Morey Stettner by
How to improve your technology knowledge at any age
For many people in their 60s and older, technology is a lifeline. It is inevitable. You can’t ignore it.
So how can retirees, especially those who are not tech savvy, learn to improve their tech skills?
When you ask family, friends, and tech geeks to help, there’s no guarantee that these well-intentioned teachers will show and tell you to dive in. Technical instructions are hard to follow, whether in person or in books, manuals, or tutorials.
Step-by-step videos with screenshots can seem like a great way to get up to speed. But seniors may get frustrated if their screen doesn’t match what they see in the video. The best approach depends on one’s learning style. Some seniors prefer to work one-on-one with an individual. They listen and learn by listening – patiently coaching them every step of the way.
“I feel the best way for anyone to increase their technology knowledge is with hands-on experience,” says James Bernstein, author of “Computers For Seniors Made Easy,” part of a series of books that help seniors understand technology. “By ‘cleaning your hands’ of your computer or smartphone, you can learn from your mistakes. And if you have someone to help you, they can fix anything that might go wrong.”
Others opt for self-study modules. They are the only students who like to watch videos or research how-to articles to learn how to master a new device. Many libraries and senior centers offer adult education courses on tech topics. This is a great option for retirees who can benefit from the social interaction that comes with a room setting.
“Being among peers is often a more comfortable environment for older people to learn,” says Mark Lee, author of “The Old Man’s Guide to New Things.”
To quote a cliché, it’s important to meet people where they are. If seniors are inexperienced or impatient, the key is to give them time and space to catch up.
“The main hurdle is trying to overcome the wider world’s assumption that everyone understands and owns the latest technology,” Leigh said. “When it turns out that many older people don’t, there’s often a tendency to support each other.”
Worse, that attitude can turn into something more offensive or even insulting.
“Seniors may feel more reluctant to learn new technologies because of their fear of not learning new technologies,” Leigh said. “And then they get punished for it more. It’s a vicious cycle.”
The ever-increasing nature of technology poses another challenge for the elderly. Just when you think you’ve mastered a tool, it turns into something else.
“One of the hardest things for seniors is when their computer or software automatically updates without them knowing,” says Bernstein. “Things are different and they don’t work the same.”
While it urges consumers to download any security updates immediately, it recommends treating other types of updates with caution.
“For many of us, these changes make things more difficult or add more steps to doing the same job,” he said. “I always say people don’t update their computer hardware or software as often as the tech companies want. Just because there’s a new version doesn’t mean it’s going to work better for you. If you can hold off on updating as long as you want. Then that just gives you more time to do things the way you’re used to.”
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– Maury Stettner
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