While there are seniors who resist technology like it’s the plague, there are many “silver surfers” who are fascinated by it and have eagerly and easily entered the computer age. In fact, many are the early engineers and scientists who built the foundations for our modern world! However, the internet typically is not a place thought to be inhabited by the elderly and the following myths may be what is causing some to stay away.
Computers are only for young people.
False! As of May 2013, a survey shows that 70% of adults in America reported having broadband access in their home, with the proportions of connected individuals increasing by age. Another survey by the Pew Foundation shows that computer and internet use is growing fastest in the over-65 population. Although it may seem at times like seniors are lagging behind, not all of them are apprehensive and many are staying up to date with technological developments.
Computers are too complicated for seniors.
Please recall that so many wonderful technologies that are idolized by the younger generation were created by people that now live in nursing homes, walk with walkers and canes and spend their day watching game shows and golf. Seniors may remember when TV remote controls had a wire that connected to the TV set, radios had tubes, the first computer was the size of a refrigerator and the first cell phone was the size and weight of a brick. Like other technological inventions, computers have grown exponentially over the course of time and are now more “user friendly,” making them much easier to use. Gone are the days when there was one right way to do something and hitting the wrong button could delete data forever. Never discount that growing up with certain technologies is something older people have always had so are very comfortable with.
Computers don’t have a significant impact on healthy aging.
Computers have helped keep the elderly sharp, informed and, most of all, in touch with the world today. Studies suggest that internet use by the elderly reduces depression and improves nerve function. It is argued that depression for this age group arises from lack of mobility and feeling out of touch. However, the ability to keep close contact has reversed this phenomenon by increasing communication and feelings of independence. It has been shown that computer use promotes brain health by combining reading and interactivity in powerful ways. Strategic games improve cognitive skills and interactive gaming consoles, like Nintendo Wii U, can provide a moderate workout. Computers also make life more convenient with web browsing, e-commerce, online banking, entertainment and social media, all of which are completely applicable to elders and relatively easy to comprehend.
Online social networking is only for younger people.
There was a time when it could have taken thirty minutes to buy a record at the mall. Coincidently, the mall was the biggest social network around. The older generation may remember having a “party line” and how technologically-wonderful it was to finally have a personal phone, one without a long cord connected to the kitchen and others listening in. It was common to have your friend’s phone numbers memorized, but now seniors can use smart phones, Email, Skype, Facebook, Twitter and Instant Messaging to communicate with family and close friends who live far away. These means of communication have become more available and even free, which is great for combating loneliness and isolation. Social networking and the internet in general helps seniors stay healthy, happy and in contact with the modern world. The tools are ever-present; they just need to be introduced.