We launched our first column three years ago with a commentary on a 2017 Wall Street Journal article by Geoffrey Fowler titled, Want to Get Tech Savvy? Don’t Ask Your Children. This article has been coming back to mind for us lately as we hear from clients and their loved ones. Today we invite you to revisit this popular topic with us.
When the shutdowns started back in March we anticipated a drop in calls for our services, consistent with the closings and slowdowns so many small businesses have experienced. Instead, even with the restrictive safety protocols Jay and I put in place, we continue to provide services at almost pre-pandemic levels.
It didn’t take us long to figure out why: The pandemic and so much sheltering in place has pushed many otherwise tech-reluctant seniors to become more familiar and adept with computers and smartphones. Email correspondence, FaceTime calls, movie streaming and “zooming” have become mainstays of our days in 2020. And for many of the most isolated seniors, tech has become a lifeline to their loved ones and to the outside world. No one wants to feel left behind, especially now.
Many seniors are relying on family members, often adult children or grandchildren, to help them get up to speed with their electronics so that they can stay in touch and be informed. Sometimes this works well – other times, not so much.
We heard about a lovely 75-year-old woman whose daughter had become impatient with her after several exasperating rounds of a “how to” on her iPhone.
Daughter: “Mom, I’ve showed you this several times already, it’s not that hard.”
Mom (almost at wits’ end): “Remember sweetheart, I taught you how to use a spoon.”
Deep frustration often results for both parties when those who grew up with smartphones and tablets try to teach those who grew up with dial telephones and cursive handwriting. And it’s nobody’s fault, really.
We frequently hear from seniors whose adult children have been trying to help them with their electronic devices, and who feel frustrated and incapable. “I feel so stupid” are the first words we often hear when a senior arrives for help at the local senior center or at one of our classes.
At the same time, we hear from their sons and daughters who are also at wits’ end, because their elders “just don’t get it” and they don’t know what to do next.
So challenging and common are these parent-child technology struggles that the Wall Street Journal published an article in 2017 titled, Want to get Tech Savvy? Don’t Ask your Children. The article advises seniors to seek tech help from neutral third parties and to learn tech in the company of peers whenever possible. We could not agree more.
If you are a self-described Luddite struggling with that iPhone, table or computer, remember:
First and foremost ~ You are not stupid! When you find a good (read: patient and understanding) teacher and the right learning environment, technology can be a thoroughly enjoyable adventure and challenge. And you don’t have to feel like a dinosaur.
Don’t struggle with old, out-of-date computers and mobile devices that may have been passed down from well meaning family members. If possible, invest in an up-to-date device. Having witnessed seniors struggling with old, clunky or virus-prone computers, we echo this plea from the Fowler’s article: “If you no longer want that jittery old iPad, why would you expect your mom to have a quality experience with it?” Adult children everywhere, are you listening?
Do speak up when you don’t understand something or need to have it repeated, and expect to feel respected when you do.
Don’t have someone show you how to do something by demonstrating the keystrokes or gestures for you. Instead, you do the typing, tapping, or clicking as your teacher guides you step by step. Learning by doing is almost always more effective than learning by watching someone else do it.
Finally, do be with other seniors when learning new technology, because you will almost certainly discover that you are in very good company as a tech newbie and because we’ve never been with a class of seniors where there isn’t a great deal of merriment and laughter! Humor goes a long way.
Unfortunately, we are not teaching in-person classes due to the pandemic, but we hope to resume when the coast is clear. In the meantime, we’re doing our best with remote tech help and tutoring. You can visit our website for more information, as well as for information about senior-only shopping hours at our local stores and businesses.
Stay safe and be well.