You’re never too old to learn new tech tools

By Morey Stettner

How to boost your tech fluency at any age

For many people in their 60s and older, technology is a lifeline. It’s inevitable. You cannot ignore it.

So how can retirees who aren’t particularly tech-savvy learn to update their tech savvy?

When they enlist family, friends, and tech geeks for help, there’s no guarantee these well-meaning teachers will show and tell to soak it up. Technical instructions are often difficult to follow, whether in person or in books, manuals or tutorials.

Step-by-step videos with screenshots might seem like a good way to get up to speed. But seniors can get frustrated when their screen doesn’t match what they see in the video. The best approach depends on his learning style. Some seniors prefer to work with one person one-on-one. They listen and learn by doing – with patient guidance every step of the way.

“I think the best way for anyone to increase their technological knowledge is to get hands-on experience,” said James Bernstein, author of “Computers For Seniors Made Easy,” part of a series of books aimed at help seniors understand technology. “By ‘getting your hands dirty’ with your computer or smartphone, you can learn from your mistakes. And if someone helps you, they can fix anything you might break.”

Others opt for self-study modules. They are solitary learners who enjoy watching videos or searching for how-to articles to master a new device. Many libraries and senior centers offer adult education courses on technology topics. It’s a good option for retirees who can benefit from the social interaction that comes with a classroom setting.

“Being among peers is often a more comfortable environment for older adults to learn,” said Mark Leigh, author of “The Older Person’s Guide to New Stuff.”

To quote a cliché, it’s important to meet people where they are. If older people are inexperienced or impatient, the key is to give them the time and space to understand.

“The main hurdle is trying to overcome the worldwide assumption that everyone understands and owns the latest technology,” Leigh said. “When you find out that many older people don’t, there’s often a condescending attitude that goes along with it.”

Worse still, this attitude can turn into something more dismissive or even insulting.

“Seniors may feel even more deterred from learning new technology due to fear of not being familiar with it,” Leigh said. “And then they get even more reprimanded for it. It’s a vicious circle.”

The ever-changing nature of technology poses another challenge for seniors. Just when they think they’ve mastered a tool, it turns into something else.

“One of the hardest parts for older people is when their computer or software has been automatically updated without their knowledge,” Bernstein said. “Things are now different and don’t work the same way.”

While he urges consumers to download all security updates immediately, he advises to treat other types of updates with caution.

“For many of us, these changes just make things harder or add extra steps to accomplish the same task,” he said. “I always tell people not to update their hardware or software as often as tech companies want it to. Just because there’s a new version doesn’t mean it’s going to work better for you. If you can postpone the update until you need it, it just gives you more time to get things working as you’re used to.”

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-Morey Stettner

 

(END) Dow Jones Newswire

09-17-22 1431ET

Copyright (c) 2022 Dow Jones & Company, Inc.

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