How Seniors Can Get the Best from the Digital Age

For most of us these days, using a computer has become a daily occurrence, so much so that many of us can’t imagine life without it. Completing work projects, checking correspondence, interacting socially and shopping online have all become part of our everyday existence, but not everyone has become part of the Digital Age. There is one significant group in our society which has been left behind by events, and it’s perhaps time to include them.

A significant number of the older members of our communities have little or no experience of computers, and will not be aware of the many benefits that regular internet usage can bring. In an era when we are encouraging young children to find their way around the web and to become increasingly au fait with everything computers can achieve, it seems a shame that we are neglecting those at the other end of the age scale.

Those who were born in the 1980s and beyond have grown up in an era of technological innovation, and are therefore better equipped to understand the many gadgets and gizmos that have appeared on the shelves of our stores ever since. Although there are plenty of older people who know their way around a digital camera or a mobile phone, there are still too many who struggle to understand just what a computer, and the internet, can do.

The first step is the most important one

Needless to say, switching on a computer and accessing the worldwide web is a simple operation for most of us, and if some of the less enlightened members of our senior communities could be encouraged to try it, they will undoubtedly be pleasantly surprised by this simplicity. The most difficult hurdle in this is likely to be the first one of all: how best to guide and support the uninitiated through that vital initial step.

A worthy campaign by the BBC in recent times to get older people involved in internet life produced some interesting results, with many initially reluctant participants discovering many of the benefits of web usage. If the momentum from this outreach programme could be harnessed further, we may find a growing number of men and women becoming more and more keen to put the computer through its paces.

Initial understanding of what can be achieved is a major obstacle, but it appears that many potential silver surfers are interested in processes that can allow them to contact friends and family instantly on the other side of the world. Those in the older age bracket are from a generation in which many of their relatives emigrated to countries such as Australia, New Zealand and Canada, so they are eager to discover the immediacy of an email.

Another process that piqued their interest was online shopping. A great many seniors find it difficult to cope with regular trips to the major supermarkets or to their local grocery stores, so the opportunity to have a weekly delivery of their provisions brought to their front door appealed greatly. Through such applications, the shroud of mystery that surrounds the internet can hopefully start to clear in the coming months and years.



Matthew writes for Comet and has an interest in generational use of digital technology. He wrote a thesis on that subject, that claimed the older generation can help combat mobility, loneliness and entertainment by learning basic computer skills.