by John Brennan
IT Director – SeniorLivingGuide.com
We’re often asked the demographic of SeniorLivingGuide.com users and the reality is over 65% of our users are females between the ages of 45 and 60. What that tells us is that the majority of our users are the children of older adults using technology to research housing and care options for mom and/or dad. But what about all of the technologies infiltrating our lives – Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, eMail, the internet, etc.?
Pew Research (pewinternet.org) recently did a study of technology use by Americans aged 65 and older and the results are pretty much what you’d expect – 6 out of 10 seniors now go online, and while the growth rate for this segment is faster than any other, seniors are still way behind in technology adoption rates compared to the rest of America. In fact, once we look at the 75-79 demographic, the number of users is less than 50%.
New technologies have great potential to help seniors – there’s medical care information available like never before, you can have face to face interaction most only associated with Sci Fi movies through programs such as Skype, you can virtual travel through the world using Google street view and visit places you’ve only dreamed of, and you can reconnect with family and friends and stay involved in their lives through social media sites such as Facebook.
With so many great reasons to use these new technologies, it begs the question – why aren’t more seniors doing it? Pew found 2 distinct reasons – physical limitations and difficulty learning how to use these new tools. Here are a few suggestions to overcome these obstacles and help you or a senior you know start exploring the digital world we live in.
Say goodbye to that mouse! Using a mouse while suffering arthritis can be reason alone to stay away from a computer but with the advancements of tablets, e-readers and touch screen computers mice can be eliminated. In fact, research shows that 27% of older Americans already own a tablet, an e-book reader, or both. These are folks in the know and they know it’s much easier to point and touch than it is to move and click.
Nearly every browser available today offers the ability to enlarge text and images with the click of a button or swipe of the fingers. This is what makes reading a book or browsing the web so attractive to so many. Unlike a newspaper or paperback book, a digital device can make the text bigger, change the font, or alternate between background colors making reading easier on the eyes and brain.
Yep, you read that right, decreased functionality. Today there are computers built and programmed specifically for seniors (www.telikin.com, for example) that focus on the concept of “less is more”. These devices shelve features like multiple browser tabs, overlapping windows and drop down menus and simplifies navigation making staying in touch and exploring the web that much easier.