Technology is evolving rapidly, and it can be challenging for elders to adapt to the changing tech landscape. It can be frustrating explaining how to use a new computer, operating system, or smartphone to older relatives who are new to the technology.

However, it is important to remember that your aging relatives are probably just as frustrated, which means you have to tread lightly when offering tech support, to encourage rather than discourage their new interest in gadgets. Fortunately, there are several things you can do to ease heightened emotions and help your aging relatives with their technological issues without offending them.

Explain Procedures Simply and Avoid Jargon

Though you don’t want to talk to your relatives as though they’re children, you do want to take your time explaining things, and make sure not to use unfamiliar words. It’s okay if your relatives don’t know the difference between an IP address and a router, and if you can explain how to connect to Wi-Fi without using these terms, they’ll be much more likely to understand them. Also, look for visual cues while you are helping them; if they start to look lost, confused, or overwhelmed, try explaining some of the points you just went over in a different fashion. If they still look confused, tell them you don’t mind explaining again. Don’t highlight the fact that they need something to be explained again—just explain it in a different but still respectful way, so that they don’t feel like they’re being a burden.

Offer a Step-by-Step Written Guide

If your parents are having trouble performing a repeated action (like connecting to a wireless printer or logging into their email) offer to create a written guide for them that has actionable steps. Lifehacker suggests that you also include screen shots in this guide for additional help. Not only will this help you avoid solving the same problem over and over for your aging relatives, but it will also help them learn (through repetition) how to perform this action on their own.

Make Yourself Available for Follow-Up Help

Though your aging relatives may be able to perform the action they needed help with while they are in your presence, independence is the goal, and your less tech-savvy relatives may have a hard time when you aren’t around. Tell them that if they need help with a specific part of the process you are available to answer questions. It is better that you don’t offer to do the entire process over again, as it is important for your relatives to gain the confidence that comes from doing this task independently. But let them know that asking specific questions is always okay.

Technology can be daunting for older members of the community, and some may not want to ask for help from younger family members. However, approaching technical issues as teachable moments for elderly relatives and providing ways in which they can become more technologically independent will help avoid hurt feelings and can encourage tech confidence.

Image courtesy of Flickr.


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