Stop Stereotyping: Seniors Are Computer Savvy

Technology savvy seniors

Technology Provides Touchpoint To Discovery, Relationships.

Myth: Older people are technology shy and can’t keep pace with the innovation coming out of hoodie-clad Silicon Valley.

Such beliefs are not only wrong, they’re insulting. Seniors are wunderkinds in their own right. Studies show they use computers, social media, and portable devices at rates similar to younger Americans, giving them a crucial touch point with relatives and connecting them to valuable resources.

The generation that rocketed to the moon, fought for Civil Rights and defeated communism won’t cede all technology marketing to Facebook obsessives. Don’t forget, Apple CEO Tim Cook is pushing 60 and Microsoft Co-founder Bill Gates is 62.

Don’t count older users out; they are not in sleep mode.

“My knowledge and use of technology, especially the iPad, has changed my life and all for the better,” says Elinor Hyle, 81, a Palo Alto, California resident. “I am now approaching 82 and still go like gangbusters. Many people I know about my age are doing the same thing with technology.”

“Our maturity and life experience adds value to the technology discussion,” Hyle adds. “Technology giants would do well to do more data analytics on our browsing habits. Not every 25 year old can afford a $400 iPhone. We can.”

App for that

While it’s true that older adults as a group lag behind the under 40s in overall technology adoption, their use of technology is growing. A 2017 Pew Research Center report on “Tech Adoption Climbs Among Older Adults” shows nearly 70 percent of Americans 65 or older use the Internet, a huge uptick from 14 percent in 2000.

Four in 10 seniors now own a smartphone, according to the Pew Research Center.

“Today, roughly half of older adults who own cellphones have some type of smartphone; in 2013, that share was just 23 percent,” The Pew Research Center reports.

Social media is becoming a platform for news and information. According to The Pew Research Institute, 34 percent of seniors use social media such as Facebook and Twitter. This represents a 7 percent increase since 2013.

Tablets, not pills

Roughly 32 percent of those over 65 or older say they own a tablet computer, while 19 percent own an e-reader. This represents a double-digit increase in tablet ownership since 2013, according to The Pew Research Institute.

Hyle said she began using an iPad six years ago. She emails friends, neighbors, her pastor, children and grandchildren and texts on her phone.

“I love sending and receiving photos and often forward them to friends and relatives,” she says. “It is especially fun to watch children grow up right before your eyes.”

Gadgets, gadgets, gadgets

Her embrace of technology extends beyond social. Hyle banks online, books flights and shows a knack for GPS, using mapping technology for solo drives to her Sierra retirement home. She operates a digital camera and shops online. Like any American, Hyle can’t avoid gadgets – they’re everywhere.

“I am a huge CNN and headline news follower,” she says. “When the big story hits, I know where to find the news I need.”

Lifting spirits

Her daughter Sally Dockter of Charlottesville, Virginia, said many older people feel isolated and lack human interaction. Technology fosters connection, like Meals on Wheels and other programs offered by neighborhood senior centers.

“Nowadays it is much easier to stay in touch with family and friends via email, Facebook, texting, and Skype,” Dockter says.  “The millennials are much more likely to email or text parents and grandparents than call, so it is crucial for seniors to be technologically savvy.

“My personal experience with my mother is she looks forward to emails immensely, and even one or two lines a day lift her spirits,” Dockter says.  “I still call a couple times a week but I am in close contact with her thanks to today’s technology.”

Mental alertness 

Silver surfers reap many benefits from virtual-reality activities, including mental alertness and cognitive longevity, according to 2014 article by CapTel, which develops captioned telephones for those with hearing loss. (http://www.captel.com/2014/05/benefits-technology-usage-seniors/)

Researchers have discovered that computer users 65 to 75 improve memory, expand attention and increase sequencing abilities by completing a series of computer games, CapTel reports. Perhaps staying in touch with technology will boost health, altering the age code. Could 80 be the new 60?

Technology Savvy Seniors

Fulfillment and Independence

The American Association of Retired Persons has reported that seniors who regularly use the Internet enjoy benefits in several key areas of life. They include

  • Personal fulfillment
  • Health preservation
  • Social connectedness
  • Functional capability

No age limitations

In 2013, the New York Daily News profiled 105-year-old Californian Edythe Kirchmaier. The newspaper noted she kept busy daily with Facebook, making her the oldest registered Facebook user.

She emailed on an iPad, played solitaire and researched facts on the Internet. “I use the Internet when I’m interested in something or someone. I find it very educational,” she told the Daily News.

Tinder for seniors 

Another myth: Seniors give up on their personal lives, especially after the death of a spouse. Tell that to the thousands of mature adults logging on to 50-plus dating sites.  “Because Everybody Needs Company,” heralds one. “Ready to Start Your Next Chapter With Us?” trumps another. It turns out the sexy senior of 2018 is the one with an iPad and dating site identity.

Many organizations and retail stores offer geek squads for grandma, including 24-hour help desk support. For more information, contact AARP’s “Tech Support for AARP Members.”

Upside of Downsizing exists to promote the positive aspects of aging and provide valuable resources and connections. Contact: https://upsideofdownsizing.com/

Mary Spann

Mary Spann

Mary Spann is the founder and president of Upside of Downsizing®. In addition to her 26 years in construction, interior design, and home staging, Mary also holds college degrees in Social Work and Psychology, making her uniquely qualified to assist with the downsizing process, and helping 50 plus year olds achieve a happy and healthy life balance. Mary learned the key components of construction and interior design at an early age. Her father was a prominent custom home builder in Minnesota and Texas, and her mother was a successful interior designer and a real estate broker.
Mary Spann

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