The latest devices and apps feel unfamiliar and even intimidating for many older people. If you’ve ever felt you were navigating unchartered waters when confronted with technology, you’re not alone. The good news for anyone who would like to take advantage of technological advances, but isn’t sure where to start, is that it’s far from impossible. Getting a better understanding of the tech landscape and your own needs while keeping an open mind is all it takes to start bringing more tech into your life with less frustration. Here are some tech-savvy tips from our experts that may help.
Adopt the Right Attitude
The way you approach a problem can determine whether you master it or give up. “Attitude is everything,” says Pamela Toto, Ph.D., director and professor of occupational therapy at the University of Pittsburgh. “We can make instructions simple and offer training, but ultimately, people have to demonstrate the willingness to learn.”
“Many seniors have a stigma toward devices because they secretly fear a steep learning curve,” says Stephan Baldwin, founder of a nationwide senior care agency, Assisted Living. Baldwin thinks a willingness to explore and a step-by-step approach will help people master their fears, ultimately allowing them to make the tech work for their lives.
Find Tech That Helps You
Endless devices are available to enhance your digital life—everything from a cell phone to a Kindle to home assistants like Alexa. Although there are many choices, not everything out ,there will add value to your lifestyle. According to Toto, it is important to identify and focus on tech that is beneficial to you.
It also helps to choose tech that works together. For example, if you are already an iPhone user, the tech-savvy approach might be to keep your tech in the Apple family and purchase a MacBook instead of a Dell.
Start Small and Build on What You Learn
There is no need to be plugged into all available technologies. Too many options can overwhelm anyone. Instead of trying to master every device and application, pick one or two that will maximize your benefit. “Start small [and] choose one function you want to learn, such as speaking to family on video chat or ordering a prescription refill using an app,” notes Keith Grady, executive director at Applewood, a continuing care retirement community in Freehold, NJ.
For instance, if you like the idea of tracking medication with an app, “Instead of logging medication intake on a printed calendar, use a digital tracker on your phone,” says Baldwin. Once you’ve figured out how to log and track your medications, setting reminders for exercise, drinking water, and other habits you want to maintain will be easier. From there, you may want to try a smartwatch that can help you do everything with less effort.
Use Accessories That Work for You
Once you’re comfortable with your smartphone or tablet, perhaps you’ll want to get earbuds so you can listen to music or videos without bothering your significant other. Toto believes it’s essential for tech-savvy seniors to choose the right accessories to maximize their experience. Look for accessories that work for you. They may not be the trendiest option, but your experience and comfort are more important. For example, Air Pods are popular, but Toto says, “It may be difficult for someone with a hearing aid to make them work.” In this case, headphones offer a better option because they cover the whole ear.
Also, Toto points out, “For younger people, the keypad on a tablet works well, but that’s really not how older people have learned to type.” For some, hitting tiny buttons while texting may seem too cumbersome, but buying an accompanying keyboard will make it easier to type.
Ask for Help
Whatever tech you try, don’t be afraid to ask others for help in deciding what to buy and how to use it. Remember, younger family members and friends have been using this stuff their whole lives and are happy to help you get up and running. “Write down the steps so you can practice later,” notes Grady. When it comes to new technology, there’s no end to learning, so take it in bite-sized pieces and do what works for you.
This article is intended for general informational and educational purposes only, and should not be construed as financial or tax advice. For more information about whether a reverse mortgage may be right for you, you should consult an independent financial advisor. For tax advice, please consult a tax professional.