Technology And Our Elders

Bridging The Tech Age Gap 

One of the biggest issues for many of us who want to move abroad is leaving our elder relatives or friends behind. The worst part, of course, is that most of our elders do not have the technological savvy to connect with us remotely like we do with our other kin and kind.

An article by CNN wire discussed the issue of technological accessibility for seniors. The article highlighted how the technological illiteracy of older consumers hampers their access to services and accounts. 

The problem, it seems, lies in financial services providers’ rather presumptuous stance that the current dynamism of the technological world does not quite gear users towards understanding and utilising these technological advances as they age.

What makes this presumption rather arrogant is its inference that mental and physiological decline which is a natural consequence of ageing will somehow bend to the will of technology. We are assuming that because people are exposed to more technology now than they ever have before, they will have no problem using such tech innovations in future.

Of course, society does adapt to changing times, and these days we have loads of elder users taking on the internet and social media spaces.

But we’ll have to consider that, unless we can attain immortality, we’ll always have to cater and provision for elder citizens. This has been true of every era, but with life expectancy soaring across the world, it will undoubtedly become an even greater problem for us in future.

The challenges of ageing

Notwithstanding the fact that older people have less exposure to, and consequently less opportunity to learn the ropes, the effects of ageing on the brain simply makes it harder to learn and remember in the first place. As humans age, our brains shrink at a rate of about 5% per decade after the age of 40 – a phenomena which is widely attributed to neuronal cell death. There are changes in levels of neurotransmitters and hormones – things that affect our mobility, cognition, memory, vision and hearing.

These rates and severity of these changes, of course, are determined by varied factors like genetics, lifestyle, overall health, and so forth, but it is nevertheless an inevitability for everyone. Though our health care and treatment of cognitive decline is improving every day, we will all get old, and as we age tasks will become harder.

Consider then the fact that technological innovation has accelerated over the past few decades and this rate of development is making it increasingly harder for ageing populations to catch up.

Anticipating population ageing

Then, of course, the phenomenon of greatest statistical significance is that of population ageing. Though this phenomenon is most common in more economically developed countries,it is also occurring in less economically developed countries. Across the world life expectancy is increasing, while fertility rates are declining. In fact, this phenomena is so significant, the UN has predicted that this rate of population will definitely exceed that of the previous century and that we’ll never again see the young populations our ancestors saw.

So how are financial institutions and tech companies anticipating this population ageing? How are we preparing for a much older demographic?

And how are we as younger generations catering for the “backlog” of our elders – especially with it becoming easier for us to move around the globe?

A helping hand to the elderly

Of course it isn’t easy to assist our elders when we’re not close to them, but there are several ways in which we could make it easier for them to access and use new technologies – not just for their accounts and services, but in connecting with us!

Make your own little tutorials

Though there are a myriad of tutorials available for using simple technologies, systems or gadgets, these tutorials are usually aimed at a user who understands the basic jargon and concepts. If you know gran, grandpa or mom won’t understand the jargon, go through the process of setting up something like Skype on your own, write down how you think your elder relative will understand it and make these instructions clear as you would to a child. This doesn’t mean that you are condescending – simply that you understand how daunting it can be to grasp new concepts.

Do your research

It’s important when choosing new gadgets, gear or software to do your research and understand how your new purchase will be experienced by older users and, indeed, how your new gadget will connect with gran’s device across the ocean. Also research technologies which are aimed at easing accessibility for users with cognitive issues, visual or auditory impairment and lack of fine motor skills. There are many options to choose from!

Slow down a bit!

No matter how much you want your elders to understand the new wave of technology – know that they will struggle more than you. Be patient and slow down. Be thankful for their trying and don’t think of the extra buck you are paying to get gran connected.

Innovate!

Despite advancements, new tech will unfortunately not magically sway to the will and aptitudes of the older generations. But that’s not to say you can’t push for accessible technologies. Whether you envision and conceptualise ideas for easing communication across oceans and mountains for pensioners afar, or pitch these ideas to tech companies – the power is in your hands!

Though technology is customarily aimed at our young populations – we need to consider that the market will change in future, and design our products, communication and strategies around a different type of user – a global user who is older, wiser and needs to be included in our innovations.

Rand Rescue admires all our older clients and users taking on the future with the tech teens of today. Rest assured that we’ll always strive to make our services as simple and accessible as possible so you can spend time on the more precious things in your life.