Take these five steps to help older adults become digitally savvy

More older Australians are digitally engaged compared to pre-COVID levels, but research shows they are also feeling overwhelmed by the advancement of technological change, and cannot keep up with the speed of progression.

Dr. Jeanie Beh and Prof Sonja Pedell have found that tapping into individuals’ interests and hobbies can significantly help older adults with their uptake of mobile technologies.

“Necessity is insufficient to motivate older Australians to learn to use technology,” says Dr. Beh.

“Tapping into individuals’ interests and hobbies is key to ignite purposeful use of technologies and help them increase their confidence and long-term uptake of mobile technologies.

“Older adults’ interests, whether it be traveling, gardening, reading, drawing or music, are positive motivations for them to learn and to see the benefits of technologies, rather than well-meaning family members giving rushed demonstrations on screens.

“I’ve received feedback from older participants of my technology workshops, who are interested in traveling. They looked up websites that compare airfare prices and approached their travel agents to negotiate for a better price. Doing research online is confidence boosting.”

The research, published in Research Anthology on Supporting Healthy Aging in a Digital Society, highlights that older adults’ learning requirements differ from younger users, and a curriculum is currently lacking on how best to go about the process.

The research suggests teaching older adults in a social and positive environment, with five steps to help them become more digitally savvy:

  1. Being imperative to build on older adults’ interests and life experiences
  2. Mastering basic tablet interactions
  3. Applying the learning in a real-world context
  4. Repeating tasks in practice
  5. Providing a peer-supported environment.

Dr. Beh says it is essential to communicate with older adults about what they want and need from technology.

“Like with any kind of learning, it is important for older adults to have meaningful and positive experiences in the process. Talk to an older person and find out about their interests first, then think about how these interests can be connected to technology. Just don’t start with setting up an online profile and a login.”

More information: Jeanie Beh et al, Encouraging Social Inclusion for Older Adults Through “Interest”-Led Technology Use, Research Anthology on Supporting Healthy Aging in a Digital Society (2022). DOI: 10.4018/978-1-6684-5295-0.ch035