Papa Pals offer tech help for older adults
Seniors and technology aren’t as mismatched as you might imagine. Many seniors today know how to use technology, navigating the internet and connecting on social media as seamlessly as younger generations. In fact, many people ages 65 and up are avid technology users.
Seniors and technology
But barriers do exist when it comes to accessing and using technology. Many people lack basic skills due to the cost, as well as life circumstances. Devices, plus internet service and cellular phone service, are too expensive for many budgets.
Technology changes quickly and unless you learn how to use it at school or work, it's even harder to stay current.
But help is available in the community from Papa Pals.
If you're teaching basic technology to seniors, use this simple step-by-step process when you’re providing help. You’ll find anyone, including students of all ages, can learn to use technology in no time.
Helpful ways you can help seniors learn new technology
1. Start by addressing security concerns
We should all be concerned about security and keeping our private information safe. In an AARP study, 85% of adults ages 50 to 64 revealed that they were concerned about their privacy and data protection while on the internet.
Help your students by showing them how to set secure passwords and download a password manager app on their devices so they don’t have to remember all the passwords to log in.
Take a look at their privacy settings on social networks and show them how to set their information so that only friends can view it. Review privacy policies for websites where they might shop, bank, or share healthcare information and show them that the benefits, in most cases, outweigh the security risks.
2. Emphasize internet safety
Online scammers are always inventing new tactics. As a teacher of technology, be sure that you're up-to-date on the latest concerns, including scams that begin with a phone call.
Warn your students not to accept connection requests from anyone they don’t know on social media, never send personal information (such as credit card or social security numbers) via email, text or chat, and never click on suspicious links.
3. Take it slow
It’s always best to start small and have multiple sessions so you don’t give your students information overload.
You might start with a FaceTime or Messenger call while you are in the same building but in separate rooms. Or, help them choose their favorite photo (or take a selfie) for their social media profile picture.
4. Write it down
As you move slowly through the different tasks your students may want to complete using technology, encourage them to write it down. Provide a notebook where they can log passwords and usernames (in case the password manager app doesn’t work or they can’t log into it), the URLs of their most useful websites, and details on how to use their apps.
If they get lost or forget how to do something, they can jog their memory from their own handwriting.
5. Show patience—even when teaching gets repetitive
Ask any teacher and they'll tell you the importance of stopping frequently and taking time to answer questions.
Step away from the keyboard or mobile device and let your students complete the steps themselves. The more engaged they are, the more they will absorb.
You may need to repeat concepts or steps multiple times until your student gets the hang of using their favorite app or website. Tell them that’s okay. Remind them of times when they were the teacher and had to give their students several tries to get something right—whether it was teaching a child how to ride a bike or mentoring a new hire at work.
6. Guide them to free resources
Access to technology is about much more than knowing how to use it. Access is being able to afford devices in the first place.
The good news is that there are many programs to help people access free and low-cost devices, internet service, and cellular phone service.
We've compiled this list of free and inexpensive options to get you started. And, because devices are only as good as the broadband internet service they run on, we've included resources for low-cost home internet service. Plus, we've added a section about low-cost mobile phone service. Most of these resources are available to people ages 65 and up, but some are available to all ages.
7. Explore games to get used to technology
Games are a great way to get your students engaged with technology. Crossword puzzles, Scrabble, or Soduku are great places to start.
Download an app or give them a website and show them how to play from their device. You can even play interactive games like Words with Friends or Animal Crossing together—which is another great way to show people how technology can help them connect with others.
8. Adapt devices to meet physical needs
Many of us have challenges beyond simply learning how to use technology. Small touchscreens may be challenging for anyone with arthritis. Those with vision problems may not be able to read the words on a screen.
Many websites today are designed to be ADA-accessible, which means people can use a text reader app to hear the words written on the screen. You can also set the mobile device or computer resolution to make the words larger.
9. Help students keep their skills sharp
Encourage your students to practice using their computer or mobile device so they can get more comfortable with technology. Plan FaceTime or Zoom calls instead of regular calls, and interact on social media.
10. Support others in your community
If you're tech savvy and would like to teach tech in your community, consider becoming a Papa Pal companion caregiver. It's a flexible part-time role where you can give back to the community while earning extra income. As a Papa Pal, you can support seniors, older adults, and families with a variety of tasks, including teaching basic technology.
Get started teaching technology to seniors
Great teachers know that it's important to update your teaching skills on a regular basis. Begin your update with these 5 Tips for Teaching Technology to Seniors. Next, use this guide to learn how to get free and inexpensive devices, internet service, and cellular phone service for those who qualify.
Then, apply to become a Papa Pal.
Papa Pals teach basic technology
As a Papa Pal, you can put your tech skills to good use helping seniors and people in your community set up their own electronic devices, use apps, and navigate digital communications. It's a great job for kind, reliable people who want to give back while boosting their income.
No experience is needed to work as a Papa Pal. It's not a medical or nursing role.
The role of a Papa Pal varies from day to day. Some Papa Pals lend a hand around the house and help with errands, housekeeping, technology, and gardening. Others offer company on a walk around the neighborhood or provide transportation to help seniors and older adults get to important appointments.
Interested in getting started? Learn more here and apply to starting working as a Papa Pal companion caregiver today.