Making a friend of technology
“It is only when they go wrong that machines remind you how powerful they are.”
Clive James, Broadcaster and Journalist.

Are you sick of being put in that category of ‘once you’re over a certain age there’s no hope for you and your relationship with technology?’ Well, we’re here to tell you, age has nothing to do with it. In fact many older Australians are enthusiastically embracing technology and getting huge benefits from it too!

Research conducted for National Seniors Australia in August 2019 showed that 70% of people over age 50 use the internet every day, and others put the figure as high as 80%. They’re obviously feeling confident, with 68% saying they don’t feel threatened by technology either.

Like many of us, there’s still some room for improvement but if you’re past the stage of logging on, opening a browser, and know that Google isn’t something you take scuba diving, you can open up new worlds from the safety of your own home. Here are some tips to help you take the next step.

If you’re a novice

There are courses to help you learn about managing technology (but you may need someone to get you online first).

Be Connected will teach you the basics of a computer and smartphone, how to shop online, get on Facebook, use digital cameras and play games. They have online learning resources as well as a network of community partners who offer personal support. Go to: beconnected.esafety.gov.au

Tech Savvy Seniors is a government program, in partnership with Telstra, to help seniors learn computer skills with training available at many local libraries.  Don’t worry, there are plenty of online tutorials to get you started. Go to: telstra.com.au/tech-savvy-seniors

For the more experienced

If you’re already a ‘Savvy Surfer’ you’re ready to start searching for, and downloading, apps.

An app is a program that sits on your phone and is faster and easier to use than a website, and you’ll find them in your phone’s app store. The only problem is managing all your passwords. But guess what? Yes, there’s an app for that too.  Here are some you may like to look into:

Staying healthy

WebMD is an app where you enter your symptoms and it suggests possible conditions. It won’t replace your doctor, but you will be more informed if you need to see them.

Instant Heart Rate app can find your pulse through the lens on your phone’s camera, but only the first five are free. Heart Rate Lite is free. Others, like Cardiio, are able to use your face to measure your pulse but charge a small fee.

You can also track your blood pressure through apps such as Smart Blood Pressure.

If you like to stay active and you’re missing your regular yoga class, many of them are holding online classes during isolation. It may not be as good as being with others, but having that voice encouraging you to stretch is motivating, plus if you’re just learning you don’t have to worry about who’s watching you.

Connecting with community

It’s a little ironic that technology is used to bring people together, but the isolation period is proving how well we can keep in touch, even when we can’t do so in person.

Zoom is probably the world’s most popular app today and has transformed the way we interact. It’s a great way to keep in touch with children, grandchildren and friends.

Nextdoor is an app where you connect with people in your local community. You can swap messages about anything from finding a local tradie to council issues to offers of help from neighbours.

Being online can help you find friends. ProBus is an organisation that is older than the internet. It brings retirees together to help them stay active and healthy and there are groups all over the country. Go to probussouthpacific.org/tags/NSW

Keep an active mind

If you’ve graduated to a tablet or Kindle, you can download books to read off a screen. (You can also reduce the brightness to be more like the real thing.) Kindle’s app is the most popular, and Audible features books which are read aloud. Search for free books in the Google Play Store, Apple Books, Amazon or Kobo (they’re usually classics which are out of copyright).

You can play games with friends using platforms such as Trickstercards (trickstercards.com) and Zoom. And during isolation some sites are featuring Trivia Nights online. Crosswords Classic means you don’t have to wait for the newspaper for your daily puzzle.

Learning is the best way to keep your mind active, and Universities of the Third Age (U3A) provide low-cost learning for older people. For more information visit nsw.u3anet.org.au

Learn more about your finances

Most banks have an app that allows you to do your basic banking. You’ll find your bank and super fund provide lots of information on their websites too. They want you to be more informed about your finances, so when you talk to them, or a financial planner, you can have a more meaningful discussion beyond the basics.

Try our eLearning platform Money Matters which covers everything from budgeting to retirement planning to aged care, simply visit eisuper.com.au/MoneyMatters

Ask the grandkids for help

And if you need help, ask your grandchildren. They tend to be the experts with technology and research has shown that older people have trouble getting help from their children, who lack the time and patience. So why not reach out to your grandkids today. It’s an opportunity to spend quality time together – and hopefully with a bit of experience you’ll be Zooming in no time!