A guide to teaching elderly parents how to use a smartphone

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A guide to teaching elderly parents how to use a smartphone

Have you ever wondered how eight-year-olds can intuitively use smartphones whereas seniors with rich life experience find it difficult to understand them? The elderly are ‘digitally unprepared’ because they grew up without the help of such technology. Teaching them can be difficult but it is important if you don’t want to deprive them of all the benefits of using a smartphone. Here are the steps you may follow to teach your elderly family to use a smartphone:

1. Understand the elderly psychology

Every elderly is different and they may have different reasons for not trying to use a smartphone. Some may feel intimidated due to unfamiliarity and information overload. Others may feel less confident or irritated due to poor eyesight or age-related hearing loss. Your goal should be to understand their psychology and physical health to make better teaching decisions.

If your parents simply lack an interest, you could motivate them by discussing how a smartphone would help them to stay in constant contact with family and friends.

2. Mentally prepare yourself

Teaching can be a frustrating experience at times but you should always take it easy. Be patient with them because learning something new is hard but everybody gets better with the correct practice and time. Don’t overload them with too much information at the beginning and avoid technical jargon as much as possible. Teach them slowly and as clearly as possible to avoid confusion.

Encourage them to practice and try things on their own without your interference and let them know that it is okay to make mistakes. 

3. Set up a suitable device for use

Smartphones come in all shapes and sizes and you must select a suitable device for your elderly parents to use based on their needs. Phones designed for seniors are easy to start with. Consider the pros and cons of choosing a device with a bigger screen vs more weight or a slimmer smartphone vs using a back cover with it. You may even purchase a tablet if that appeals more to your parents.

It is important to set up the smartphone beforehand in a way that makes it easier to use for the elderly. Consider switching the fonts to larger than normal, remove unnecessary third-party apps, set up Google and Apple IDs, connect to WiFi, enable cloud backups, and create shortcuts to important apps on the home screen.

4. Teach the basics and essentials

The final step is to orient them with basic functions such as charging the device, adjusting the volume, answering and accepting calls as well as sending and reading messages, etc. Make them practice swipe gestures and demonstrate how taps differ from clicks. Also, familiarize them with buttons and icons such as the WiFi icon, battery icon, back button, home button, camera, task manager, etc.

Once they grow more confident with using the basic functionalities of their smartphone, you may start teaching them how to use apps to order food, book a cab, or even banking. Install useful apps like WhatsApp or YouTube and games like Candy Crush which they might want to play.

It is also a good idea to encourage them to attend any smartphone classes in their neighbourhood where they can learn how to use a smartphone and interact with other like-minded people their age. It can be a great learning environment and a fun way to spend their time.

How has your experience been teaching your elderly loved one to use technology? Do share your thoughts and comments in the section below!

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