teaching technology
© Neil Bussey |

Alongside Maplewave, we explore the importance of teaching technology to older people in order to close the digital age divide and which methods will help close the digital gap

It’s certainly not an age-specific problem to be confused by technology. Everyone has been perplexed by it at some point, whether you grew up in the 90s surrounded by upcoming tech or you have only just discovered the usefulness of booking train tickets online. But it stands to reason that older generations may not be quite as adept at using technology, given they weren’t raised with an abundance of it around them.

The problem with the digital gap

There are many reasons why someone may experience the ‘digital gap’. Although once it was due to financial inequalities disabling access to technology, it has now shifted towards a knowledge gap. Once connected to their devices, the information presented to them instantly becomes a barrier.

Technology is advancing quicker than people are acquiring the skills to work the technology at a professional level. Thus, this creates the digital gap, where the demand for digital skills has outstripped the supply. With predictions that within 20 years, 90% of all jobs will require an element of digital skills to a sufficient degree, so the efforts to bridge that gap is gaining pace.

Learning how to use technology at an older age

Younger generations have the advantage of being brought up with technology all around them. So, for those that didn’t go through childhood and adolescence whilst the digital boom was underway, learning about what the latest technology has to offer can be an intimidating experience. Generation X would’ve felt intimidated by the thought of learning how to use Microsoft Excel or getting to grips with printing, now, it’s more virtual reality, voice-activated domestic robots and wireless charging.

What methods can we use to bridge the gap? One idea is to build on the persons existing tech knowledge. If the senior is already familiar with an aspect, use analogies like referring links to webpages to roads to other cities or web addresses to street addresses.

The online language

Technology often goes hand-in-hand with jargon. Jargon exists to make the process of explaining things more concise, but it can have the opposite effect, confusing and alienating the listener and hindering the learning process. Implementing technologically-orientated words such as selfie or emoji may have reluctantly made their way into the Oxford Dictionaries at the displeasure of traditionalists, but that’s an indication of how much influence the internet has had on our lexicon contemporarily. As digital natives, we have adopted this as if it were a second skin, so when it comes to communicating with the elderly on the topic of technology, be sure to use simplified language.

One in five people over 50 have said they feel left behind by technology, according to studies. It goes beyond just the financial aspects too, elements of loneliness and feeling out-of-sync with family members can often occur if the older generation hasn’t yet made the switch to the likes of Skype, Facetime or even WhatsApp. This demographic makes up a huge chunk of our population, and we must help them come to terms with the world of technology. All of which being visual or verbal communicative apps where users can video or message each other from anywhere in the world providing they have a stable internet connection. It’s especially great for family times like Christmas or birthday’s if one of the family members is away travelling for leisure or work.


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