Do you think older generations cower in the face of advancing technology? Do you have visions of them sitting hunched over mobile phones typing a text message for the seventh time because the stupid phone keeps doing ‘funny’ things?
According to Sunshine Coast Daily, you couldn’t be more wrong. Sixty-five year old Robin Bryant has been using the internet since the 1980s. You might say he’s an internet hipster. He owns an iPad, iPhone, Mac, PC, and Kindle, and is just one example of older generations that are embracing technology and all the benefits it has to offer. Dale English is another example of a silver-surfing technophile. She uses the internet to manage her financial records and to stay in touch with family and friends, and considers Google to be an invaluable source of information.
A report by insurance provider Apia found that 60% of Australians over the age of 65 regularly log on to the internet, and that many of them participate in the same online activities as the rest of the population. For example, 71% of the elderly use the internet for shopping, 71% make use of online banking services, 40% use Skype, and 35% are on MySpace or Facebook.
To cater to this trend, and to increasing demand, many course providers have started developing computer and IT courses specifically for senior citizens who to keep on top of technological trends and developments.
Digital technologies help to break down boundaries, including those associated with age, and senior citizens are discovering all the ways in which technology can help improve their quality of life.
Some of these benefits include:
Finding old friends
Social networks, such as Facebook and Twitter, provide the means to stay in contact with friends and loved ones, and to renew old acquaintances, whether with an old war buddy, a school friend they haven’t seen in 70 years, or even a childhood crush. A poll of 2060 Australians aged over the age of 50 found that 80% of them believed technology was helping them to stay in touch with people in their lives.
Staying connected to the world
The elderly appreciate having knowledge at their fingertips, whether it be via news apps that keep them up to date on current events, or research material for topics of interest. It allows them to feel connected to the world, where many might have otherwise felt cut off and isolated. For example, Sunshine Coast Daily reports that 79-year-old Ron Hayden from Queensland uses online UK news sources to stay in touch with his land of birth.
Keeping the mind occupied
Whether they’re reading books on a Kindle, watching film and television through Netflix, or playing scrabble on a mobile phone, the elderly have access to media that keeps them mentally active, even if they can’t be as physically active as they once were. Keeping the mind occupied not only contributes to emotional well-being, but research has shown that it helps to prevent dementia as well.
Assisted Living Technologies can make it safer for senior citizens to remain at home, reducing the need to place them in hospital environments that only increase their sense of isolation and helplessness. Devices can monitor their vital signs and alert healthcare facilities if they are at risk. They can also remind those suffering from minor forms of mental debilitation to turn off electrical devices or take medication. Research conducted by Baptist Community Services (BCS) found that senior citizens were able to use such technologies with ease, and reacted positively to them.
Designing technologies for the elderly
Though the elderly are embracing technology in increasing numbers, the user-friendliness of said technologies plays a significant role in their purchasing decisions. According to research conducted by COBALT (Challenging Obstacles and Barriers Assisted Living Technology), elderly citizens will quickly abandon a technology if it is too difficult to use.
Fortunately for them, the general trend in user interface design (UID) is to prioritize simplicity and ease-of-use, and the very technologies they express a preference for are those that have adopted this design philosophy, such as mobile phones.
It’s essential that user interface design continues to cater to the needs of this emerging demographic, so that more senior citizens can discover the benefits of technology.
Read our guide to TAFE courses in Australia.