Options to ease seniors into digital literacy

In recent issues, we explored the probable consequences stemming from the currently low digital literacy rate among seniors. Although each senior’s personal situation and life challenges are different, such as the benign sounding, yet common mental health symptom of “loneliness” that afflicts many aging-in-place seniors, as well as physical health issues, becoming digitally literate empowers seniors to overcome many of their challenges and enjoy digital world benefits.

I continue to exclude younger generations out of this discussion, as they are mostly well in-tune with the utility of the digital world. But communication requires at least two parties, so the younger generation – such as the seniors' offspring and their grandchildren – play an integral role in promoting digital literacy for seniors.

I’ve learned that something as simple as finding out a person's real world interests and coaching them on how those interests can be cultivated in a more expansive and efficient manner can be a powerful motivational tool. Online research on topics of interest, like genealogy, can be a great way to introduce seniors to the digital world.

Another motivator is the use of communication technology to keep in touch with loved ones. While seniors may want frequent phone calls and visits from their offspring, the younger set may prefer to communicate using social networking sites such as Facebook.

Many seniors are elated to find out that they can simply become "friends" with their children and grandchildren on Facebook, enabling them to see their pictures and updates. Their intimidation barrier is further reduced when they find out that they themselves do not have to share a single picture or update. Using social media in this way can help maintain intergenerational family connectedness.

This is similar to my personal example from a previous article, where even though I’d prefer flying back to Japan more frequently, responsibilities and finances prohibit such indulgence. Rather than succumbing to being homesick, or worrying about my aging-in-place parents (or them worrying about me, as all parents worry about their children), we both embraced the digital world tool of video chat to keep in touch and overcome our obstacle of distance.

There is no stopping or slowing down of how everything we used to do in the real world is increasingly moving to the digital world. Products and services are delivered, and some even exclusively, in the digital world. Being able to use digital tools to access products and services has become critical.

Digital literacy has become the life skill that everyone, especially seniors, needs to embrace quickly!

Tak Sato

Technology and Business Strategist with over 25 years of experience. Holds Bachelor of Science in Computer Information Science and MBA from Cleveland State University.

As co-founder of geek with a heart with the service mark"Hand-holding You in the Digital World" and co-founder of Center for Aging in the Digital World, a nonprofit empowering seniors through technology, Tak helps people utilize appropriate technology in their personal and professional lives.

Read More on The Digital World
Volume 8, Issue 10, Posted 9:41 AM, 05.17.2016