Tackling technology. Why bother? And … saying ‘no’.

by Catherine Rickwood

Many years ago I saw a landscaper standing on the path with his smart phone leaning against a rock as he did sign language. I marvelled at the freedom this technology had provided to the hearing impaired who use sign language as they could now visually communicate with each other using a phone. Smart phones, computers, the internet, and social media are all fantastic innovations. They provide freedom and connection. But for some it does neither.  For some, technology equals …

frustration, a sense of missing out, and feelings of inadequacy and being overwhelmed.

The first question really is, why bother? Why bother engaging with technology at all?

There are many reasons including [source: YourLifeChoices]:

  1. Re-connecting with lost friends;
  2. Saving money by finding deals and discounts from vendors advertising services and promoting ‘online only’ special offers;
  3. Finding health and lifestyle information that can improve our quality of life;
  4. Staying up to date with news and current affairs;
  5. Reducing the feeling of social isolation, particularly for those who have no means of transport, or have restricted movement.

In Australia, 86% of all households have access to the internet. However, whilst 85% of Australians use the internet only 51% of those over 65 years of age were internet users. The major reasons for not using the internet were due to a lack of need (63%) and a lack of knowledge or understanding (22%) [source: Australian Bureau of Statistics].

Both my mother and mother-in-law struggle with technology. Whilst my mother has a smart phone and uses a computer she often expresses frustration because something’s not working or she can’t do something that she knows is possible. My mother-in-law can’t use a smart phone and a computer is definitely out of the question.  They’re both in their 70’s.

The frustration and irritation experienced by my mother and mother-in-law is sometimes matched with my husband’s and my own frustrations and irritations. You see, my mother lives on the opposite side of Australia and my mother-in-law lives on the opposite side of the world (London). We wish they could use Skype so they could see as well as talk with our children and then they would have seen them more as they’ve grown up. We believe it would be fun for everyone. Yet, it’s not to be. And do you know what? It’s OK.

They can both use the traditional phone. We talk to them regularly – as do our children. It’s much easier and happier for all  involved if we stop pushing the technology barrow and say, ‘no’ to the latest. Whilst each of them may want what’s now available, for whatever reasons, they can’t grasp the technology. My mother’s taken classes (that went too far and took her down paths she would never go on her own) and I’ve offered to help. In fairness, she does use the internet for information gathering, online banking, and some travel bookings. She and her husband both use a Kindle. However, Skype and Facebook are just too hard and overwhelming and the fear of pressing a wrong button and ending up with a virus (yes, it’s happened) is paralysing.

Here’s my thought …

How important is it for older people to be online, to be connected using technology? For those that enjoy computers and all that they bring it is freeing and liberating. For those who have someone to help them with the technology at the time they want to use it it’s great. For those that struggle, is saying ‘no’ OK? I think so. I’m not sure that the frustration is worth the battle to try and do something that may or may not work and could lead to disappointment when it all fails.

If you’re curious and want to explore technology and “surf” the internet, here’s a top 15 list of sites that are easy to navigate. Enjoy and let me know what you think.

About the Author

Catherine Rickwood

An experienced researcher and business executive, Catherine's work is informed by academic knowledge and evidence to deliver practical actions with measurable outcomes. These combined skills create a powerful and useful ability to delve deep on issues, ask incisive questions, think laterally, and bring knowledge and insights to individuals, a team, and an organisation keen to engage with, and include the over 50's as a valuable part of their business strategy.

Catherine Rickwood is solutions-focussed, working with innovative organisations keen to improve customer and employee insights and empathy to increase their success in new markets, build loyalty, and increase innovation. She does this using a co-design process that engages employees and key stakeholders to create collaborative solutions. Contact Catherine to discover how her services can support your organisation to harness the changing demographic reality.

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