Never underestimate the older generation and technology

Since lockdown, many people have had to adapt to finding new ways to keep connected with family, friends and loved ones. Many of us have been able to work from home with new setups, attend meetings using apps we’d never heard of before such as Zoom and Microsoft Teams and we’ve probably used things like FaceTime and Google Meet more than ever before.

But it’s not just the young and the tech savvy people that are using this kind of technology. Many elderly people have also adapted to this new technology, but this isn’t anything new; this is something that’s been happening even before COVID, but has been accelerated since the pandemic began. Let me explain.

In my role as volunteer for a local hospital radio station, I remember vividly visiting the wards of the local hospitals back in 2006. At this time, the only way to listen to the radio, or watch TV, if you were in hospital, was via the bedside entertainment system with disposable headphones provided by the ward. This was the only way, other than perhaps the odd TV on the wall to get entertainment during a hospital stay. The station would provide a unique broadcasting experience for them and a unique variety of programmes. In most cases, hospital radio stations at the time were pivotal in providing entertainment to patients directly at their bedside and whilst this still stands today, the array of tech listeners can get their hands on is huge.

Fast forward to today, to the last three or four years and walk around a hospital ward now (before COVID). You’ve got elderly patients with iPhones, iPads, smart tech devices, which gives them an array of entertainment options and a new way to connect with relatives and the outside world whilst they’re in hospital. I’m well aware not every person has this luxury, but you’d be surprised at how many do. This in turn, helped by relatives, grandchildren and friends who are so used to using the technology, it’s super easy to show someone how to connect to WiFi and do a quick video call.

In my day job, I deal with all kinds of technical questions and set ups from patients of all ages. I’ve helped 98 year olds set up their remote monitoring kit by giving them instructions down the telephone and they couldn’t be happier. Video appointments have replaced a plethora of in-clinic, face to face appointments, the patient just needs a phone or smart device with a camera and a link to click through to join a virtual waiting room. It’s crazy to think that, whilst most of this technology has been around for years, we’re only just utilising it now.

This age group are embracing new technologies and in this current climate, it’s proving to be successful. As I’ve mentioned, it’s not for everybody, many people still prefer the ‘old’ ways of working – being seen face-to-face etc., but the increased use in video conferencing and tech in general, can only pave the way for smarter working and treatments going forward.

And yes, as with everything, there are going to be flaws and concerns, but so long as any systems used are intuitive, user friendly and accessible to all ages, then everyone has the ability to use them. Equally, education in using technology is important, manufacturers need to make it easy and relatable, without sticking their own jargon in, something which the big tech giants, including Apple and Google, do very well.

I believe this is only a small step forward, that Coronavirus has forced many of us to think differently about how we use tech and has opened up tech and software to thousands, if not millions more people around the world and, with systems; software and hardware changing yearly, or even more frequently than that, by the time we get to that ‘older age’, the tech we’re using today will be obsolete, and it’ll be our grandchildren showing us how to use the tech of the future.