Living in the digital world can seem scary to a senior who is not familiar with— or who is not comfortable using— newer technology. There are many stories out there about scams, computer viruses and strange or dangerous people one might meet online.
Those are the exception, rather than the norm.
That’s not to say those dangers aren’t out there and that you shouldn’t be wary of them, but with a few simple safety precautions, and a good dose of common sense,digital communication can be a rewarding experience.
Should seniors be afraid of going online?
No, of course not. But there are several reasons that many older people feel nervous about it.
Some seniors convince themselves that the old adage, “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks,” is a reality. It’s not. New technologies— especially those made for digital communication— are specifically designed to be user-friendly and easy to pick up, and they become easier with each passing year.
Think back to the late 1970s. People used early home computers to communicate then, too, but back then, one had to buy and install a modem device, hook up the telephone to the computer and input specific typed commands to dial anyone else’s computer up. It all seemed very technical.
But in the 1980s, as digital communications really started to take off, designers realized that those methods of establishing contact weren’t very inviting for people who weren’t overly tech-savvy. So the Graphic User Interface, or GUI display, was invented.
Today, you can still see GUI displays on any computer — including what you are reading right now. Instead of typing in formatted commands and having to virtually know a separate language, you can point your mouse where you want to go and open a program right up. Easy, right?
There are folks out there who will help you learn. And you should!
If you’re tentative about dipping your toe into social media platforms or smartphones and apps, there are plenty of educational programs that can help you overcome your discomfort and find the confidence to start surfing the web.
Many colleges and community organizations offer inexpensive, or even free, lifelong learning programs for seniors. You might contact the AARP, or local senior advocacy organizations, to see what programs may be available in your area. Even retirement communities are getting in on the digital frontier.
Some, like Episcopal Retirement Homes’ Deupree House in Cincinnati’s Hyde Park neighborhood, offer one-on-one instruction and resident-led classes in smartphone operation and computer assistance.
During computer assistance hours on Friday evenings, Deupree residents can sign up to receive help learning basic computer skills. They learn how to use common office programs like Word, Excel, and PowerPoint, can practice and become more familiar with browsers (programs used for surfing the web) and can even learn how to set up and safely use social media accounts.
Just like learning to surf the waves or ride a bike in real life, the only real way to learn is to get out and do it. You’ll become more comfortable using digital communication platforms as you use them repetitively.
A little common sense can go a long way. Exercise it and enjoy your time online.
Much like your experiences visiting a new city or foreign country, the digital world isn’t so scary once you familiarize yourself with its layout and its avenues.
And don’t be discouraged if you aren’t able to “get it” after your first time online.
If you stay aware and are prudently cautious about how you spend your time and who you interact with on the internet, you’ll find the ease of communication very rewarding!