Whenever I spend the weekend at my grandparents’ house, I can always count on getting a question or two about technology.
One weekend, I spent hours going through my grandmother’s inbox. I deleted junk mail, blocked spam email addresses, then showed her how to sort, save, and delete emails on her own. Another weekend, I sat with her and sifted through the accounts she was following on Instagram. (As it turned out, she was following mostly strangers!)
From smartphones to spreadsheets, I don’t mind offering assistance where I can. However, I completely understand—probably better than most—how teaching older adults technology can get very frustrating very fast.
The next time you’re headed over the river and through the woods, keep these ten tips in mind while helping grandparents with technology.
Explain How Using Technology Can Help Them
Give your grandparents some insight into the ways technology can enrich their lives. It just might motivate them to jump right in! If your grandparents understand how technology can help them, they may be more willing to push through when the going gets tough.
Talk about these benefits when teaching grandparents technology:
- They can keep in touch with old friends, their kids, and their grandchildren through text, email, and social media. These options can alert them of local news and events, too!
- They can use the camera on their smartphone or tablet to take pictures while they’re making memories. Later, they can send those pictures to loved ones in a text or email.
- They can perform a Google search to catch up on current events, look for recipes or quilt patterns, and find videos that teach them new skills.
- They can use an Internet browser or app to simplify errands like grocery shopping, ordering food, and banking.
Remember Their Physical Limitations
None of us are immune to the effects of aging. As we get older, it’s extremely common to experience hearing loss, vision changes, and dexterity restrictions. Before you begin your conversation about technology challenges, ask your grandparent if there’s any particular hindrance that’s preventing them from comfortably using technology.
Maybe the text on their tablet is too small for them to read, even with glasses. Maybe the keyboard on their smartphone is too difficult to use without making repeated mistakes. Or maybe they’re unable to hear their ringtone when they receive a phone call.
What your grandparent may not know is that these problems can be fixed! Walk your grandparent through their devices’ accessibility settings and features. Show them how they can increase their font size, zoom in and out on their screen, have their text messages read aloud to them, and utilize voice-to-text capability.
There are so many ways technology has adapted to accommodate those with unique limitations. Your grandparent shouldn’t let their limitations stop them from learning how to use technology!
Ask Questions for Clarity
Miscommunication can be a major pain point when younger adults try teaching older adults technology. Talking past each other, misunderstanding one another, losing patience—it happens to the best of us.
Listen closely to your grandparents as they explain the trouble they’re having with technology. If it’s not immediately clear what they’re struggling with, ask follow-up questions to better identify their specific problem.
Don’t make assumptions about what they’re attempting to say, especially if that assumption implies your grandparent doesn’t know anything about technology.
Respond in Ways They Can Understand
Your grandparents weren’t born yesterday! They’ve been around a while, and they’ve seen more change than any of us are likely to see in our lifetimes.
Grandparents went from rotary phones to landline telephones to smartphones, and from typewriters to desktop computers to tablets. That’s a lot of development in a short span of time! Your grandparents do understand how technology has advanced, they may just be a bit behind. (Can you blame them? Even I, a Millennial, can’t keep up with the latest iPhone model!)
When helping grandparents with technology, explain how it works using plain language. Skip the jargon and technical terms they won’t understand. (They don’t need to know it all, anyway.) Make analogies and connections that will help them visualize the concepts and processes you’re describing. Keep it simple!
Offer Visual Aids or Printed Instructions
While teaching grandparents technology, don’t be afraid to get creative. Use visual aids like illustrations, diagrams, and screenshots to support what you’re trying to teach. Especially for more visual learners, seeing a physical representation of what their screen should look like or how certain features are accessed can help cement concepts into their brain.
Once you’ve taught your grandparent something new about technology, consider leaving an illustrated guide or step-by-step instructions they can use as a reference in the future.
Take a Time-Out When Needed
When the pressure is building and you’ve nearly blown your lid, take a break and walk away. Your relationship with your grandparent is far more important than explaining how to set up and use an email account!
If anyone is getting frustrated, take a time-out and cool off. When you’re all ready and feeling more levelheaded, revisit the conversation and give it another go.
Eliminate What They Don’t Need
Most smartphones, computers, tablets, and other devices come with all sorts of apps and features pre-installed. Sort through these apps and features with your grandparent to determine what they’ll use and what they won’t.
The less of a mess they see on their screen, the better. Too many apps can be overwhelming and confusing for anyone, regardless of age!
Teach Internet Search Basics
After giving your grandparent an overview of the Internet, set aside some time to teach them how to perform an Internet search. With this knowledge, they can turn to an Internet search for assistance instead of reaching for the phone to call someone.
Knowing how to use search engines like Google and video platforms like YouTube can empower your grandparent. Having the tools they need to find answers on their own builds their confidence!
Leave your grandparent a list of helpful websites they can turn to for tips. While search engines should be able to assist with just about anything they need, websites like TechBoomers are designed to educate older folks in the simplest of terms. Whenever you find a phenomenal resource for your grandparent, add it to the list!
Give Them a Cybersecurity Crash Course
According to the FBI’s Internet Crime Report from 2021, the elderly are more likely to fall victim to cyber criminals than any other group. Those over the age of 60 continue to lose the most money to Internet crimes every year—in 2021, those losses totaled $1.68 billion!
What are Internet crimes? The list gets longer and longer as technology advances, but here are some of the most common Internet crimes impacting older adults:
- Breach of personal data
- Identity theft
- Romance fraud
- Fraudulent technical support
- Investment scams
While you don’t want to scare your grandparent out of using technology, it’s important they be aware of the risks. The elderly are commonly targeted for many reasons, but largely because they often don’t understand the complexities of technology and how it can be used to harm them.
Teach your grandparent basic Internet safety rules like how to keep their personal information private. Also remind them of common-sense tips such as avoiding suspicious links and ignoring phone calls or text messages from numbers they don’t recognize.
Reassure Them that They’re Doing Great
Many older adults don’t just hesitate to use technology because it’s difficult to learn. Like anyone, they fear what they don’t know or understand. When you’re in that position, technology can feel intimidating and impossible to learn.
Help your grandparent build their technology confidence through a hands-on approach. Give them a quick overview or demonstration, then let your grandparent try for themselves! When you allow them to freely navigate their devices, they’ll learn by doing.
Don’t forget to remind them that they’re never too old to learn something new, and that they’re doing great!
If you have an aging parent or grandparent who doesn’t want to fuss with the latest smartphone technology, consider purchasing a Troomi phone for them instead. Though designed with kids in mind, older adults can also benefit from a smartphone with limited features and added safety measures. Click here to learn more about how Troomi can help!