• Written by Bernardo Figueiredo, Senior Lecturer in Marketing, RMIT University
Many older people are wary of asking for help with technology. Shutterstock

Seniors may not enjoy the stereotype of struggling with technology, but undeniably many older people do have difficulty mastering their devices.

A 2016-17 Deloitte survey of Australian consumers found 78% of seniors aged 65-75 owned a smartphone, as well as 82% of those aged 55-64.

My colleagues and I recently conducted a survey of 750 older Australians (mostly over 70). We found high levels of digital device ownership, but only “moderate” levels of confidence in using them.

Many seniors who struggled with digital devices felt they lacked support. In particular, they said their own families often displayed a “can’t be bothered explaining” attitude.

Unsurprisingly, this attitude is very unhelpful. There is plenty all of us can do to help the seniors in our lives get connected.

Unhelpful children

Our survey found seniors were most comfortable using computers and had the most difficulty with tablets. More concerningly, we discovered that seniors who go looking for advice often face serious obstacles.

Among those who asked for tech advice, 44% were most likely to approach their adult children first. A further 23% listed their children as their second choice. But they weren’t always helped with a smile.

Many respondents said their adult children didn’t have the patience or willingness to help. Follow-up interviews with older Australians revealed that explaining new apps and constantly evolving technologies to someone who isn’t a digital native can carry a lot of emotional tension.

Some survey participants didn’t want their older parents to have more technology, because they thought this would result in more work for them.

As one participant, Mary, related:

My daughter wouldn’t allow me to have a computer. She said I didn’t need it!

On the other hand, some older people simply didn’t want to ask for help because they didn’t wanted to demonstrate their independence and not seem technologically inept.

In some cases, people avoided asking for help so as to avoid conflict or maintain family relationships.

Grandkids are friendlier

We discovered grandchildren were generally more eager to give advice, but only 7% of older people went to them first. Seniors saw grandchildren as more willing to help, and sometimes willing to trade technology advice for other kinds of help such as swimming lessons.

When asked about this, 72-year-old Jenny said:

My grandchild is far more tolerant than my grown-up adult children are.

But while their hearts are in the right place, grandkids tend to fix a specific problem with a device without actually teaching their grandparent how to do it themselves.

Other options

After their own children, the next most common place for seniors to turn was professionals. Fifteen per cent of older people said they would go to professionals first, and 21% said the pros would be their second option.

However, professionals in retail outlets were not well trusted, and were seen to have a sales agenda that pushed unwanted products.

Around 13% of seniors surveyed reported asking their spouse or partner first for advice, while 8% asked friends their own age. However, in both cases the advice was not always helpful and sometimes plain wrong.

What can you do?

There are a few simple ways you can help your older friends and relatives reach across the digital divide.

First, try to make an effort to invest some time in helping a senior use their device. While it’s constructive to teach them a specific task, it’s also about boosting their overall confidence and helping them live more independently.

Also, send them links to instructional videos on YouTube. Our study found that once older people are past a certain knowledge threshold, they can independently search for information on how to use technology.


Read more: What younger people can learn from older people about using technology


YouTube turned out to be one of seniors’ biggest allies for learning new digital skills. It allows them to search for content and watch at their own pace, as many times as needed.

As 77-year-old Peter explained:

YouTube is good because you can run a YouTube, and as you’re running it, you can stop it, do what you’ve got to do, and then come back and run it a bit more, and do the next part of it.

We found seniors also profited from collective computer classes, such as those held at the University of the Third Age, seniors’ computers clubs, and local libraries. These classes gave them a chance to learn the skills themselves in an open, social environment.

It removed the pressure from learning, while retaining their cherished autonomy.

While some seniors are very savvy with a tablet – after all, it was Boomers who led the computer revolution we now enjoy – the rapid pace of technological change combined with an ageing society presents a serious issue.

To face this issue, as a first step we should ask ourselves – as children, grandchildren, spouses and friends – what’s our role in helping those older than us keep up with technology?

Bernardo Figueiredo receives funding from Life Activities Victoria and the University of the Third Age.

Torgeir Aleti receives funding from Life Activities Victoria and the University of the Third Age.

Authors: Bernardo Figueiredo, Senior Lecturer in Marketing, RMIT University

Read more http://theconversation.com/seniors-struggle-with-technology-and-often-their-kids-wont-help-130464

EVERYTHING YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT COSMETIC SURGERIES

Science has made breakthroughs in numerous fields and achieved milestones that no one thought was possible before. These achievements are not limited to saving lives using advanced medical procedure...

News Company - avatar News Company

Is Brisbane Property Market A Good Place to Invest?

Investing in real estate can be a very profitable venture, but one must approach such a decision with care. As any businessperson knows, one very important factor when it comes to selecting property...

Himanshu Agarwal - avatar Himanshu Agarwal

Last summer's fish carnage sparked public outrage. Here's what has happened since

Graeme McCrabb/AAPAs this summer draws to a close, it marks just over a year since successive fish death events at Menindee in Lower Darling River made global headlines. Two independent investigatio...

Lee Baumgartner, Professor of Fisheries and River Management, Institute for Land, Water, and Society, Charles Sturt University - avatar Lee Baumgartner, Professor of Fisheries and River Management, Institute for Land, Water, and Society, Charles Sturt University

It's now a matter of when, not if, for Australia. This is how we're preparing for a jump in coronavirus cases

ShutterstockWhile countries around the globe have been taking precautions to prevent the spread of COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, it has now been reported in 37 countries outs...

Katherine Gibney, NHMRC early career fellow, The Peter Doherty Institute for Infection and Immunity - avatar Katherine Gibney, NHMRC early career fellow, The Peter Doherty Institute for Infection and Immunity

Many Scots want independence from the United Kingdom. How might that play out in a post-Brexit world?

AAP/EPA/Robert PerryOf the many issues thrown up by Brexit, one of the most pressing is the territorial integrity of the United Kingdom. Brexit was in large measure a revolt by a certain section of ...

Simon Tormey, Professor of Politics, University of Bristol - avatar Simon Tormey, Professor of Politics, University of Bristol

Vital Signs: a 3-point plan to reach net-zero emissions by 2050

ShutterstockEvery January Larry Fink, the head of the world’s largest funds manager, BlackRock, sends a letter to the chief executives of major public companies. This year’s letter focu...

Richard Holden, Professor of Economics, UNSW - avatar Richard Holden, Professor of Economics, UNSW

Requiring firms to only sell financial products we can use is good, but not enough

ShutterstockThe government’s financial system inquiry, on which I sat, reported five years ago. It recommended that the creators of financial products be subject to a design and distribution o...

Kevin Davis, Professor of Finance, University of Melbourne - avatar Kevin Davis, Professor of Finance, University of Melbourne

Friday essay: a real life experiment illuminates the future of books and reading

Books are always transforming. The book we hold today has arrived through a number of materials (clay, papyrus, parchment, paper, pixels) and forms (tablet, scroll, codex, kindle). The book can be a...

Andy Simionato, Lecturer, RMIT University - avatar Andy Simionato, Lecturer, RMIT University

Angus Taylor sets down 'markers' to measure success of government's technology roadmap

The government would be looking for the private sector to put in four or five times as much as it invests in research and development of particular technologies to reduce emissions, Energy Minister An...

Michelle Grattan, Professorial Fellow, University of Canberra - avatar Michelle Grattan, Professorial Fellow, University of Canberra

Sick and Tired of Your Dead End Job? Try Teaching!

Tired of the same old grind at the office? Want an opportunity to impact lives both in your community and around the world? Do you love to travel and have new experiences? Teaching English is the perfect job for you! All you need is a willingness to ...

News Company - avatar News Company

The Impact of an Aging Population in Australia

There’s an issue on the horizon that Australia needs to prepare for. The portion of elderly citizens that make up the country’s overall population is increasing, and we might not have the infrastructure in place to support this. Australians h...

News Company - avatar News Company