Closing the Age Gap on Internet Literacy

Get connected with your loved ones through technology with these practical tips.

- Posted on Nov 2, 2017

A smiling senior citizen woman learning how to use the Internet in a classroom.

The Pew Research Center has reported that older Americans are less likely to have access to or to use the internet. This doesn't have to be the case. Today, technology and the Internet mean it’s easier than ever to stay connected to your loved ones, learn new things and enjoy entertainment like movies, music and books with ease. After you get around the learning curve, your time with your smartphone, tablet or laptop can drastically improve your quality of life. Here are some tips and tricks to gain access to the internet and bridge the online literacy gap.

1) Be patient with yourself

Technology can be intimidating, but almost everything designed these days is so intuitive even a toddler can use it. Ask the most patient child or grandchild in your life to give you a few lessons or head to your local library or church and check out the resources they have to help seniors learn to use the internet. Don’t overwhelm yourself by trying to learn too much in one day, start slow. You probably aren’t going to learn every feature of your tablet in one sitting, but you can get the basics down and go from there. Don’t have a family member pr community to show you how? Check for resources either at the retail shop where you made your purchase or programs put on by nonprofits and neighborhood centers. If you’re somewhat savvy, most of what you need to know is a Google search away.

2) Integrate it into Your Daily Life

"If you don’t use it, you’ll lose it" holds true for newly acquired knowledge too. Download apps and use programs that integrate tech into your day-to-day to life. Instead of relying on your old paper address book, begin plugging your social circle’s info into your phone for easy access. In the mornings, do your devotions using a Bible app or Guideposts OurPrayer app. Find free or cheap apps that support your hobbies, like learning a new language or keeping up with fitness.

3) Be Cautious

As wonderful as the worldwide web is, it’s also rife with people looking to take advantage of you. So, keep your wits about you. Be smart about sites you enter your passwords or sensitive data into. Don’t open suspicious looking emails from strangers. Be aware that the faceless stranger you’re chatting with on the Internet might not be who they say they are. A video chat can go a long way toward clearing up any confusion. Use precaution offline too. While you definitely want to get broadband internet over the much cheaper dial-up, don’t let a sales person fast talk you into a bundle with a bunch of services you don’t need or upsell you into a laptop with all the bells and whistles if you’re only going to be using it for the most basic, simple activities. Do your own research and take your time when making decisions about your needs.

4) Be Aware of Your Health

Don’t put your physical fitness at risk while beefing up your tech literacy. Staring at screens can be a strain on your eyes. To alleviate this strain, take breaks away from the screen every hour, use appropriate eye wear and learn how to adjust the text on your screen so you don’t have to squint. You’ll also want to get up and stretch, move around every hour. Too much sitting at a computer or hunched over a laptop is bad for your posture and your muscles. Be mindful of your wrists to avoid agitating any existing conditions you may have or developing new ones.

It can also be easy to get too caught up in current events or buy into too much of what you see on the Internet. Just like you limited your children’s TV time while they were growing up, you should set limits on the amount of time you use tech and the Internet. There’s nothing wrong with unplugging to enjoy the simple pleasures of reading a good book or going on a long walk with a friend.

Aging doesn’t have to mean falling behind the times. Take it one step at a time and you’ll find your way across the digital divide before you know it.

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