The internet can help senior citizens access important services, get information, and avoid loneliness. However, for a lot of them, it can be very intimidating. Research shows that 61% of people above the age of 75 in the UK have never used the internet. Most of them claim that they are simply not interested in new technology, while others are outright intimidated by it. Other barriers include lack of knowledge, costs, and confidence. Some of the benefits that the older generation can enjoy from accessing the internet include:
This is especially the case if they have mobility issues and cannot travel much. The internet can help them catch up with friends and family from across the globe
The internet is a great way to share pictures and videos of important people and events. This is great for elderly individuals who cannot be present at such events.
The internet makes it easier for older citizens to receive important products and services, especially if they live alone. They can simply order food and groceries, which will be delivered to their doorstep.
There are many apps that can help the elderly improve the quality of their life. These include fitness apps, apps that help them jog their memory, or apps that help them keep track of their medication.
For the younger generation who grew up with technology, learning to use Facebook or Twitter is pretty simple. However, learning how to use websites and apps can be a lot harder for the older generation. Some senior citizens are disinterested to learn, probably because of apathy or fear. The following are some of the problems they face when trying to access the internet as well as any solutions available that can help them overcome these problems.
Health and physical issues can make it harder for the older generation to access or even enjoy the internet. For example, an senior citizen with failing eye sight may not be able to read everything on a normal screen.
The best solution to this problem is to change the basic settings of content on the settings menu. For example, the size of texts can be made bigger, and sounds can be made louder for those who can't hear very well.
Research has shown that touch screens are a lot better for the elderly than traditional computers. This is because the touch screen is a lot more intuitive than a mouse. Furthermore, devices with touch screens are more portable, making them both comfortable and convenient. This is why it is better for them to use tablets than computers.
However, even touch screens can be problematic for some elderly citizens. This is mainly because of how these tablets are developed. For example, the response time on a touch screen is about 0.7 seconds. However, the response time for someone who is 65 years and above is about 1 second. Other factors that cause problems on touch screens include having multiple fingers on the screen or shaky hands.
Breezie has developed a solution for these problems by making it easier for older people to use touch screens. This tablet interface improves end-user adaptation of technology by removing clutter and personalising itself to meet the physical requirements of the user. The interface has an accessible touch screen for older users that accounts for any limitations in dexterity and visibility.
There are quite a number of internet technologies that older people find hard. Something as simple as upload, cookies, or URL could be intimidating for senior citizens. Fortunately, there are apps and interfaces that help get rid of tech-speak and make it easier for users to understand exactly what they are doing online.
Most people from the older generation assume that everything on the internet costs money. This has made them less responsive to it, as they believe that using the internet is expensive. It is important to explain to them that a lot of the content on the web is free. They can be able to read their favorite articles, interact with friends, and even play a few quiz games without paying anything. However, it is also important to tell them that some services cost money, and they should always read the fine print.
Most people above the age of 65 are very afraid of revealing their personal information online, especially their financial details. It can be quite difficult to convince them that most internet businesses ensure the safety of their customer's information. If you are working with an older person who needs to input personal information online, help them install security software to give them peace of mind. Talk to them about all the necessary precautions they must take to ensure they do not disclose information to the wrong people.
Online security is another major problem, and most of the older generation are wary of accessing the internet because of all the scary stories on surveillance and phishing schemes out there. It is up to those who are helping the older generation to help them understand to protect themselves. There are quite a number of anti-virus programs that can help protect against malicious software. The best part is that they don't have to be expensive, as applications such as Microsoft Security Essentials and Avast have free options that are quite good. It is also important for them to set their applications and programs to update automatically in order to seal any security loopholes.
Most viruses are sent through emails that claim to be from banks or government institutions. Such emails should always be ignored and deleted. Even an email address that seems to be from a family member should be treated with suspicion if it is unsolicited and contains attachments, as hackers can fake or hijack and email address.
It is also important to advise them on basic password security. They should never give out their passwords or personal identification numbers to anyone. They should also use passwords that are difficult to guess, and the passwords should be different across the various sites. Fortunately, there are password management applications, such as LastPass, that are very useful for older citizens, as they only have to remember one master password.
Browsers have done a lot to guard users against phishing schemes. Most of them have built-in filters that flag sites known for their fraudulent behaviour. Major email applications also have built-in anti-virus software that filter spam emails and prevent the spread of viruses through email attachments.
Many older technology and internet users think that their devices have to be plugged in and charging at all times. Some of them are so afraid that their battery life may become too low that they switch off their devices between uses. While this seems like a logical idea, it makes it harder for people to contact them in real time. It is important to anticipate such worries when teaching an older person how to use these devices.
Technology is changing at an exponential rate. While this may be encouraging for younger users, it can lead to apathy among the older generation. Most of them do not see the need of learning new technology if it is going to change in six months. It is important to help them understand that the basics don't change much. They can still be able to enjoy important services such as sending emails or chatting with friends and family, even when other things change.
Having a younger teacher can be very intimidating for older individuals. Unfortunately, this makes it harder for older people to ask for help when experiencing any problems with the internet or technology. They may be afraid of getting a patronising response, appearing silly, or being a nuisance. This is why it is always good for caretakers to anticipate these problems before introducing technology to them. Put yourself in the older person's shoes, and explain any problems and questions they may have. Chances are, if you do not explain it to them, they will never ask, even if they find something confusing.
To enjoy all the great services on the internet, older citizens have to first get online. To do this, they will need to buy and install broadband. This is a challenging hurdle for most, and it can discourage them from adapting the technology. Fortunately, most broadband providers have the older generation in mind, and they provide before, during, and after-sales services to ensure these customers are comfortable with their connection.
Most of these broadband companies have information for children and young people who are trying to help their older parents or grandparents access the internet. This information can help the younger people know which devices are best, and which type of connection to get. Broadband companies offer installation services, as well as excellent and reliable customer service to help older people understand and adapt to the new technology.
Research has shown that factors such as social learning environments, empowerment, and communication can help the older people adapt the internet. Research by organisations such as Help the Aged and Age Concern that certain critical circumstances and junctures can encourage old people to use the internet. They include entering retirement, taking up a hobby or special interest, losing a partner, having family members move abroad, or becoming housebound.
Ease of use is another factor that can drive the use of the internet. Older people are more likely to use a service if it is easy to learn and if it helps them live independently. Furthermore, older people feel more empowered by the internet if it helps address their feelings of isolation.
Helping older people understand how internet access can improve their quality of life is another driving factor. For example, it can be cheaper to pay their bills online. Furthermore, a lot of online retailers offer delivery services. Many companies also only give their email address and website as contact methods. Since the older generation are some of the poorest people in the society, and older women are the most economically disadvantaged, learning how to use the internet can be very beneficial.
There are plenty of accessibility aids that make it easier for older people to use their devices. Applications such as VoiceOver can help you hear the description of an item you are trying to open. Siri allows users to perform functions hands-free by responding to voice commands. The zoom feature on most devices can help older people magnify the text on a screen for easier reading. Face provides voice calling, which is very useful for people doing sign language.
It can be quite overwhelming to look for specific apps for older people, as there are thousands of apps out there. An older person can get help from a younger friend or relative to help them install apps that will make it easier for them to get online and use their devices.
The government can significantly influence the adaptation of internet usage among the older population, mainly through the implementation of practices and procedures that provide support to older people. They should also employ social workers and champions in this field. Both the UK government and the private sector are playing their part in motivating older people to use the internet. An example of this is the Race Online Partnership in the UK, which is a collaboration between the state, private, and voluntary communities. Both the government and private organisations have highlighted the importance of inter-genrational working and learning to ensure the digital age gap is bridged. They have encouraged young people to help older relatives and friends to get online. Studies by the government and the EU Capsil Project recognise the importance of helping older people become independent for as long as possible, and the internet can help a lot with this.
The internet plays such an integral role in the daily lives of most people, including the older generation. This is why they cannot be left behind, and both the government, private businesses, and the communities should play a part in helping them adapt this technology. By understanding the problems they face and coming up with the necessary solutions, stakeholders can help senior citizens enjoy the benefits of online services.