And the ways we can help alleviate the problem among the seniors in our own family and community.
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The speed at which society has advanced in terms of technology is pretty staggering. If you think about it, the fact we can go to a store and not even have to get out our wallet is something we couldn’t have dreamed of just a few decades ago. And these developments seemed to have become more widespread during the COVID pandemic.
Today contactless payments have become the norm. We’re also now living in a world where when you are sick you don’t need to pay a visit to the doctor, as online appointments have become the time-saving solution. And as for banking, well, branches are closing at an impressive speed, and if you have an issue then you have to go through a myriad of people in call centers to sort it out.
As a middle-aged woman who’s pretty tech savvy, I can still sometimes feel frustrated with the lack of physical interaction available. Even though I marvel at how these technological developments are so practical and time efficient, I also sometimes wish we could just go back to using cash, chatting with check-out staff, and actually seeing a doctor face-to-face — normally when the electronic device I’m relying on isn’t quite so reliable.
After a recent trip back home I also saw how frightening all these changes are for my elderly parents (not that they’d ever want to admit it!). And here are just a few examples that gave me cause for concern:
My 80-year-old dad got particularly frustrated when he couldn’t complete his checking-in on the phone app he was told to use by the airline. He was told categorically that was the only way to check in. I had a stab at sorting it out and failed. My 23-year-old son had a go and failed miserably. Then my sister had a go and finally worked it out. By the time we’d sorted it his flight was nearly due to take off. This supposedly quick and user-friendly system undoubtedly caused his blood pressure to rise, something that could be lethal at his age.
Then I went shopping with my mom. When it was time to pay she had to go to an automatic checkout. She was a bit flustered, but proudly said she’d used them before. However, the machine refused to register some of her items and my mom became all panicky. She felt the pressure of the people waiting in the line, and she also felt a little stupid.
I reassured her that that sort of thing happened to me all the time and that we’d just have to wait for assistance. Again, she was all agitated and embarrassed by her considered lack of tech savvy.
This incident made me pretty annoyed. My mother is an intelligent woman who has managed some pretty impressive technological shifts. She’s mastered the use of her smartphone, and can navigate online shopping like a pro. Yet this little hiccup made her feel stupid and out of touch.
Of course I reassured her that this wasn’t an age thing. I also pointed out that the practical skills she acquired as a homemaker with 9 children would put my generation to shame. We seem to value technology over most things today, and that just seems to minimize the efforts and talents of the generations before us.
My further concern is that as society supposedly advances, the older generations will feel increasingly isolated. If it’s hard to function in a society that is becoming increasingly “smarter” then they’ll feel there’s no place for them.
Thankfully there are ways we can help our elderly citizens. Here are just a few:
When you’re out and about and see a senior struggling with technology (or anything for that matter!) then offer a patient helping hand.
Keep loved ones updated
If you have older family members, take the time to try and teach them some essentials. Don’t get overly detailed, just maybe run through a list of bullet points to achieve a certain task.
Look out for classes
There are some community centers that offer classes for seniors to help them navigate today’s technology. If your loved one is able, encourage them to sign up!
If you know your elderly loved one goes shopping at a regular time, then arrange to go with them if you can. You’ll be a reassuring force if things don’t go according to plan. Likewise, if they have to deal with administrative issues, offer to help.
One of the most frustrating and time-consuming activities is anything that involves paperwork, although nowadays more and more government bodies prefer all information to be submitted electronically — which opens up a whole other Pandora’s Box. So be a helping hand, and maybe learn a thing or two at the same time.
Ask them for help
The majority of people like to feel helpful. This is especially the case for the elderly when they might think they’re more a burden than a help. So take the time to ask them for advice or help, even if you don’t really need it. One of the things my mom loves is when I ask her how to get rid of a stubborn stain or to share some cooking advice.