The media is often fond of touting the trite image of baffled grandparents being guided around the mysteries of the Internet by their cute, knee-high grandchildren, who cruise the online world with the assurance of digital natives.
Indubitably there is a degree of truth to the stereotype, as there are to most such generalisations. There are even many people in their 50’s and 60’s (still in the world of work and emails) who use technology in the most rudimentary fashion.
The reality though, is that practically any new skill, activity or new technology can be understood and mastered by anyone. All it requires is patience and practice. Sometimes when people see a child prodigy playing a piano concerto or performing a song in front of a huge audience, they forget the hours and hours of practice and hardship required to achieve mastery of anything and instead view it as some kind of preternatural ability.
They’re wrong to do so and the field of technology is no exception.
It Takes Attitude
That’s not to say that young brains aren’t better at processing and learning new information than that of the elderly. But the biggest barrier for the silver-haired is that they often aren’t prepared to grimly stick at the task until they’ve made some headway. Unlike children, they have bills to pay, problems to resolve and a variety of established habits and interests that they love to spend their time on.
Furthermore, children tend to be fearless because they don’t understand risk in the same way. Before the advent of touch screens and the kind of more intuitively designed technology that we see today, many adults who weren’t regular users of computers were frightened of irreparably damaging an expensive PC by deleting a critical file (even if that was never very likely). Turning a desktop on was puzzling, the navigational controls were alien and typing was frequently a single key at a time affair.
Youngsters, by contrast, jump straight in at the deep end and splash around unabashed until they have a good grasp of how a device works.
By going back to the curiosity of youth, the elderly are just as capable of getting to grips with gadgetry.
Design – Achieving Simplicity is Hard (But Now We’ve Got There)!
Senior citizens are quite aware that the world has changed quite radically during the past couple of decades and know that technology and the online environment can offer them a host of benefits.
The difference between now and even five or six years ago is that companies have created devices that are simpler to use, with cleaner interfaces. Such progress is reflected in the creation of tablet computers and smart phones, as well as the simplicity of digitally recording a TV program or the ease and comfort of using a stairlift.
Concurrent to “normal” platforms becoming more user-friendly, businesses have also cottoned on to the fact that there’s a market for products specifically designed for the elderly. These range from gadgets that have been slightly modified with older people in mind, to those that are solely designed to address the issues faced by those in the autumn of their days.
Cost – Not Like It Used To Be
Price used to be a barrier for anyone who wanted to purchase a new gizmo and remains a hurdle for high-performance brand items. However, it used to be especially difficult for retirees and pensioners.
But in general terms, the cost of electronics has come down dramatically since they first began to penetrate mass markets, and continues to be driven lower by competition and innovation. As a result, the elderly are much more able to engage with new innovations.
In short, older people can and are getting to grips with new technologies, whether they’re for surfing the net or helping them out round the home. Anyone who tells you otherwise is living in the past.