We can all see how fast new technology is developing, just think about how life was 20 years ago and now. The Internet is a prime example. Thanks to it the world is much more accessible to everyone – you can work, learn, and even shop from anywhere in the world. Most young people easily adapt to these new technologies since they’ve grown up with them, the elderly, however, sometimes face difficulties with them. Especially when they see no point and use in these so-called innovations. Just think of all the elderly people you know and how many of them simply refuse to learn how to use a computer or even a smartphone. Taking into consideration how after the pandemic started, we’ve all become much more dependent on technology – to keep in touch with our loved ones, to work and so on, the elders will also have to learn to adapt to this new world.
Though slowly but surely they are starting to get used to all of the new technology. There is research that states that in 2020 77% of the population over the age of 65 are using internet in their homes. The usage of internet in the 65-74 age group has increased from 52% in 2011 to 83% in 2019. However, a report by the European parliament shows that internet usage amongst elders in Europe differs considerably amongst the different countries. Internet users in the 65-74 age group are a higher percent (above 70%) in northern countries such as the Netherlands and the United Kingdom, but a significantly lower percent in southern Europe (as low as 14% in Greece).
According to a report by Ofcom for 2018, over a quarter (28%) of people above 75 years old now use a tablet. That is an increase of 15% in contrast to 2015. The report from 2020 established that 21% of people over 75 have a social media account with most of them naming Facebook as their preferred social media platform. Although these reports are encouraging, there are still many older people who are frightened of technology.
It is our job to encourage our elderly relatives and show them that new technologies are not that bad. Think about how easier their lives would be if they simply started using the internet and mobile devices. Then they will be able to easily keep in touch with relatives and friends, to read news, to look at pictures and why not even videos. They could even be able to play their favorite games like cards, backgammon and so on.
However, there are many people who are reluctant to get a modern smartphone for their older relatives and prefer to give them an old-fashioned button one. But with the development of technology smartphones have become much more intuitive – it is easier to just tap something on the screen rather than struggle with different buttons and their combinations. Besides, nowadays smartphones have a plethora of different accessibility functions developed especially for elderly users. Visibility enhancements, hearing enhancements and talk back to name a few. It’s not just phones, tablets are also a good alternative for elders. With their bigger screens tablets can even be a better option for the elderly who are just entering the world of modern technology.
It’s not just mobile technology that is getting adapted specifically to elders. In more developed countries, technologies for health and mobility for older people have significantly improved during the last decade. The different types of health alarms are a great example – from a life-saving personal alarm system to GPS fall detectors. Unfortunately, this type of technology is not that well known in some countries in the EU. But considering that more than a fifth of the EU population is aged 65 or over, this technology and other innovative methods of care for the elderly are yet to enter the scene.