The Internet Generation
For most of my life I have been fortunate enough to be able to interact with computers and the internet. Although this is a good thing for me, it doesn’t blind me to the fact that there are some people who just don’t understand the concepts of a computer and the internet. The "computer generation" is not just for one generation. The elderly don't have to sit back and watch while the younger generations have fun banking, playing, shopping and socializing online. But many elderly people shy away from computers out of fear, wondering "What if I break it?" or "What if someone steals all my personal information?" The concern over the growing “digital divide” has led to a number of initiatives being employed to encourage web usage for the older generations, and to ensure they are not excluded from the digital world. Among these is educating the elderly on ways computers may benefit their lives. Some computer manufacturers have designed computers especially for elderly users. The designs acknowledge seniors' limitations on a computer, attempting to make a comfortable user for them. For instance, the designs tend to emphasize simplicity and straightforward commands and prompts. Keyboards are less cluttered with keys, and the software lacks design complications. The computers also make the tasks common to elderly users, such as email or viewing photos, easy to access and operate. These are just a few ways companies as well as new technology make it easier for the elderly to learn. Among the complications for the elderly in using computers are the physical, mental and cognitive impairments that come with age. These issues can include problems of vision, hearing, motor skills, attention span and memory. The elderly can struggle with recognizing patterns or resisting glare even while managing the simple process of viewing a computer screen. Their declining ability to reason and to learn new tasks also makes computer use and learning difficult. These impediments are important to note when trying to educate people on computer/internet usage.
For this paper I interviewed one of my clients who I used to work for in 2009. My client was a 82 year old realtor who needed computer assistance, as well as filing and data managing services. During the time working for her, we developed a very close relationship based on the ways I could help her remember how to do computer related tasks. We would spend long hours on the phone, as she watched me control her computer remotely. Whenever a command was done that she did not understand, she would simply ask and I would repeat the steps or re-explain the procedure. This allowed for a very hands-on approach to her computer skill development. In as little as two months she was able to accomplish tasks with little to no assistance. When I asked, “what do you need me to do in order to better this experience for you?” She replied, “let me see you do it, and do it very slowly and speak clearly please.” Once shown the steps and spoken to clearly, she was able to do her tasks the way she wanted. My client would even have her “girlfriends” over at times, asking me questions about the internet and their “always full” email accounts. It only took a week to get their email accounts clean, and teach them the importance of cleaning their inbox. I had explained to them cleaning their email, is as important as taking out your garbage every week. If you do not take your garbage out, then it will become harder to manage and will only accumulate. Giving real world examples always benefited the interaction I had with my client and her friends.
Another way to make learning easier for the elderly is to compare the digital things you are doing with real-life actions. If you make analogies frequently, you make it easier for your tech un-savvy seniors to comprehend what it is you are going to show them how to do. For example, you could tell seniors that "logging into your email account is just...
Cited: International Center for Disability Resources on the Internet. “The plan to assist the use of the information and communication technology, and secure the web accessibility for elderly and disabled individuals.” Web. May 23rd, 2000 http://www.icdri.org/Asia/japanpress.htm
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