While baby boomers and their elders are embracing technology more and more every day, it’s interesting to take a look at the type of tech they adopt. Back in 2003, Mike Baard touched on this in an article he wrote for Wired magazine:
Seniors will accept newfangled gadgets, as long as they come in familiar packages.
The key, researchers say, is to make assistive technologies easy to use and familiar. The devices must also increase seniors’ independence.
In the intervening eight years, ease of use has come a long way. Touch screens are everywhere, and many phones today are smarter than the computers of a mere few years ago. Even so, there is still a widespread perception that these devices are terribly complex.
Two things can make a tangible difference here: presentation and education.
By presentation I mean the look and feel of the technology. Just because something is modern does not mean that it cannot adopt a familiar aspect. The leather retro digital camera (pictured above) is a good example of this. While it has an LCD screen, 12.1 megapixel resolution, anti-shake and other typical digital camera features, it looks like a camera from the 1970s or the ’80s. It even sports a look-through viewfinder in addition to the LCD.
A lot of modern tech can be housed in a classic and familiar form that will make it accessible to those who might otherwise be put off by it.
Education is the other important factor. While the technology is getting easier to use by the day, it seems that those who try to explain it often aggravate the situation. This is especially apparent when it comes to having the younger “digital natives” do the instructing.
Sue Shellenbarger of The Wall Street Journal takes note of this:
Teens can be motivational teachers for the elderly because of their enthusiasm for technology and agility with gadgetry. But, oh, the eye-rolling. These pair-ups can expose daunting cognitive and psychological gaps between generations, forcing young and old alike to adjust their attitudes.
With proper training on how to teach older adults, however, those same teens become a force to be reckoned with. She writes,
To spark students’ empathy for elders’ physical impairments, the Pace University program includes sensitivity training, says Jean Coppola, an associate professor who runs the program. Students practice using computers wearing Vaseline-smeared sunglasses and cotton balls in their ears, with two of their fingers taped together.
Students in Net Literacy rewrote tech-training lesson plans in large type, adding pictures and removing jargon to make it more inviting, says Don Kent, the Indiana organization’s president. They also work one-on-one with seniors so each can learn at his or her own speed, Mr. Kent says.
Simplicity is the key. When you are steeped in digital media it’s hard to comprehend that much of your speech on the subject can come off as absolute gibberish to someone who has never dealt with it before.