In order to stay mentally agile, a person needs to use his or her brain. This can mean anything from doing puzzles to regular social interactions. One advantage seniors enjoy today is that they live in the age of the Internet.
While computers can be intimidating to the uninitiated, many of the boomers now hitting retirement age have grown up with gadgets. We’ve seen the rise and fall of the eight-track tape, the evolution of the compact disc, and the rise of the iPod and MP3s. As a result, it should come as no surprise that, despite the stereotypes, many seniors are flocking to the online world — a world where geographic distance is no longer a factor impeding socialization.
When helping to introduce seniors to the world of computers for the first time, it’s usually a good idea to take a look at what technology might exist to make the process easier. There are keyboards with oversized letters for the vision-impaired, and simplified touch-screen computers like the WOW! Computer for seniors that can help improve accessibility. A little time taken to choose the right gear to start off with can make a huge difference.
Another thing to keep in mind is actually teaching them the ins and outs of email, Facebook, and other online services they might like. A simple guidebook, written with seniors in mind, is a great investment. Not only will it reduce the number of calls or emails you get containing computer questions, but it will also help give them a sense of independence on the subject. “My Parent’s First Computer Guide” is a great example of this sort of resource.
There are also many communities that are organizing senior-oriented training, often done for free by volunteers. In Vernon, British Colombia, for instance, they are launching a program of this nature this very month. Cara Brady, a writer for the Vernon Morning Star, reports:
The Seniors Computer Support Program wants to help by matching seniors, 55-plus, who want to use computers, ebooks, iPads, tablets or cell phones with volunteers who have the skills.
The program, a joint project of the Junction Literacy Centre and the Seniors Information Resource Bureau (SIRB), is looking for volunteers for the first training session, to take place the end of January.
‘The real advantage of the program is that it is one-on-one so people can work at their own pace, rather than trying to keep up with a class, or being bored because they learn more quickly than the rest of the class,’ said Kathy Wylie, program coordinator for the Junction Literacy Centre. ‘Technology changes and sometimes people need a little help to keep up.’
It’s well worth the time. Help a senior in your life discover a world of interaction and information denied them until now. The type of engagement they receive from becoming socially active online can keep them both healthier and happier in their later years.