A birthday gift for Grandma? How about an iPad?

The new technology is building new bridges between the generations.

Myrna Driedger, MLA Winnipeg Manitoba Progressive Conservative (PC) caucus
Myrna Driedger
Broadway Journal

I think we’ve all heard the saying, “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks.” When it comes to technology there is a stereotype that elders are technophobes. The Oxford dictionary defines a technophobe as “a person who fears, dislikes or avoids new technology”. This stereotype is often applied to older people, and although a technology gap may still exist the gap is shrinking.

With the busy hectic lives of people nowadays and families separated by distance for careers or schooling, it has become increasingly difficult for families and friends to stay in touch. Older people who are isolated from friends and family can as a result become depressed or feel lonely. This is where technology and people interactions can mix and make a difference.

Age is not a barrier - many older people are becoming comfortable with new technologies like Apple's iPad tablets. Photo courtesy of Apple Inc.
Age is not a barrier – many older people are becoming comfortable with new technologies like Apple’s iPad tablets. Photo courtesy of Apple Inc.

A good connection
More and more seniors are getting comfortable with technology, and in a way this has brought grandchildren and grandparents closer than ever before. Everyone, no matter what age, craves that sense of belonging, and with mobile phones, laptops and iPads being second nature to children, these instruments are fast becoming an effective tool for the grandparents to stay connected to family and friends.

Using email, and social networking with Facebook, FaceTime and Skype, has enabled people to get more comfortable with technology and stay in touch. The ability to take photos of friends and family with a mobile phone and then share those photos easily and across the miles is a useful benefit, enjoyed by old and young alike. The grandchildren think their grandparents are cool because they are using the same technology, and the grandparents realize they can still be a vibrant part of the community. They know they are thought of and cared for, and are not feeling left out of things.

Seniors have expanded their use of technology beyond just the social aspect. They are using technology to look up health information, do online banking, stay on top of current news and events, play games, look for recipes, acquire distance learning and sometimes to share a good joke. Who doesn’t like a good joke?

You can always learn
The adaptation of technology by seniors is helping them maintain and improve their mental state and emotional well-being, and sometimes their physical health. It helps them to feel less isolated from family and friends.

A woman I know was taught by a lady who is 91 how to FaceTime on her iPad. This same 91-year-old is on Facebook and Pinterest. She also knits and has gotten some of her knitting ideas from Pinterest. This is a testament that one is never too old to learn new ways of doing things. Older adults help teach their peers by sharing tips and apps they have learned. It can add some fun to their days.

The technology is becoming simpler and more user-friendly all the time. It helps seniors maintain their independence, break barriers and overcome stereotyping. At the Apple Store one will see little children using the iPads alongside a little group of seniors who are getting a face-to-face lesson on their new iPad.

The perception that seniors aren’t interested in learning or technology is just a perception. Don’t know what to get Grandma or Grandpa for their birthday? How about an iPad? Let’s face it, if a little child can use it why not Grandma or Grandpa?

Myrna Driedger is MLA for Charleswood.

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