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Navigating Technology in the Golden Years: Challenges, Security Concerns, and the Need for Patience


Introduction:


The digital age we now find ourselves in has transformed the way we live, work and interact with the world. While technology has brought convenience and connectivity to many, it has also presented challenges for a particular demographic - the elderly. This article explores the struggles that elderly individuals face when navigating technology, the associated security dangers, and the vital role patience and understanding play in helping them adapt to this ever-evolving digital landscape.


Embracing the change in the culture of technology:


Today we live in what can only be described as a digital world. We are becoming increasingly reliant on our devices and technology as a whole. Whilst many of us have taken the rapid advancement of technology in our stride, not everyone has. Even in my lifetime, I have seen a vast improvement in technology. I look at the stuff I had growing up and think “wow, that doesn’t even compare to what we have now”. I remember how amazing it was at the time, but it now seems obsolete.


Imagine how that feels for older generations with a bigger change to adapt to. Many of them did not grow up with technology, making it challenging to embrace and adapt to new gadgets, software, and applications. This knowledge gap can be a significant source of frustration and isolation, as elderly individuals may feel left behind by the fast-paced changes in the tech world. Furthermore, the change in culture has enabled new technology to be introduced without the legal system even having a chance to assess the cultural implications and legislate accordingly. Younger people may not even be aware of this, but it was the case for most of the 20th century, when older people will have lived most of their lives.



Now I’m not trying to say that everyone of a certain age struggles with technology. There are those of an older generation who have adapted well and even gone on to have a career in the industry. There are also those of a younger generation that struggle with tech. However, this article is focused on the elderly that have struggled and how we can help them. It is important not to patronise older tech users but show patience and understanding.


Complex Interfaces and Terminology:


Another struggle faced by elderly individuals is the complexity of modern technology interfaces and the technical jargon used. Smartphones, tablets, computers, and even household appliances are designed with a user-friendly approach in mind, but for those unfamiliar with these devices, even the most basic functions can be overwhelming.


Phrases like "Wi-Fi," "Bluetooth," and "app" might sound like a foreign language to some. I often found myself having to explain these terms to older members of my family. Even though I did I could sense that they didn’t really take it all in. It seems a strange concept that what I thought were such simple, familiar terms seemed incomprehensible to them.


Security Concerns:


In addition to the technical challenges, elderly individuals are often vulnerable to security risks associated with technology. It’s even more difficult for those who don’t understand the technology and how it works to even begin to fathom what the security risks are. They may not fully understand the importance of strong passwords, regular software updates and the dangers of online scams. This lack of awareness can make them easy targets for cybercriminals seeking to steal personal information or financial assets.


Scams and Fraud:


Due to their potential lack of understanding and confidence around technology elderly individuals are particularly susceptible to scams, malware and fraudulent activities. Phishing emails, fraudulent phone calls, and social engineering schemes can lead them to divulge sensitive information or fall victim to financial exploitation. An example of this is when criminals pose as a legitimate entity such as BT and claim that they are about to be disconnected if they don’t pay.


It doesn’t stop there. Impostors will not only pose as a company or authoritative entity; it is common for messages to appear as if they are coming from a loved one seeking help or asking for money. A recent scam doing the rounds is on WhatsApp where a message claiming to be from a loved one is received asking for help or money and that they are using a friend’s phone. These messages typically include a link to a phishing website to harvest details or install malware.


It's essential for loved ones and caregivers to educate them about these risks and help them recognize potential threats. It is also important to be approachable so they don’t feel reluctant to reach out and try and resolve the situation on their own, potentially falling victim to the scam they could have avoided if they had help.


Patience and Understanding:


The key to helping elderly individuals navigate technology is patience and understanding. It's essential to remember that their learning curve may be steeper, and their frustration levels higher. I often remember when my grandma changed the app she watched her tv on. She would become increasingly frustrated every time the layout changed. Each time I had to go through it with her even though it was the same thing. To me it was simple but to her it was a whole new complicated mess which caused her anxiety and distress. All she wanted was to watch her favourite shows like before.


In her eyes it took her a long time to master it and yet it had all changed. The fundamentals were the same, but it was visually different which led her to believe it was all different. I had to reassure and teach her all over again. It took time but it was worth it to put her mind at ease. It is key to take time and repeat as many times as needed whilst also reassuring them it is not too much trouble nor are they a burden. It is also a really good idea to write things down. Make sure to write it down on paper in language that is appropriate, including the person in the use of language, so it is more familiar to them when they re-read it.



As with anyone, it is also important to understand and appreciate their levels of understanding and confidence will be different. Encouragement and support are also crucial in this process. Taking the time to teach them step by step and repeating instructions, when necessary, can go a long way. It is important to remember there could well be a day when we ourselves are confused, anxious and frustrated when using technology that the younger generations operate with ease. Yes, a lot of us have the benefit of growing up in or around the rapid development of technology but our elders were once in a similar position where the tech they had when they were younger was current or cutting edge. It then moved on, quite often too fast.


Simplify and Customize:


To make the process smoother, simplify technology for the elderly. This can involve customizing settings to make devices more accessible, such as increasing font sizes or adjusting display settings. Teaching them to use only the essential functions they need can also reduce confusion. For those with memory problems, it is worth printing out infographics or writing down a series of simple instructions that can be referred back to. Leaving a note by the landline to remind them to check who they are speaking with and if they feel uncomfortable or unsure, just hang up.


Digital Literacy Programs:


Many communities and organizations offer digital literacy programs for the elderly. These programs provide structured learning environments where they can acquire basic digital skills, from using email to understanding online safety. Local libraries and community centres are good places to look. This should not be just a one off, it is important to maintain this knowledge once it is gained with regular refreshers.


Conclusion:


The elderly face several challenges when it comes to navigating technology, including the complexity of devices, the prevalence of security risks, and the need to adapt to a rapidly changing digital landscape. Patience, understanding, and support from family members, caregivers, and the community are essential in helping them. By doing so, we can ensure that the elderly remain connected, informed, and secure in an increasingly digital world.


Useful Links:

Digital Inclusion article on assisting the elderly with technology:


Website offering help with technology for the elderly:



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