing all their lives.
8. Seniors Cannot Keep Up with Technology
The latest technology continues to enter our lives at a breakneck pace. Technology changes so fast that it is hard for the young generation to keep up with it. Tech companies are competing against each other with the latest smartphones and tablets with new and improved features.
From smartphones to tablets and from smartwatches to fitness bands, hundreds of new tech gadgets hit shelves each year. While all new inventions in technology are exciting for the young generation, it is not possible for older adults to keep up with the latest developments.
9. Privacy and Safety Concerns
Safety and privacy issues are major reasons why elderly struggle with technology and avoid online activities. Scammers target senior citizens more than other age groups because they have more savings and resources and are less able to spot a scammer.
Privacy issues such as identity theft also drive seniors away from online shopping. They do not feel safe sharing personal information online. They prefer the hassle of going out for grocery shopping and paying bills instead of using bank cards for online purchases.
10. High Costs
If you look at more reasons why do elderly struggle with technology? One reason is the fact that technology adoption is not easy for them because of the high costs.
According to a recent study by the Nation Library of Medicine, nearly 70% of seniors considered cost as a deciding factor in technology adoption. If cost is a barrier, it will further affect seniors intention to use technology and they will have low motivation to embrace technology and the obvious thing for them is to ignore technological advancements.
It is not easy for the elderly to spend hundreds and sometimes thousands of dollars to buy a new smartphone or tablet while they are already spending on the mortgage, health and possibly home care.
11. Lack of Guidance and Instructions
Seniors struggle with learning how to use technology and cannot keep up with the learning curve that comes with new technological skills. Some older adults do not want to rely on others for technology help.
Learning new technology requires guidance and patience. Family and friends, sometimes, may not have the patience or willingness to help. Although there are many online resources for seniors to get help and instructions, most prefer physical classes and in-person guidance to start.
12. Frustration in Learning
Seniors can get frustrated easily and think learning technology is beyond their reach. Frustration can cause seniors to lose confidence and motivation and they can become anxious. Technical glitches or device malfunctions can further demotivate them. Lack of patience is another reason why the elderly struggle with technology and learning in general.
These were the 12 most common barriers to technology use for older adults. It is not all gloomy and doom if you look at the latest tech trends among seniors. The share of senior technology users (65 years and older) has grown rapidly in the past decade, as found by Pew Research Center. The survey shows that
- 61% of seniors of 65 years or older now own a smartphone
- 45% use social media
- and 44% own a tablet computer.
The good news is that a study by NIH suggests that seniors are willing and eager to adopt new technology if they are provided with support and assistance.
Let us see how you can introduce technology into the lives of your loved ones and help them learn the basics.
8 Tips for Teaching Technology to Older Adults
Start by convincing them that technology will make their life easy and bring many benefits for them and that they have what it takes to learn technology. Here are some of the things to keep in mind when introducing new technologies to seniors.
1. Highlight the Benefits of Using Technology for The Elderly
Show them some fun stuff, like making a FaceTime call with a family member. Show them their favorite tv show on YouTube and tell them how they can read their favorite books on a tablet.
Tell them what can devices like Alexa do for older adults and highlight games and apps that are specifically designed for seniors.
2. Make The Device Senior-Friendly for Them
Set up their smartphone, tablet or computer for them before starting. Make it easy to use by increasing the font size and changing the screen background to one color image.
If you are teaching on a smartphone or tablet, declutter the Home screen and move pre-installed apps, that seniors do not need to use, to a folder and move it to the second screen.
Make app icons bigger and increase ringtone or notification sounds volumes. Keep the most used apps on the Home screen and add some games and apps to get them started.
3. Start Slow, and Teach Basics
Do not assume they have any prior knowledge of technology. Start with basics and avoid information overload. Encourage them to do things themselves, and tell them it is okay to ask questions even if they are repetitive.
Elderly struggle with technology because they do not ask for help. The start is always overwhelming for seniors so keep it simple and basic.
4. Ask Them to Take Notes
Many seniors suffer memory loss issues as they age and it is not easy for them to remember things. Ask them to note down what they learned for the day or you can provide them brief notes to refer back to, in case they forget and need help.
5. Address Privacy and Safety Concerns
Help seniors get a good antivirus program for their devices. Educate them about spam mail, pop-ups and malware. Tell them about authentic sites for online shopping. Let them know about online scammers and common scam types.
Guide them about common online safety practices like never sharing your personal or financial information with anyone online.
6. Celebrate Small Achievements
It is important to encourage your students by celebrating their small achievements. Highlight the progress they are making and tell them they are doing a great job and have come a long way.
Show confidence in their skills and learnings and it will make them more comfortable and confident in class.
7. Let Them Practice
Show them what to do and let them practice themselves. Introduce fun games, puzzles and apps for them to keep it interesting.
Tell them it is ok to make mistakes and try new things. Observe what they enjoy and what is troubling them.
Teaching new technology to seniors requires patience, teach at the pace that they feel comfortable with. Expect repetitive questions and frustration if the elderly struggle with technology. Motivate them along the way. It may take some time for them to get familiar with new technology but their learning abilities will improve after the initial learning curve.
There you have it, the reasons to why do elderly struggle with technology? and tips on how to teach and help them. It is unpleasant to see your loved ones and seniors struggling with technology so help them as much as you can.