In Search of Technology Tutors

by Jon Schwartz April 29, 2016
 

 

aging may

may be a millennial, but I am in no way a technology wiz-kid. I do appreciate that fact that I’ve grown up in a time when learning computer basics, internet navigating, and smart phone is the norm, though. When a new piece of consumer technology breaks through, I basically assume that I’ll be able to pick it up relatively quickly. A touch screen is a touch screen, right?

This innate ability is incredibly useful today. Just this weekend, I used my phone for driving directions to a new location. I booked a trip online – flight, hotel, the works. I keep in touch with friends and loved ones multiple times a day, via email and social media. And because of these tools, I believe our society can become more efficient, better informed, and more connected than any other time in human history.

More and more, with new technologies, it is younger and younger people who are the early adopters. As the population ages, though, entire generations can easily be left behind in this fast-paced transition. It is incumbent on societies to provide training and resources so that this doesn’t happen.

In 2013, the Pew Research Center carried out a few studies that compared American adults, aged 18-64 years, and Americans 65 and older on the use of technologies. The study found that 91 percent of adults in the younger group have and use a cell phone, compared to 77 percent in the older group. Not terrible – but moving on to internet use, a solid 86 percent of younger adults use the internet, compared to 59 percent of the older adults. Usage for smart phone, e-readers, tablets, and the use of social media were all significantly lower for those 65 and older compared to the younger adults.

Pew found that the differences in technology use for older adults can be attributed to physical challenges presented with using new technologies. Perhaps vision problems or arthritis discourages people from participation. Another finding was that an older adult may not see the benefits in learning the new technology. Or they may just be intimidated.   

With this in mind, our community should strive to build coalitions of people and infrastructures to help mitigate fears and assumptions that older adults have about technology. Technology can help enable an older adult to fulfill a desire that more than 90 percent have expressed a wish to do; age-in-place. Through technology, one may be able to avoid missing a preventative physician’s appointment, even if one can no longer drive, (thanks to ride-sharing services like Uber and Lyft). One may be able to better stay socially connected to family, friends and community by creating a social media or Skype account. One may chose to learn new skills by asking Google or YouTube how to do almost anything and everything! Technologies in health, commerce, recreation and travel will continue to expand what is possible. But there is always an operational learning curve.

Therefore, I’m calling on all of my young friends or older one’s too who feel proficient in an area of technology, to offer your knowledge and time to an older individual(s) who could benefit from help.

In Atul Gawande’s best selling book, “Being Mortal,” he states, “At one time we might have turned to an older-timer to explain the world. Now we consult Google, and if we have any trouble with the computer, we ask a teenager.”  While Google does know a lot, we have much to learn from our aging population in terms of empathy, wisdom, compassion, communication and relationships. Take the time to show an older relative or neighbor how to use a piece of technology, I promise it will not only be a great investment for you but for the world too.  Imagine, millions upon millions of older adults will soon be connected to technology, thus able to share their talents in the world unlike any time before.

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