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Helping the Older Generation to Get Online

12:00am | & Tips and Advice
45% of those aged 75 or over have never used the internet.

In today's tech-filled world, we take online access for granted - it's easy to forget that it's only in the last 20 years or so that we've become so digitally literate. The older generation often find themselves left behind, and statistics from 2013 show that 45% of those aged 75 or over have never used the internet.

Of course, online access can be a huge benefit for older people, from keeping minds active to fighting loneliness, and from having shopping delivered to staying in touch with grandchildren around the world. The thought of setting up an elderly relative online can be daunting, but it's much easier to do if you put yourself in your relative's shoes and look at the technology through their eyes.

Take Care of the Tech

Unless your relative really wants to know, don't blind them with science. They won't necessarily want to know the ins and outs of which ISP they should use or which router is best - they will most likely be relieved if you do the research and present them with fait accompli; that way, you can both focus your attention on actually using the tech instead of setting it up.

Go for the Most Intuitive Device

By and large, touch screens are considered the most intuitive way for elderly people to access the internet. A tablet is often a better bet than a PC, depending on what they intend to use it for, and has the added benefit of being completely portable and less intimidating than a big desktop machine.

Set Up the Options

Your relative may well not know that larger text, slower scroll times and other accessibility options are available on their new device - so set these up for them, in accordance with their needs.

Encouraging learning to get elderly people using the internet.

Watch Your Vocab

Terms such as URL or upload/download are now part of our daily language - but not to a person who has no tech context experience. Watch your relative as you're talking, and be sure to explain what terms mean, as simply as you can, as they may not always want to ask you.

Prioritise Their Needs

What is your relative going to get out of being online? Will they need a Skype account to keep in touch with relatives around the world? What about social media? Do they want to upload a lot of photos? Will they want to run their daily affairs such as banking online, or just access the occasional email? Set up the services you think they will need most, instead of trying to cover everything at once.

Encourage Learning

There are lots of free courses and services available aimed at helping older people get online. Many local libraries and community centres offer free courses, as do institutions like the University of the Third Age. See what's available in your loved one's area and encourage them to go along to find out more.

Most importantly of all, make yourself available when they need help. The process of getting online and using the internet is becoming ever easier, but it can still be confusing and intimidating at first. With some patience and goodwill, you can be your relative's very best cyber ally, helping them to enrich their lives no end.

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