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How to Empower Seniors with Digital Literacy: Q&A with Hospice of the Western Reserve

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Senior-Digital-LiteracyAccording to Pew Research Center, seniors generally have lower rates of technology adoption than younger generations. Yet recently, folks 65+ have shown to be more connected than ever before. But despite an uptick in technology adoption, there still remains a notable divide between younger and older generations. 

No matter what generation you’re in, our lives are becoming increasingly dependent on technology. Everything from shopping to banking is now done online, and it’s critical for seniors to embrace the use of technology to enrich their daily lives. 

However, it’s normal for seniors to feel resistant or hesitant to adopt technology or change their daily routine. That’s where advocacy and education comes in.

To better understand the importance of senior digital literacy, we sat down with Diane Snyder-Cowan, the director of Western Reserve Grief Services, Hospice of the Western Reserve, to learn how technology adoption can empower seniors. Continue reading to learn why Diane feels it’s important for seniors to eventually become digitally savvy in all areas of life, including the grieving process.

“Everything is becoming digital. Smart devices are really helpful to people, and as seniors begin to adopt them more and more, they can maintain independence.”

Q: Why do you feel it’s necessary for seniors to be digitally literate?

Digital technology is becoming the way of the world. From scheduling appointments to managing prescriptions, everything is done online.

For younger seniors in their sixties, it’s imperative for them to be digitally literate to get their needs met. For older seniors in their late seventies and eighties, it’s less necessary, as they typically have family handling these responsibilities for them.

Q: How does technology help seniors live independently?

Technology helps seniors in all kinds of ways. For seniors who live alone, smart technologies may help them remain in their homes longer. These include, but are not limited, to the following:

  • Smart home security systems
  • Keyless entry locks
  • Emergency response systems
  • Thermostats
  • Wireless lights 

All of the technologies strengthen the security and safety of seniors.

Q: How does technology help seniors navigate the world today?

Technology helps seniors take a more active role in all areas of their lives, including financial relevancies. They can login to their bank account to view and manage payments, and plan for retirement.

Seniors can also use technology to take a more active role in their health by researching signs and symptoms of illnesses.

Q: What barriers do you believe exist keeping seniors from taking advantage of technology more?

Unlike younger generations, seniors have not grown up with technology. They may not have the confidence or knowledge to take full advantage of technology. They rarely have people instructing and guiding them on how to use today’s technologies, so it’s often too complex for them to understand on their own.

If they have been taught, it can be confusing for seniors when updates occur. Take apps, for instance. Seniors have to re-learn how to use apps every time an update is made, lessening their willingness to learn.

Age is also a barrier to technology adoption, as fine motor skills deteriorate over time. These limitations impact a senior’s ability to perform functional tasks like dialing and typing on a phone or computer. 

By simplifying the terms of use, seniors may be more willing to use technology. Enlarging the font and modifying the contrast are two simple ways to improve visual accessibility for aging seniors.

Q: Is technology adoption increasing or decreasing among seniors?

In my opinion, technology adoption is increasing among Baby Boomers. These seniors have to adapt to using technology because it’s incorporated into everything they do.

Q: Does Hospice of the Western Reserve offer any digital literacy courses for seniors?

While we don’t offer any digital literacy courses, we do have a variety of informational sessions and seminars on how to use technology to make the most of everyday activities, like doctor’s visits. For example, a senior can use a smartphone to record visits and take notes. They can then go back and reference the recording at any time.

Q: What other resources and/or organizations have you seen in the Cleveland region that may help seniors become more digital literate?

Several local libraries offer courses for seniors. Community senior centers may also offer additional resources or be able to direct seniors to other sources of training. However, it would be helpful if we had more options for seniors, especially in relation to technology usage.

Q: How can technology help the bereavement process?

No matter your age, technology can help the bereavement process. Whether online or offline, support groups are available to provide the bereaved with coping skills and strategies. 

At Hospice of the Western Reserve, we offer a private Facebook group for individuals experiencing loss. It’s a great place for people to connect with others who are going through or have gone through similar experiences.

“If you’re reaching people and they’re reading it—then you’re meeting a need. People can access information online to validate and normalize their grief response. This helps them know they’re not alone.”

Empower Your Loved One: Download the Seniors’ Guide to Funeral Arrangements

Nothing is more empowering than peace of mind. When you preplan, funeral arrangements are paid for and locked in at today’s prices, saving families from sudden financial burdens and stressful decisions. If interested in learning more about the benefits of preplanning, we encourage you to download the Seniors’ Guide to Funeral Arrangements.

Funeral Preplanning Financial Guide

Photo credit:  Pixabay


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