Helping Seniors Conquer New Tech Holiday Gifts
By: Nancy La Fever
Elder Law Associates Newsletter dated December 26, 2017
If you’ve ever struggled to learn how to operate a new technology-based toy, you’ve probably only experienced 1/10th the frustration an older adult faces. Although many seniors are tech-savvy, many don’t have the cultural conditioning to technology younger adults do. Often called “state-dependent learning,” most of us have been surrounded by technology for most of our lives and take it for granted. This time of year is especially challenging when holiday gifts may include new televisions, tablets or phones. Helping a senior loved one learn how to use a new device might be in order.
I recently suggested my mother upgrade her mobile phone and found a model almost identical to her four-year-old flip phone. To her credit, she’s an avid manual reader and learns quickly. However, manuals are now relegated to online resources and she doesn’t have a computer. My mother insisted she needed a manual and after several calls to customer service, they printed out a sheaf of PDF manual documents for her.
Calling customer service for help with the new tech device is a good first step if there is confusion about its operation. Because they’ve worked with senior customers, the representatives will probably have solutions you and your senior loved one may not have considered. Cable TV companies may even suggest a more senior-friendly remote with larger buttons and fewer selections.
Create Visual Diagrams
Many people are visual learners and giving them verbal instructions isn’t always effective. Visual aids can be used on that intimidating new remote control. There are usually buttons and features you never use. For simplicity, you might cover those buttons on the senior’s remote with colored tape and use arrow stickers or other indicators for the most commonly used buttons.
If you become frustrated while helping your loved one, try to recall how difficult it was the last time you had to master something very complicated. Remember also it’s often hard for older adults to ask for help because it makes them feel dependent or less intelligent. Patience is critical in this scenario. Think of the pride we feel when we accomplish a hard task. You will also feel good about helping your senior loved one.