Learning how to use a computer and the Internet is bringing benefits to the lives of many seniors. These seniors are not the baby boomers whose participation in the workplace coincided with the proliferation of computer technology. These are older seniors who saw computers as complicated machines. They seemed to believe computers were too difficult understand, perhaps irrelevant and not enhancing their lives. While in the workplace they relied on phones, typewriters, fax machines and ‘snail mail’ as it is frequently labelled nowadays. They didn’t recognize the role that computers and the internet would play in shaping their personal lives and also how it would transform how business would be conducted. And since most of them didn’t use the computer in the workplace they didn’t see the need for it at home. Retirement, however, has brought a significant change in the attitude of seniors to the ‘digital world’.
Seniors who may have resisted computers in the past are now finding the digital world can be a stimulating and rewarding experience in retirement. Retirement is a time when many of them lose their social connections and sense of purpose. A significant number of them suffer from health problems related to social isolation. They gradually became more interested in the digital world and how the Internet can easily facilitate communications between family and close friends who had moved away. They were also impressed with the easy access to all kinds of health information, particularly related to the social isolation they were experiencing in their golden years. They observed how younger relatives were entirely comfortable with current technology and various modes ways of communication, e.g. e-mailing, chat and social networking. Technology is rapidly changing all our lives both at a personal and business level.
Seniors realized that the digital world could bring many benefits to their lives. This new technology is something that phone calls and letters could not compete in many ways. The post office can go ‘on strike’ but the Internet doesn’t. But the Internet can go down briefly due to technical problems and not for weeks on end. It is also clear the internet was bringing people closer together in a stronger way than the previous mail and phone options … it bridges the distance between people much better than phones and regular mail. That is not to suggest that regular mail will be disappearing anytime soon. It is also more economical to use the Internet as opposed to travelling long distances to connect with loved ones.
In order to enjoy benefits of the digital world seniors had to learn how to use computers and to manoeuvre around cyberspace to connect loved ones and to use search options to seek out useful information. These seniors needed to be trained in order to reach a level of computer literacy that would allow them to enjoy the benefits this new technology could bring to their lives. Computer training for seniors needs to be designed to fit their needs. It is important to find out how seniors want to use the Internet and provide specialized training for them. Some seniors do become stressed out and befuddled with the new technology particularly when there are technical glitches. Basic training can range from familiarizing seniors with the keyboard and mouse, creating and sending e-mail, searching the Internet, playing games, reading books online, using SKYPE or other chat options, online banking and much more. These activities will keep their brains sharp and help improve their mental alertness.
Training sessions should include how to use laptops, tablets and various software that are more user-friendly … that reduces the learning curve not to mention possible stress. When it comes to computer training the main objective of many seniors is to maintain communications with family and friends. They also want to have quick and easy access to information about current news, weather and health issues. Hence the training should focus on those preferences. Seniors can also take advantage of opportunities for free computer training at community centres and libraries. Volunteers who provide in-house training sessions to those residing in senior residences focus on the preferences of their elderly trainees and achieve a good degree of success. Seniors are also finding that exposure to the digital world through training videos is not as intimidating as they believed it would be. (Refer to the training videos links at the end.)
An important aspect of training seniors that must not be overlooked is to alert them of ‘scams and frauds’ that specifically target seniors. They must be made aware that not all information on the web is accurate or trustworthy. Seniors also need to be acquainted with the need for password protection and be familiarized with other online risks related to financial scams and websites offering romantic hookups to lonely seniors. Refer to: “Scams Against Seniors: Don’t Get Fleeced Out Of Your Golden Years” at: http://www.scambusters.org/seniors.html
Longevity has become a fact of life as we are living longer than ever and that brings with it all kinds of health issues related to ageing. These changes have brought a new set of challenges for seniors who have to adapt in order to enjoy the ‘quality of life’ they desire. This segment of the population has made great contributions to the freedom and liberty we enjoy. The challenge is: how to provide a ‘quality of life’ many seniors should have but don’t? When looking at ‘quality of life’ society seems to focus on more sustainability of pensions and health care costs and the impact on government finances. Governments should place more emphasis on other important aspects of the actual ‘quality of life’ of seniors such as benefits offered by the digital world. Those benefits can have a positive impact on the health of seniors. Embracing the digital world can lessen the depression and other emotional and physical health problems associated with social isolation.
Seniors should not pass up the many health benefits of participating in the new technology. Nonetheless, it should be acknowledged that the digital world should not be seen as a cure-all for social isolation and the debilitating health problems that longevity usually brings. Hopefully more exposure to the digital world can transform ‘social isolation’ into ‘social inclusion’ and that will have a positive impact on the lives of seniors during their golden years.
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