Do your aging parents resist adopting useful new technology? Try avoiding these 5 common mistakes when introducing new technology to your aging parents.
My Mom is what experts might call a “late-to-never” adopter of new technology. If she could go back to the rotary phone, she would. So as I sat down to write her a hand-written letter asking if she was interested in starting this website with me, I knew I had to introduce her to certain 21st-century technological conveniences, like laptop computers and Google.
After the first conversation, here’s what I’ve learned DOESN’T work:
1. Don’t Assume Your Aging Parents Know
As I was outlining the idea of this website to my Mom, I kept using words like “blog” and “tweet” and “Pinterest.” I started to hear crickets on the phone line. Why on Earth would she know what a “tweet” was? Even I barely know what “Pinterest” is! (The apple didn’t fall far from the tree: I’m what experts might call a “later-than-late” adopter.)
When explaining new technology to your aging parents, don’t just plow through the conversation with a bunch of techno-jargon. Take the time to give a concise explanation of anything unfamiliar.
2. Don’t Assume They Don’t Know
The flipside of the previous point: Be careful not to assume that your aging parents aren’t familiar with certain techno-things. For example, my Mom has a basic cell phone and she loves to text (in fact, it shocked the whole family how easily she adopted texting).
Before introducing your aging parents to new technology, ask them some questions about what they are familiar with (if you don’t already know).
3. Don’t Make It All About You
I’m very guilty of this one. I’m already stressed: I have to figure out by which date my Mom has to mail out her handwritten article drafts. I have to type them up when they get here, days later. I have to print out everything, stuff it all into envelopes, buy stamps, and finally mail it all. Pain in my ass!
In our situation, snail-mail collaboration is nightmarishly difficult for me. But, for my Mom, it works just fine, so why would she want to have a laptop, learn how to check her email, or get a Skype account? That’s it exactly: The key question is not why do I want her to, but why might she want to add these things to her lifestyle?
Try changing your perspective. Figure out what might entice your aging parents to adopt a new technology. For example, my Mom was a firm, no-nonsense parent, but now she’s a sickeningly doting grandparent. Staying in better touch with my near-cyborg nephew may be just the motivation she needs.
4. Don’t Condescend
I sometimes over-simplifying things when I talk technology with my Mom. I’m not proud to admit it (and please don’t hate me for it!), but I catch myself “talking down” to her, as if she were in kindergarten. I don’t mean to, but it’s still an jerk move.
Try to use the same tone and demeanor that you would use with anyone in your peer group.
5. Don’t Teach Them Yourself
Sometimes parents have a hard time learning from their children. It’s about a reversal in the relationship dynamic – child becomes the teacher. It’s not personal, but it could be hindering the adoption of new technology.
Try asking a techno-savvy friend or peer of your aging parents to introduce the new technology. Or, check out your local library or community center for technology classes for seniors or older adults. They might prefer to learn from a teacher in a more traditional class setting, rather than from their own child.
How about you? Have you had an interesting experience introducing a senior to new technology?
–Good luck, we’re all gonna need it!
- Check out your local public library for adult/senior computer and technology classes
- “Making Technology Easier for Older People to Use” by Constance Gustke, New York Times (March 11, 2016)