It is not a question of being updated or more or less modern. It is a matter of practicality and efficiency. New technologies exist for all age groups, including older adults. To speak of a digital gap in this scenario no longer makes so much sense. Older people are increasingly familiar with new technologies and discovering new perspectives on how they relate to their environment.
Does the intergenerational digital learning gap really exist?
Contrary to popular belief, older adults nowadays also enjoy the benefits of using email, instant messaging, Facebook, and other forms of social technology. Not only that but being online seems to reduce older adults' loneliness and even improve their health. This shift in trends has been found in a study revealing how older adults are increasingly interested in new technologies and learning to integrate them into their daily routines.
A new study by Michigan State University researcher William Chopik reveals that social technology use among older adults is linked to better self-esteem, better health, and fewer chronic diseases and depressive symptoms.
The study also found that social technology use predicted lower levels of loneliness, which in turn predicted better mental and physical health. Social technology participants were generally more satisfied with life and had fewer depressive symptoms and chronic conditions such as high blood pressure and diabetes.
How do new technologies benefit older people?
Over the last decade, the generation gap in using new technologies has been narrowing. Just as at the end of the 20th century, there were still significant differences in access to and use of technological devices; these have become increasingly common in our daily lives without age being a limitation.
Technology unites us, but it also separates us. To avoid the exclusion that comes with not being part of this new social fabric, older people are more motivated than ever to learn. The origin of this interest? The fact that, especially at older ages, the advantages and benefits of being familiar with the digital environment are more than obvious:
New technologies keep us active. They are a gateway to current affairs, learning, other forms of entertainment, and the acquisition of new skills. They also resolve doubts and allow us to carry out procedures telematically and avoid traveling. And it's all in the palm of our hands!
Loneliness is a thing of the past. Thanks to all these applications, talking to family or friends is no longer only possible. There is now much closer contact, anytime, with a simple, instant message or a video call. Through applications such as Whatsapp or Skype, we can see each other, laugh together or share videos and photos at the touch of a button.
Being connected makes us feel more secure. Knowing that there is always someone on the other side is something that reassures older people, especially those who live alone at home. A push of a button is all it takes to get the assistance they need.
Technology for Older People : examples of integration
Even before the pandemic, there was a marked change in the relationship between older people and new technologies. Those who already had some knowledge of using smartphones and surfing the Internet made the most of these skills in times of confinement. Those who did not have had time to understand the importance of being familiar with these applications and learn how to use them with the help of family members or home carers.
It is not difficult to find practical examples of how older people have been able to integrate the benefits of new technologies into their routines:
Phone calls have become family video calls with children and grandchildren - the whole family!
Reading is back in the spotlight. Thanks to eBooks and tablets, visually impaired people can access books, magazines, and newspapers in a font size adapted to their needs.
Do you have doubts about your medication or need to make a doctor's appointment? New technologies are also promoting the development of telehealthcare and, consequently, the possibility of dealing with common situations that affect the state of health without having to leave home.
Online training: who said it was too late to keep learning? Distance learning via the Internet is reducing the digital divide elderly people who have a lot of free time and artistic, literary, scientific, and musical interests.
New friends, new partners. There are more and more profiles of people over 65 on social networks or contact applications. Old age is also a good time to widen one's social circle and even to consider getting back into a relationship.
You don't have to be a "digital native" to take advantage of new technologies. At Cuidum, we hope that this technological generation gap will eventually close, and we encourage older people to explore the great possibilities of the digital world.