It feels like new technologies are appearing every time we turn the corner, promising improvements to safety, productivity, and communication. While that’s great for younger generations who are “digital natives” and feel comfortable learning new technologies, it can present issues for seniors. Many older adults feel overwhelmed by constant changes, becoming familiar with the tech in their life only to have the latest update change everything they just learned. This can be a major issue, especially in the post-COVID world where many seniors became dependent on technology for healthcare and spending time with family. While there’s many internet guides on solving specific issues, they can be difficult to find if you don’t know exactly what to search for. We’ve highlighted some of the most common tech issues for seniors below, and came up with quick and easy steps you can take to prevent them.
Common Tech Issues for Seniors
While some tech devices are very user-friendly and intuitive, unfortunately not all of them are. Certain products such as iPhone’s or Smart TV’s are known for their ease of use, however you often have to pay a premium for the well-thought-out design of these devices, something many older adults can’t afford on a fixed income. What are easy steps you can take to help the older adults in your life become familiar with devices and programs they use on a regular basis?
Helping Seniors Learn New Technologies
While some older adults prefer to handle things independently, some may need a bit more guidance. While this is a great way for them to spend time with younger family members, that can often end up being more frustrating than it’s worth for both parties. Even though younger people have an intuitive feel for technology, that means they can lack an understanding of the barriers that seniors need to overcome. Whereas a lifelong smartphone user starts everything on “step five” because the earlier steps come so naturally, a senior needs help with steps one through four in order to get to that point.
Don’t worry if you find yourself in this situation. It’s common enough that there are many different technology classes for seniors. There are numerous organizations that offer specialized classes to help seniors become more familiar with computers and smartphones, some that operate nationwide. Many of these programs operate as nonprofits and are free of charge.
Another great option is looking for classes locally. One great resource is your local library system, many of which often have resources for seniors along with providing a community space for them. Check with your local library to see if they have any upcoming programs for seniors. Many libraries also have specialized tech-support employees on staff, however they may not have experience in providing help to seniors. Beyond that, the library is also likely to have books to help with learning new technologies, such as the “For Dummies” series which has beginners guides on pretty much anything you can think of.
Another interesting resource if they use Apple products such as Mac computers, the iPhone or iPad is local classes offered by Apple. While many of these are specialized classes to help in learning specific programs on these devices, some of them are more general classes tailored towards seniors.
Keeping Track of Information
Ah, the dreaded password. While modern computers and web browsers make this process much easier, there’s still the times where a forgotten password leads to an hour of trying different combinations and password resets. This problem is compounded for older adults, many of whom started using the web on AOL or other dial-up providers then switched to modern email providers like Gmail. Many people resort to using the same password for everything, which is an easy way to have their identity stolen if they’re involved in a data leak or fall for a phishing scam.
Thankfully, modern technology has found numerous ways around this problem. Depending on what device they use, it may come with a built-in password manager. The way these programs work is they automatically generate a secure password while creating an account for something, then automatically place it into the password slot while logging in. This allows for varied, sophisticated passwords no matter how many different places they need to log into. If their device doesn’t come with a built-in manager, there’s programs such as 1Password ($3 per month) or Bitwarden (free!) which follow roughly the same process.
For someone who’s a bit more old-fashioned, they could keep a notebook with all of their passwords. The only danger with this is that if they lose the notebook or have it be stolen, someone could gain access to their accounts. If they want to make their own passwords, it’s suggested that they be at least 10 characters long and have an Uppercase letter, lowercase letter, number, and symbol (such as ? or !) to be fully secure.
WiFi and Other Internet Issues
WiFi issues are unfortunately pretty common, especially in larger homes. It can be difficult to find the right place to put your router in order to reach all corners of the home. This can be especially frustrating with certain home layouts, such as an office on one end and the living room with smart TV on the other end. Thankfully, there’s constant improvements being made in this regard. Most Internet Service Providers will provide a modem/router rental for a small monthly fee, but these routers are typically comparable to those on the lower end of the market.
This means that the best option is investing in a modem and router of your own. It will allow you to choose one that best fits your needs, as well as being a one-time cost rather than an ongoing monthly fee. There’s a couple different options in this regard. The most popular is a modem/router combo, which means you only need to buy and find space for a single device. The best one for your home will depend on which Internet Service Provider (ISP) you use, as some require you to rent a modem which means you’ll be better off buying a separate router.
For those on a budget, we recommend the Netgear Nighthawk C6250. It’s compatible with a decent amount of ISPs (including Xfinity, Cox, and Spectrum) and provides decent speeds without needing to break the bank. It also comes with many built-in features from Netgear, including parental controls and security features. The one downside is it’s not compatible with a couple major ISPs including AT&T and Verizon, and doesn’t have as wide of a range so it won’t work well for larger homes.
If you need a wider range or faster speeds, we recommend investing in a mesh network. This means that rather than having one router, you have multiple smaller ones spread out throughout the home to cover all areas. The best option in this regard is the Netgear Orbi system. This uses a main router and a “satellite” router to provide a much wider range of coverage, allowing you to get fast speeds and dependable service no matter which room you’re in. This is great for people who stream a lot of movies or TV, or those who have multiple people spread out throughout the house.
Proper Cable Management for Seniors
Proper cable management for seniors is all about keeping the home as safe as possible. This means that cables shouldn’t be stretched across the floor, which can prevent a tripping hazard for older adults who may not see the cord below them. They should also be easy to access at either end of the cord, so they can be adjusted without help if there’s any issues. Placing corded devices such as phones, cable boxes, and internet routers on tables is a great way to solve this issue. From there, cords should either run along a wall using something like this to hold them in place, or behind furniture if they need to run along the ground.
Labelling cords is an easy way for seniors to identify problems without help. If multiple cords are plugged into the same device, such as a WiFi router or TV cable box, it can cause issues for seniors when trying to tell which cord is which. This means that they can easily solve issues with help from tech support or other call lines, rather than needing a specialist to come out and help them which could potentially cost money.