These days, it’s not uncommon to walk by a gaggle of twelve-year olds huddled together, each staring intently at their phone screen, double-tapping and texting to their heart’s content. For younger generations born into the age of the internet, this technology is second nature. But older people have watched technology revolutionise their world—and this revolution is not always easy to cope with. Through his business endeavours, philanthropy and work with the Cornea Institute, Tej Kohli is constantly thinking how technology affects the lives of different groups of people. In light of this consideration, how is technology helping the elderly, and how is it hindering them? Here, we explore the technological challenges that pensioners face, and how these challenges affect their day to day lives.
For people who grew up with landline telephones, typewriters and snail mail, our current culture of instant communication can be a shock. While technology makes it easy to call or text someone, older people who do not understand how to use this technology can feel isolated and lonely. Social media, devices and apps aren’t necessarily intuitive for people who spent most of their lives without them. The elderly often need a younger person to teach them the specifics of each device or app.
But the challenges of technology are not always just a matter of adjustment and education—physical ageing presents difficulties for the elderly when trying to use technology, as well. Think of texting on a small smart phone: a person with tremors may have trouble operating the touch screen or pressing the correct letter key. Likewise, a person with impaired vision is not likely to check their email on the tiny screen of their phone.
Of course, technology benefits the elderly in a number of ways, and many pensioners are adjusting to the rise of technology in their daily lives. More and more older people use social media and email to keep in touch with their loved ones. One study revealed that older people who do have access to the internet at home actually use it more than people in other age groups.
Any discussion of the relationship between the elderly and technology would be remiss without mentioning how technology is assisting with health monitoring and home caring for older people. Assistive technologies can help reduce hospital costs and allow healthcare professionals to keep tabs on the status of their elderly patients. For people who would otherwise be cooped up in hospital for monitoring, this technology gives them back their freedom.
As technology constantly moves forward, it is important to examine how different groups respond to the changes that tech can bring. Technology is meant to benefit the people who use it, not make them feel isolated or forgotten. Through his work, Tej Kohli presents a two-fold approach to helping the elderly: education is crucial, but so is creating devices and technologies that are more intuitive and user-friendly. By approaching the elderly with compassion when it comes to tech, taking time to teach and listen, we ease some of the stress that can come from trying to adjust to drastic changes. However, tech companies should also continue to consider the elderly when designing their interfaces, so that technology can be accessible for all. Who says you can’t teach an old dog new tricks?