Technology frequently consists of remarkable breakthroughs that assist society in moving forward, yet the same technology may also stall or inhibit the evolution of entire generations. But how exactly?
I‘ve have a lot of experience in this area given my tenures with household tech companies like Compaq, Dell, Alienware and Neato Robotics. All of these companies were early proponents of how technology had the potential to change people’s lives from an entertainment, productivity and lifestyle standpoint.
My experience with these companies has also deepened my appreciation for the frustration that older individuals must feel when they see younger people — especially children — utilize new technology in almost a breezy and carefree manner.
Because technology has played such a dominant role in my career for the past 25 years, I know all too well how the frantic pace of new products can scare and even anger people who feel that they will be “left behind.”
Despite this understandable fear, the unshakeable fact is that technology is frequently new and must be taught and studied. Society portrays older generations as unwilling or unable to learn. However, this overall age prejudice is often incorrect.
As the world progresses technologically, it becomes increasingly important for seniors and older adults to embrace these advancements to lead fulfilling lives. Contrary to the misconception that technology is only for the younger generation, it can play a crucial role in enhancing the lives of seniors and ensuring they remain active, engaged, and socially connected. In this article, we will explore various activities that seniors and older people can engage in to ensure technology plays a productive role in their lives.
My personal computer marketing background with Compaq and Dell is particularly instructive. I’ve learned that older individuals looking to embrace new technology should begin by mastering the fundamentals. Starting with basic tasks such as navigating menus, using touchscreens, or understanding key terminology can build confidence. Learning at a comfortable pace and seeking help from family, friends, or online tutorials is crucial. Gradually exploring more advanced features and applications will help them become more tech-savvy. Patience and persistence are key, as this gradual approach fosters a solid foundation for older individuals to confidently embrace and adapt to the ever-evolving world of technology.
Digital Literacy Classes
The first step for seniors to harness the power of technology is to gain digital literacy skills. Many communities and senior centers offer digital literacy classes tailored to older adults, helping them become familiar with smartphones, tablets, and computers. These courses cover basic internet usage, social media, online banking, digital photo editing, video editing, and email communication. By becoming digitally literate, seniors can unlock a new world of possibilities and quickly access information, services, and entertainment. I’m a big fan of the classes that Apple conducts at its retail stores across the United States, as they are crafted for technology novices and are free of charge. However, it’s not unusual for these classes to be conducted at community colleges; they are marvelous venues to take advantage of.
Let’s face it: technology bridges the distance gap and enables seniors to stay connected with their loved ones, even if they live far away. Applications like Skype, Zoom, or FaceTime allow seniors to have face-to-face conversations with family and friends, reducing feelings of isolation and loneliness. Social media applications, especially Facebook (now Meta), are perhaps the top usage model in which seniors find great appeal. Virtual socialization fosters emotional well-being and creates a sense of community, as seniors can join online groups and forums based on shared interests.
Exercise and Wellness Apps
Staying physically active is essential for seniors’ overall health and well-being. Technology can help them stay on track with fitness goals by using various exercise and wellness apps. These apps provide guided workouts, track progress, and even offer personalized fitness routines for seniors with mobility limitations. From yoga and stretching exercises to meditation and mindfulness practices, these apps cater to individual preferences, making it easier for seniors to maintain a healthy lifestyle. Wearable solutions like the Apple Watch and Samsung’s family of smartwatches are great ways to monitor health and provide “fall down” detection and emergency geo-location data.
Brain Training Games
Though it sounds marginal, seniors can engage in brain training games and apps to keep their minds sharp and agile. These activities stimulate cognitive functions like memory, attention, and problem-solving. With a wide range of games available, seniors can find those that align with their interests and cognitive abilities. Regularly engaging in brain training may help reduce the risk of cognitive decline and boost overall mental acuity.
Online Learning Platforms
Learning is a lifelong process, and technology has made education more accessible. Seniors can explore online learning platforms that offer a plethora of courses on various subjects. Whether learning a new language, studying history, or mastering a hobby, these platforms allow seniors to enrich their knowledge and stay intellectually active.
E-Reading and Audiobooks
For book lovers, technology has opened the door to an endless library of e-books and audiobooks. Seniors can easily access literature, memoirs, and other reading materials through e-readers and audiobook apps. These platforms allow seniors with vision impairments to adjust font sizes and background colors, making reading more comfortable and enjoyable.
Volunteer and Community Engagement
Many seniors find purpose and fulfillment in giving back to their communities. Technology can be used as a tool to connect seniors with volunteer opportunities and community engagement programs. Online platforms can match seniors with organizations seeking expertise or assistance, enabling them to impact society positively.
Far from being an albatross, technology can play a pivotal role in enhancing the lives of seniors and older people by fostering connectivity, mental agility, and overall well-being. From virtual socialization and brain training games to e-reading and online learning platforms, seniors have many activities to engage in to make technology a productive part of their lives. Encouraging seniors to embrace technology and providing the necessary support and resources will empower them to lead fulfilling lives well into their golden years. As technology continues to evolve, the possibilities for seniors to thrive in this digital age are endless.
Most importantly, seniors will feel more empowered by the community if they surround themselves with those eager to learn.
I encourage seniors to read articles on new breakthrough technology and watch how-to videos on YouTube on almost everything. Constantly consuming written and video content will keep you energized and informed in discussions about new initiatives in the business and society.
The key to success is never to stop learning. Seniors can become a powerhouse of information and expertise if they continually absorb new techniques, concepts, and technology. The trick is not to be scared to study, don’t get tired of new ideas, and keep growing yourself to expand your prospects.
Unfortunately, research and history show that ageism becomes a more pervasive and conspicuous component of your everyday existence when you consistently fail to stay up with technology. Your interactions suffer, you are more likely to be phased out of employment, and you are less likely to be taken seriously by healthcare institutions, family members, and caregivers.
Learning is essential to everyone, regardless of their age. But this adage continues to be true: it’s never too late to start.
About the Author
Mark Vena is the CEO and Principal Analyst at SmartTech Research based in Silicon Valley. As a technology industry veteran for over 25 years, Mark covers many consumer tech topics, including PCs, smartphones, smart home, connected health, security, PC and console gaming, and streaming entertainment solutions. Mark has held senior marketing and business leadership positions at Compaq, Dell, Alienware, Synaptics, Sling Media and Neato Robotics. Mark has appeared on CNBC, NBC News, ABC News, Business Today, The Discovery Channel and other media outlets. Mark’s analysis and commentary have appeared on Forbes.com and other well-known business news and research sites. His comments about the consumer tech space have repeatedly appeared in The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, USA Today, TechNewsWorld and other news publications.
SmartTech Research, like all research and tech industry analyst firms, provides or has provided paid services to technology companies. These services include research, analysis, advising, consulting, benchmarking, acquisition or speaking sponsorships. Companies mentioned in this article may have utilized these services.
Featured image: ©Andrey Popov