SeniorTech: Nothing to Fear but Fear …

Many of us find ourselves helping senior parents with technology. These days it goes hand-in-hand with even the most moderate caregiving assistance.

Read Seniors Have Nothing to Fear but Fear Itself, a post by Jamie Carracher over at the Aging Online blog. Carracher points out that most seniors want to learn as much as they can about technology, but their fear and anxiety often get in the way. I agree.

When I teach senior tech classes, the anxiety is often palpable. I’ve learned to bring along a detailed handout to each class so my elder students do not spend so much time taking notes — a skill most were trained to do throughout their lives whenever they learned something new. I’ve also learned to narrow the scope of classes. No more, “learn MS Word in three sessions…”

It’s a transition for elders to engage with a task first and take notes second, so it’s difficult for them to stop thinking about the note taking. A comprehensive handout should be given to students at the beginning of a lesson, whether in a tech class or a home tutorial session, and it should list specific steps — clearly and concisely — for each technology task. Handouts allow seniors to jot down quick notes, freeing them from writing out all of the details.

For the senior tech teacher or for the adult child tutor, one especially important pre-class task is to test a handout on another senior or at least someone who understands how people learn. Most of us make handouts that leave out tiny transitional steps — things we take for granted or assume senior students will intuit, but usually they don’t. These omissions can heighten a senior student’s fear.

Do read Carracher’s post and, if you want, listen to the entire 1932 Inaugural speech by President Roosevelt.

Also you may enjoy my post, Senior Tech Support-Advice I Wish I’d Received Ages Ago, which directs readers to a great New York Times blog post.

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