Tuesday, March 3, 2020
When I first moved to the US, I had come for an internship for a Norwegian company. One of my coworkers was close to 70 and had moved to the US from Norway when she was only 18 years old, to be an au-pair from an American family.
When she left Norway in the 60s, phone calls were expensive and considered a luxury you could rarely afford. Flying home for Christmas was not exactly an option. And so my fearless colleague took off for an adventure that could separate her from her family forever!
We have come a long way since with video calls that are only a few clicks away. Free instant messages make it impossible to go a day without giving or receiving updates from your loved ones. No matter what World region you each live in.
But what if the very tools that connect us to our loved ones are unavailable to those who need it the most?
Seniors are amongst the most vulnerable in our society to experience loneliness. Furthermore, our connection with family and close friends becomes increasingly important as we age. Feeling included in our loved ones day to day life is only a video call, photos, or a few text messages away.
So why don't seniors spend more with family and friends online?
The touch screen only became mainstream after the release of the iPhone in 2005. Anyone over 50 at the time of getting their first mobile device is likely to struggle with completing tasks that millennials and younger consider second nature.
Think downloading the latest apps, taking photos and sharing, buying a metro ticket, or ordering a taxi on your phone.
Those working in the tech industry don't typically consider the 70+ demographic when designing their digital products. I should know, I've been one of them for the past seven years.
By consequence, older generations are missing out on the opportunities of connecting with loved ones on the regular. While my parents, who are just turning 70, are tech-savvy, there are still loads of tasks they need my help. Now consider those in their 80's and above.
The most available option for us to have an impact on this is with a bottom-up approach. What I mean by this is increasing the base level of digital literacy for the 80+ demographic. They most likely never had to acquire neither experience nor knowledge of digital services and products that could improve their quality of life.
If you've just recently retired, chances are you've been using email in your work. You've likely used your phone to navigate with online maps, or you call your children regularly on WhatsApp and FaceTime.
How about sharing some of this knowledge with an elderly neighbour who could use some help in getting online?
If you've just retired, chances are you'll have some more time on your hand. Connecting with a nearby elderly neighbour to help teach them digital skills would do both yourself and your neighbour great. You are contributing both positively and productively to their education and economic contribution and their wellbeing.
Research has proven that volunteering is one of the most effective ways. Regardless of whether you're retired, 15, or 30 years old. Life purpose is essential to everyone at all stages of life and contributes to life satisfaction.
At Mon Tonton we're working on connecting retirees with activities such as volunteering opportunities to help teach others the digital tools they never had the chance to learn.
Join Mon Tonton for a free one month trial.
This is the third post in a series of posts on the topic of digital inclusion. Here is the link to past articles: