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Seniors and Technology: Give the Gift of Help

Younger man providing computer help for senior

By Holly Carlson MS, RN, CCRN

According to research conducted by Statista in 2019 approximately 75% of all adults planned on giving an electronic device as a gift for Christmas. This number is projected to hold if not increase as a result of the social changes that have occurred because of the COVID 19 pandemic.

Electronic gifts are an excellent idea if the recipient has the knowledge and skill to navigate the technology. Let’s face it, technology is more intuitive for younger generations which leaves older generations feeling more frustrated than grateful for the gift. Unfortunately, this issue reaches beyond the holiday season. The fact is society is becoming more dependent on technology than ever before.


There are tech companies like Grandpad®, Jitterbug®, Ellie Q® who have developed electronic notepads, smart speakers, smart phones, and smart watches that are simplified and very user friendly. The following features are available in a user-friendly format:

  • Text messaging
  • Email
  • Ready to go Aps
  • Picture dialing
  • GPS tracking
  • Alexa® assist
  • Vital signs monitoring
  • Interactive artificial intelligence
  • Audible medication timer and visual reminder.

The features on these devices are accessible to users through the use of pictures, larger buttons, and simplified design. Even yet, these devices can still be cumbersome for people because the familiar becomes very unfamiliar when you need to reboot the device or router, update programs, or the device freezes.

Electronic devices and the supporting technology will always need setup and maintenance by someone who is familiar. Some products on the market come set up but do not maintain the technology or the device. There are devices that allow a designated person, helper or administrator, to set up the device at the time of purchase.

This type of gift can be intimidating to the recipient so starting off on the right foot will only encourage engagement and usage.

When you learn teach. When you get give.–Maya Angelou

Once the gift has been given either a designated person or the recipient will have to trouble shoot, update, and maintain the device. While a designated person may have the skills, the recipient may experience a new interest in learning to become more tech savvy.


Jackson, an associate of mine was contacted by his 82-year-old neighbor Marlin. Marlin was frustrated and needed help making an online appointment. Marlin owned a flip phone and had an electronic notepad that he had never used. Marlin didn’t even have an email account. Jackson had never encountered anyone who had not ever owned a computer or let alone an email account. Willing to help he decided to approach the situation using these 5 quick steps to introducing Marvin to the world of technology:

  1. Identify the product that Marlin needs and can use. Keep it simple!
  2. Preload Apps, establish accounts, and streamline logins and passwords. Consider single sign on technology.
  3. Include remote access when possible on the device so issues can be addressed by the helper administrator.
  4. Have a technological backup plan while the user is getting up to speed.
  5. Teach one skill, device, or app at a time.

It takes all of us time to get up to speed with new technology that we use. Once we become proficient, we appreciate the ease to access tools, resources, entertainment, and connectivity to others. Knowing our own limits and capabilities however these don’t necessarily directly apply to others. Careful review of product usability and level of functionality is important when purchasing an electronic device for another person in order to ensure successful use.  CHEERS!


There are some services that provide computer help for older adults and technology including Senior Planet and Older Adults Technology Service.



Holly Carlson registered nurseHolly Carlson MS, RN, CCRN is a freelance writer and owner of HDC Consulting.  Holly is a registered nurse with 25 years of healthcare experience in both acute and post-acute healthcare environments. Her experience includes direct care, organizational leadership, facility management, and organization culture development.


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