Do you remember growing up with a rotary-dial phone? In this day and age rotary-phones might even be considered antiques but the truth is that many of abuelitos and abuelitas still have these phones in their homes and not just on display! Many grandparents face the challenge of having to adapt to a world that rapidly changed before their eyes. And like immigrants in a strange land, they can only rely on their children or grandchildren to help them navigate a technology world that may seem overwhelming for them.
According to Do Something.com, only 53% of seniors actively engage with the internet, which leaves almost half disconnected with their loved ones and today’s technology. Many of us can’t even imagine what not having access to the cyber world feels like. Unfortunately, many abuelitos and abuelitas don’t have the chance to connect with their loved ones, especially grandchildren, because they either don’t have the tools and gadgets or they’re intimidated by technology; leaving them with somewhat of a lonely life.
It’s time to bring our grandparents out of la era de la piedra and into a world where they can share, be entertained, reconnect with past friends and get to see the grandchildren more often, even if it’s only virtually. There are several tools and gadgets that are “musts” for grandparents but before we review them please keep in mind that:
- You must explain every step in detail, and be prepared to repeat it, SO BE PATIENT! Don’t get frustrated when something doesn’t stick for the first forty times. The best method of teaching is to explain something and have them explain it back to you and/or show you what they just learned. Make sure to take breaks and don’t overwhelm them with everything at once. It may seem easy to you but to them it’s like learning another language.
- Be prepared to write it down. Many grandparents would prefer writing things down, yes, like using the old fashion a pen and paper! Do this at the beginning so they feel comfortable and gradually show them how they can keep notes in documents such as Word or Notepad. Slowly start sending them tips via email so they have a place where notes can live. Nevertheless, they will need these notes not only to remind them of what they learned but they can practice when you are not present.
- Keep it useful and encourage experimentation. There are several ways to do the same thing so don’t try to give every detail about every little thing. Stick to the basics, enough to get the task at hand done but make it relevant to them. If your grandparents love watching dogs salsa dance, show them how they can watch it on YouTube. Make sure you let them know that its ok to press buttons and tell them which ones will delete items they wish to keep.
Now that you know what to expect, here is a great guide from Grandparents Gone Wired on how you can start teaching grandparents some basic tech skills and devices:
- Ipod – Everyone loves music! Open an iTunes account and set them up, teach them how to search for and download their favorite music. You have no idea how much they will appreciate this and be taken back by listening to what today you call “oldies.”
- Digital camera – Show them how to download pictures and help them create folders where they can keep their pictures organized. You might also want to set up a printer and teach them how to print wireless.
- Text messaging – Face it, younger generations prefer text messaging. By teaching grandparents how to open, read and send text messages, it will empower them and make them feel free to reach out at any time, not only between the hours of 9am-5pm.
Basic Computer Skills
- Teach them how to log on to their computer and explain what the icons on their desktop are. Show them what button NOT to press so they don’t delete essential programs. It may help if you set their computer to auto-arrange icons so it stays organized over time.
- Show them how to log on to the Internet and use a search engine to look up things they are interested in, such local news, news from their countries, bus and metro schedules and routes and any other interest they may have. Show them how to visit websites for information such as their medical provider of Social Security Services.
- Create an email account for them and show them how to login and out several times. Add yourself to their contact lists and help them add family’s contact information too.
- Teach them how to send, open, and respond to emails.
- Create a Facebook account for them. Set up a strong password that they can remember. Show them what Facebook looks like, and how to enter the information they want to share.
- Help them upload pictures to their timeline and explain how they can add life events (when they were born, when they got married, when they served in the army, when they had children, etc.). The timeline functions like a scrapbook and allows you to add everything!
- Show them how to find and add friends and family members.
- Teach your senior how their Facebook feed works so that they understand what will be displayed every time they log into the website.
- Take them through their privacy settings so that they understand what information is being shared, and what they want to keep private./li>
- Show them how to upload photos and create a photo album.
- Introduce them to tagging.
- Help them “like” pages of things that interest them, and teach them to “unlike” things.
- Make them aware of links that look suspicious.
- Show them the ropes. Teach them how to create an account and make sure their webcam is working properly. Go through their settings to make sure they make sense.
- Help them find their friends and family and add them to their contact list.
- Try a test Skype call. Show them what all the different buttons do and make sure they are comfortable with the setup.
- Don’t forget to show them how to answer an incoming call.
- Show them how to instant message with their contacts and use the fun emoticons!
This also presents an opportunity for teenagers to bond with their grandparents. If you have older kids, encourage them to teach their grandparents, even if it means you add it to their chore lists. At the end of this journey they might even be grateful for what they have, the opportunities that are presented to them and appreciate their grandparents more – the experience will be priceless!
This story inspired Univision 34 “Tu Vida Tec” to feature a Tech segment, watch it here:
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