Without a shadow of a doubt, there are a number of older adults who are well versed in the art of using a technological tool; be it a tablet, a mobile, or even a laptop. Yet, there are many other older adults who find themselves left behind in this vast world of technology, feeling down and left out. In fact, as newer and more advanced technology is provided to the world at an extremely fast speed, many which are designed by the younger generation (American Psychological Society, 2021), older adults seem to feel left behind even more.
“Older Adults Don’t Know How to Use Technology”
We all know or have seen an image about this – this stereotypical perspective of an older adult who does not know how to handle technology? How to ‘fix’ the tv after pressing a button that changes the whole setting? But are these really true? Even if they are, what good are they doing? Can the older adult learn to use technology and ‘fix’ simple issues? Simply put; these perspectives help instill a lack of confidence in the older adult, that they are not good enough to learn or handle technological tools.
Additionally, some older adults may think that technology is not important or not necessary for them to function in life. I mean, they’ve navigated years and years of life without technology, why do they need it now? Whilst this perspective is appreciated by many, we also know that technology is important to help us keep connected and safe.
COVID-19’s Silver Lining
Genuinely speaking, what has helped highlight the importance of technology in our lives, is COVID-19. The global pandemic that has hit and affected the world so negatively, showed us the importance of keeping connected through our only safe methods – technological tools. Video calling, texting, use of instant messaging and telecommunication tools were imperative in reducing the burden of social distancing on our older adults and help prevent isolation and loneliness. But again, what would older adults who do not know how to use these tools do? What are the consequences?
First and foremost, the biggest consequence would be isolation. Older adults who may not know how to use their tablets or phones to remain connected to their friends or families may end up feeling isolated and lonely. Naturally, research has shown us that loneliness in old age comes with a host of negative impacts that may possibly lead to major mental health issues such as depression or anxiety, and even trauma.
The above therefore highlights the need for older adults to engage in activities and community programs to help them learn the basics of certain telecommunication and technological tools to help keep connected. Families and friends should help encourage their older adults to engage in these and continue to learn, because the rewards, which are multifold, include feelings of having achieved new skills, being able to communicate easily, as well as a higher sense of independence.
If you think that you can benefit from professional support on this issue you can reach out here.
Yaser Teebi works as a Clinical Psychology Practitioner at Willingness, and works with clients with complex issues, including depression, anxiety, trauma, chronic pain, grief and cognitive impairment. Yaser Teebi has graduated from the following degrees with Merit: Bachelor of Psychology (Hons), a Master of Gerontology and Geriatrics , and a Master of Psychology in Clinical Psychology, all at the University of Malta. He is currently reading for a PhD in Clinical Psychology and Geriatrics at the University of Birmingham.
American Psychological Association. (n.d.). Optimizing Tech for older adults. Monitor on Psychology. Retrieved June 22, 2022, from https://www.apa.org/monitor/2021/07/tech-older-adults