An article on enhancing seniors’ confidence in using technology

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Shin Min Daily News, 9 Dec 2023, Enhance confidence in use of technology (1) (translation)

Shin Min Daily News, 9 Dec 2023, Enhance confidence in use of technology (1)

Looking back on 2020, the coronavirus hitting the world brought about some of the most difficult challenges in recent human history, especially social distancing measures, which had a large and obvious impact on the elderly.

These measures disrupted daily social life. Uncle Li, who was used to going to the coffee shop downstairs to chat and drink coffee with old friends every day, suddenly found that he could no longer go. Mrs Huang, who attends interest classes at the senior citizen activity center every Monday, Wednesday and Friday, was forced to stop going out, and even simple gatherings with relatives and friends were prohibited. Fortunately, we have been quick to leverage technology to overcome many of the challenges and distress caused by the pandemic, such as remote learning and working, apps that enhance and promote social interaction, and mobile medical resources to promote physical and mental health.

However, there is a clear divide between the young and old when it comes to technology: young people who have grown up with technology have easily adapted to the new normal of moving their lives online, while the elderly, who have had little access to technology or relevant equipment, have gradually developed a sense of isolation and loneliness.

Even though we provide every senior with digital devices, such as smartphones and tablets, challenges and barriers to technology use for seniors still exist. I often hear the refrain that the elderly are reluctant to use new technologies. They are afraid that “when they touch an application, the entire computer will suddenly black out, freeze, or malfunction.” They are also afraid of becoming the next victim of fraud.

As early as 2006, Researcher Navabi et al. conducted a survey on 328 seniors over 60 years old and found that although most older adults often use mobile phones for daily tasks, they still have a negative attitude towards the use of smartphones. A focus group study published by Researcher Vaportzis et al. in 2017 found that most seniors were actually eager to adopt and willing to learn new technologies but were concerned about a lack of guidance and support or a lack of clarity.

According to the Seniors Technology Acceptance Model published by Researchers Chen & Chan in 2014, factors such as self-efficacy, anxiety, self-reported health status, accessibility, cognitive ability, and social relationships, usefulness, perceived ease of use, and attitude to predict technology use behavior. They studied 1,012 Hong Kong Chinese aged 55 and above and found that older adults with low self-efficacy tended to avoid the risks required to learn new things because they did not expect to succeed and were afraid of failure.

Therefore, more comfortable and low-threat situations should be created to encourage seniors who lack confidence in their ability to successfully use technology as they age. Designers of age tech should also consider the physical, emotional and cognitive needs and practical constraints of older adults and make more inclusive design decisions to help them embrace the use of technology.