Topics on Aging

By Juan Gallo

Tips for helping seniors navigate technology

July 18, 2022

Tips for helping seniors navigate technology
Marisela Martinez

A Guest Blog by Digital Outreach Coordinator Marisela Martinez 

Since we delivered the first Heart2Heart iPads, I’ve been visiting care centers to teach seniors how to use the new devices. Juan invited me to share what I’ve learned through the classes.

Mostly, I’ve been impressed at how quickly seniors learn to use the iPads. After a few minutes, they just know what to do.

Here are some tips for teaching seniors to use new devices.

1. Start with their interests

One of my favorite ways to start a class is to ask the seniors for their favorite musical artists. Everyone likes to listen to music. Once they pick an artist, we look for their songs on YouTube.

The seniors are amazed at what they find: So many songs that are so old that they don’t play them on the radio anymore!

Don’t make them feel more frustrated because they don’t get something at first. Just keep trying because they’ll get it. They will!

One of my seniors wasn’t able to watch the news on his small TV. It was a big deal for him to look up the news online and zoom in and zoom out on the words of the articles.

Once you find out what it is they like, and they discover what they’re able to do with the iPad, that opens them up to learning it. Find out what their interests are and go from there.

2. Have patience

In our iPad classes, we start with the basics and go slowly. Just learning how to swipe, tap and double tap can take time.

Don’t make them feel more frustrated because they don’t get something at first. Just keep trying because they’ll get it. They will!

It’s also important to solve problems with them. For example, sometimes a senior’s hands are shaky so that it’s hard for them to do a single tap on a touch screen. That’s something they can’t control. Provide a stylus to make it easier for them.

3. Suggest they take notes

Repetition is the key to learning new skills. Encourage your loved one to write down the steps to open their favorite app or to find the local news.

You might even provide a notebook just for notes on using their device. That way, they can go back to it and practice when you’re not around. The more comfortable they feel trying out a new skill, the faster they will learn it.

I also tell my students to write down all the questions they have. The next time we meet, I can address those questions.

4. Encourage them to explore

Juan talked about how the fear of making a mistake can prevent seniors from getting comfortable with a new device. So encourage your loved one: Don’t be afraid!

I tell my students, “The home button is your best friend. If you don’t know what you did, just press this button, and it’ll take you back to the home screen.”

5. Check out our training videos

If you need more help getting teaching seniors to use a new device, check out our training videos. They’re less than a few minutes each, and they go over basic skills.

And if helping seniors navigate new devices sounds fulfilling, we have the perfect volunteer opportunity! We’re currently training digital volunteers to lead a weekly iPad class in specific care centers across Broward County. Call me and join us!

Read more about:
Juan Gallo
Juan Gallo is the CEO of Heart2Heart Outreach, where he oversees the mobilization of volunteers to provide hope, share love and restore purpose to the lives of the aging population across South Florida.

He also serves as a local pastor and as an adjunct professor at Trinity International University, where he is teaching a course on diversity and aging. Juan has a master’s degree in counseling and psychology and is a licensed mental health counselor intern.

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Juan Gallo

This blog is a frank conversation about what it means to age in our society.

I want us to consider what a wider range of diverse experiences when we talk about aging. I want to reflect on how we, as a community, want our neighbors and our mothers and fathers and our grandparents to live out their latter decades of life. I want us to consider each one of their voices as we strive to meet their needs.

Join me for weekly discussions about what it means to be a senior in South Florida and how we can and should respond to the growing needs of the aging population.

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