Technology

Why Tech is Senior-Unfriendly…and How to Fix It

We’ve all been there.  You’re trying fill out a form on a website or use Zoom on your tablet or make a video call on your smartphone and you just can’t get the damned thing to work.  It won’t access the right site, or let you into a Zoom meeting, or save the data you’ve just put into a form.  It’s technology ageism at work…

…and you are ready to throw the device against the wall and go back to paper and pencil and push button phones.

Why is technology so ageist?

Why is technology so senior-unfriendly ? Studies show that the problem is top down design.  Software engineers don’t actually ask older people what works for them, but make those decisions without their input.   They ignore the losses of aging–lower vision, hearing, manual dexterity, even touch sensitivity—that make technology even more challenging for us.  We get text we can’t see, audio we can’t hear, buttons that are too small to push, icons we can’t understand and touch screens that react too fast.

Most software and device designers are twenty or thirty somethings who live in the world of computer code and don’t understand or prioritize intuitive design.   Young people who grew up with tech understand their language because they share it.   It’s like growing up speaking French, versus having to learn it when you’re 70.  You will simply never be as adept.

What to do about it 

Despite all these difficulties we seniors are not giving up.   We’re determined to learn.   70% of seniors are now online.   We’re using technology in bigger and bigger numbers, and depending it on more.

Since designers are not making tech easy for us, we need to figure out our own workarounds. Here are some “hacks” that don’t involve calling a grandchild.

  • Use a stylus  on your phone.   A simple stylus that costs a couple of dollars can make huge difference in the accuracy and ease of inputting text on a touch screen—phone or tablet.  Or buy a phone with a built-in stylus.  I love my Samsung Galaxy Note 9.
  • Swype don’t type. You will never have the agility to type with your thumbs like the kids do. But you have a secret weapon—Swyping—which lets you slide your finger or preferably stylus from one letter to another and the phone will do the typing for you.  Here’s a tutorial.
  • Use voice dictation for texting. Most phones have very accurate voice to text capabilities these days.
  • Get an external speaker or use headphones.   The audio on phones, tablets and computers can be inaudible.
  • Enlarge the font on whatever screen you’re using.  Here’s how on Android.  And on Apple devices.
  • When in doubt, reboot. It’s amazing how many issues will disappear when you turn off your device and restart it.
  • Find a computer consultant to call when you hit a wall.   Here’s a list of the top-rated services.

Even though ageism is alive and well in technology–and shows no signs of going away soon—we don’t have to accept having our needs ignored.  We can and should keep demanding better solutions.   Write to companies and complain about their senior-unfriendly policies.  Patronize companies who at least attempt to produce more senior-friendly tech.   The more of us who speak up, the more likely it is we’ll be heard.

Want to learn more about how to master tech? Check out this article with other tech solutions for older people here, and try one of Senior Planet’s ongoing classes in technology (among other topics) here.

 

COMMENTS

9 responses to “Why Tech is Senior-Unfriendly…and How to Fix It

  1. There are many videos Online to learn anything, including Technology. Technology is quite logical, but it is the logic of those that developed it. It requires ability, but mostly motivation to learn it. That`s just like anything you learn.

  2. This problem of ageism is also true of class curriculums. Many talk down to seniors. Seniors should be included in the development process and respected. As seniors are more frequently used to using words, not small little pictures, better known as icons. Even for things like cars or appliances, there are no words ….just little icons which are not universally understood.

  3. The cost of Spectrum here in NYC has skyrocketed and so has Fios etc.
    I say about 85% of us Seniors cannot keep affording to pay these increases, I certainly cannot. The average Cable bill is $200.00 a month with about $16.00 of those dollars in tax and fees for this and that including a Broadcasting charge of $16.00. I have Silver package and that is only because it has TCM movies. There is a little cheaper package, but it does not have TCM which at my age I think I deserve especially when this is my only form of entertainment. Very sadly Spectrum or any of these cable company do not even have a discount for Seniors. I hear that there is a cheaper way to watch TV but I do not understand it and neither do all the people my age. Example: you can buy a wireless modem,
    PLEASE, PLEASE I BEG YOU have a program for us Seniors to teach us how to operate these new systems so it would not cost us so much money to belong to Spectrum, Fios etc. Thank you.

Leave a Reply

Senior Planet’s comments are open for all readers/subscribers; we love hearing from you! However, some comments are not welcome here as violations of our Comment Policy. If you would like to express a comment about Senior Planet locations or programs, please contact membership@seniorplanet.org.

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *