Communication today requires embracing and integrating technology into our daily routines. Social media has transformed into a central method of communication. Google drive is prominent in the workplace. News sources allocate significant resources to their online platforms. Technology is the foundation of many of our connections.
Senior citizens have been overlooked in this shift to online media. As companies released tablets, phones, and smart watches, product design targeted younger age groups. Marketing efforts ignored senior citizens, and companies failed to encourage them to utilize digital technology.
I created the non-profit company GenTech to teach senior citizens about technology, social media, and cybersecurity. Through workshops taught at various independent living facilities and community centers in the DC Metropolitan Area, I introduce senior citizens to Instagram, Facebook, Skype, and texting. The training includes creating accounts, searching for friends, posting and commenting on photos, and sending private messages. Senior citizens also learn the best methods to protect personal information like credit card numbers and passwords. With training from GenTech, senior citizens have joined more social media platforms, enabling communication with friends and family and access to news outlets.
At the outset of the workshops, senior citizens express fear of technology. They worry about hackers and adverse consequences of sharing personal information online. Education and experience reduce this apprehension about technology and social media. By teaching senior citizens how to set their accounts to private, create strong passwords, and establish double verification, a number of their concerns are met. Senior citizens need guidance and practice to feel that their personal information is secure on social media platforms.
At the conclusion of the workshops, senior citizens complete a survey to determine the impact of social media education. Based on the survey results, 42% percent of seniors now use technology and social media to connect with friends and family, while 25% use technology to access news sources. Training, even in small amounts, has given senior citizens the confidence to utilize technology and social media. Instruction regarding account accessibility has eased senior citizens’ concerns about privacy and security. After creating accounts on the digital platforms, 54% of seniors have increased feelings of connectedness through social media. Access to social media can diminish feelings of isolation that can be caused by limited mobility, distance from friends and family, and even quarantine.
Senior citizens want to learn about technology but lack the foundation to enter the online world on their own. Companies need to make targeted efforts in order to encourage senior citizens to use their websites and applications. Lack of exposure to these platforms, combined with privacy concerns, creates a fear of social media and technology. Training will make the platforms feel more accessible. The success of GenTech’s workshops show that when initial fear of technology is conquered, senior citizens open themselves up to a new network for communication. A conscious effort to teach senior citizens about technology creates a cohesive, connected, and inclusive online society.