How to Empower Older Adults to Become Digital Citizens?


How to Empower Older Adults to Become Digital Citizens?

Do they deliver e-mails on Sundays?” I have lost count of the number of times I had to answer this question to my mother once I created an email account for her. It might sound hilarious, but it also is sad considering how difficult it is for the older generation to cope with the digital world. Be it payment of insurance premiums or depositing funds in banks, everything to them is a manual task. 

While we are all moving towards a fast-paced world, they are struggling to even enter the digital world. Read on to learn how to help them become good Digital Citizens. 

What is a Good Digital Senior Citizen?

A good digital citizen is one who knows how to utilise internet effectively. He/s can judge what is right and wrong and explore intelligent technology behaviour to make good choices using technology. Being a good digital citizen senior citizen can also ensure positive engagement with technology and responsible participation in the digital world for protection from fraud and online scams and the use of technology humanely and thoughtfully. The first of the 5 ways to be a good digital citizen is to avoid trolls and negative comments. Second but equally important would be sharing any kind of personal information on social sites to avoid misuse and fraud. Third, do not upload anything you would later regret. Fourthly, do not trust or believe everything you read online before you verify. Last but not least, be respectful in your comments and interactions.

Importance of Digital Literacy for Senior Citizens 

In today's age of nuclear units and isolation issues, the inclusion of senior citizens in digitalisation is crucial.  As we’ve discussed what does it mean to be a good digital citizen, it is equally important to know why being a good digital citizen is essential for seniors. The mentioned below are a few pointers explaining why seniors need to be tech-friendly: 

  1. Accessing Information and Services: Digital tools help senior citizens access news, health and other services online, and even take part in virtual community activities. Let’s say-the list of hospitals covered by your parent’s senior citizen health insurance policy cannot be physically carried out every time  during an emergency. How convenient it would be if you have them on your phone to refer to on the go?
  2. Socialising and Relaxation: As it is said, the digital world is a small place. It has brought people closer by emails, video calls and social sites and has reduced feelings of isolation to a considerable extent. Seniors with low mobility can also listen to music of their choice and watch movies or read books they like. 
  3. Financial Management: Due to limited mobility, the digital empowerment of seniors aids them to become independent in financial matters like bill and premium payments, investments, banking transactions, and online purchases. It would be of great help if they learn to compare the various health policies on the net before choosing a cost-effective customised policy for themselves.  Hence it matters to know how to be a good digital citizen?
  4. Safeguarding Rights: To safeguard their privacy, understanding digital security is essential for elderlies. If seniors want to protect themselves from phishing, scams or identity thefts, they should know what being a good digital citizen means.
  5. Easy Access to Health Care: Health care or Health insurance becomes a key part of your life as you age. Online access to various products not only gives you the freedom to choose the best-suited product for your health care but also makes it convenient to purchase and renew your policy without wasting time waiting in queues in the insurance office. You can even verify an insurance agent's or salesperson's pitch to safeguard yourself from fraud or mis-selling. The claim payment is also done electronically without you lining up in the bank to encash a cheque.  

Tips for Teaching Senior Citizens on How to Use Technology Effectively

Calling your grandparents ‘Dinosaurs’ or ‘VHS’ may be a fun moment for you, but if you really want to help, take the initiative to include them digitally. The next time you are visiting your aged parents or grandparents use these tips to explain how to be a good digital citizen: 

  • Build on Existing Learning: Finding similarities between existing knowledge and new technological concepts is a good way to introduce them to the World Wide Web. E.g. comparing site URL to street address. 
  • Understanding the Significance: Before introducing a new gadget or a social site, be patient and explain why it is important for them to use it. They are not children, so make them understand what benefit they will get while using it.  For example, checking up on the renewal dates of the senior citizen health insurance plan can be a crucial learning at their end.
  • Be Consistent and Maintain a Slow Pace: Be ready to repeat yourself several times to give them adequate time to process the new information. Please remember they may be new to this but they do not have the brain power like a child to learn and process quickly. Choose a speed they are comfortable with. Clear all their doubts and then move on to the next phase. 
  • Repeating the Basics: Harping on the key concepts will make it easier to grasp and reinforce the important takeaways. Or else the volume of learning may leave them overwhelmed and make them feel incompetent. 
  • Practising the New Skills: It may be difficult for the seniors to click tap, and move the cursor due to their lack of motor coordination. But it is best to make them practice on their own to build stability and confidence to navigate, instead of just doing it for them. Health insurance premium or renewal payments online via internet banking will be a new skill for your parents to learn. It may seem to you like an everyday job, but may feel cumbersome to the elder.
  • Understand their Confusion and Infuse Confidence: Your parent or grandparents are more knowledgeable and some may have been experts in their fields. So undermining their doubts and confusion will only lead to averseness in learning. Share incidents when you have also faced similar difficulties while learning a concept and instil confidence that every learning becomes easier with practice and time. You can teach them how to resolve doubts online about their health care and insure themselves for their financial and medical safety. This will boost their morale by making them less dependent and more confident.
  • Surprise them with Wow Moments: Intersperse your teachings with finding friends on social sites, video calling family and friends, showing childhood home on Google Maps etc. The more they find technology incredibly helpful and convenient, the more engaged they will be. For example, you can show them how quickly they can download their policy document after purchasing a senior citizen health insurance plan, instead of waiting for days to be delivered.  

Initiatives to Empower Seniors Digitally

What does being a good digital citizen mean to you? Does it only mean navigating the digital world for your benefit and safety? Or does it also mean bridging the ‘digital divide’ for the seniors in our society?

A survey done by Age UK in March 2020, brings forth some reasons why seniors choose not to be involved in digital technologies. The majority, i.e. 54% of the participants did not have access to a digital gadget like a computer and 46% felt there was no need, whereas 34% were afraid of online scams.

Several initiatives can be taken to create a friendly and comfortable digital environment for older adults so that they are keen to know how to be good online citizens without being hesitant: 

  1. Prioritize Digital Literacy and Online Security for Elders: Seniors with limited knowledge are more vulnerable to online crimes and fraud be it financial or even emotional. Government-led programmes along with CSR initiatives of corporates and banks, should be proactive in conducting campaigns and workshops to address these issues. In fact insurance industry is now investing in robust risk management processes to mitigate fraud for their online clients. 
  2. Tech Programmes with an Elder-inclusive Approach: Although, PMGDISHA or Pradhan Mantri Gramin Digital Saksharta Abhiyaan is introduced to empower senior citizens with digital knowledge, it has an age limit of 60 years. But with the increased demographics of seniors, it is more appropriate to include 60-plus age groups as well. It is important to reach the right population so that training and access to information for pension, agricultural practices knowledge,  land records, insurance or investments are easily accessible.
  3. Building Digital Bridge: Some factors influence the penetration of digital knowledge amongst the older generation, like device accessibility, knowledge about usage, social impacts, home environments etc. The best way to accelerate adoption is by building bridges like creating connecting platforms, multiple knowledge-based centres, hubs or communities for group learning etc. 
  4. Incentivise Affordable Solutions: A prominent section of the ageing population suffers from socio-economic challenges like poverty, chronic diseases, functional disabilities and isolation. Hence the question how can I be a good digital citizen? will probably be the last on their to-do list. The only way to address this issue is to invest in elder-friendly affordable digital solutions which will enable convenience without being heavy on their pockets. For example the health insurance industry is now focussing on providing valuable experience to existing and new clients digitally for consumer loyalty and retention.

To Sum Up

Any social revolution should start from home. Have you been patient enough, and empathetic enough, to help your parents or grandparents master the fear of the unknown digital world? Have you been able to make them comfortable and confident to deal with the challenges of the digital world? If not, it is time you do so. After all, they taught you the basics of leading a fulfilling life and deserve a little gratitude in their hard times as well. 

>> Also Read: How to Choose the Right Health Insurance for Parents?

Disclaimers: All plan features, benefits, coverage, and claims underwriting are subject to policy terms and conditions. Kindly refer to the brochure, sales prospectus, and policy documents carefully.

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