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Senior Citizens: Learn to Text

My friend’s father was complaining that his 21-year-old grandson (my friend’s nephew) would not answer his emails. The grandson (like many young adults now) is experiencing some job woes and his grandfather wanted to keep a caring watch over him. Communication between them had stopped when the emails went dead.

A co-worker of my husband was lamenting that his 30-something son won’t make time for a lunch date. My husband asked how he was trying to contact his son. The co-worker said phone calls and emails.

Our advice for both of these ex-email-communicado senior citizens? Learn how to send text messages. My husband’s colleague took the advice, texted his son and a lunch date was arranged within minutes; he was amazed. The man went from feeling distressed over his son’s “cold shoulder” to extreme relief that it was a medium problem not a personal one that kept his son from making time for him.

The grandfather I talked to was still skeptical. His wife said, “Well, I just don’t think I’m going to learn how to do it.” I spent some more time with the grandfather, showing him some shopping and coupon apps on my phone, the navigation features, and how to text.

I’ll teach a course to older users this fall in my township. One of the more important things we will be going over is texting. Worlds will open up to these grandparents when they see their grandchildren’s words immediately in response to theirs. This is a simple thing that does a lot of good for the relationship, but the idea of smart phone texting just seems so foreign and intimidating to older people.

We each need to take some time to sit with some senior citizens and show them how we use our devices. What is basic to you is new to them, and they need the information. Elderly people especially tend to become more and more isolated. Our households are rarely multi-generational now, which means grandchildren are growing up without the exposure to the wisdom of grandparents, and grandparents are living without the revitalizing energy that comes with being around children and young adults. Texting can help facilitate communication between the generations and lead to more face-to-face meetings.

“Ever seen an iPhone?” is an easy question to ask the elderly person on the train next to you, or at the coffee hour after church. These older people are very curious about smart phones but they are self-conscious about asking. I’ve always been bombarded with questions about tech by older citizens when we are in a quiet conversation. They want to know. They are afraid to ask.

Open up a door for a person who doesn’t yet have the keys.

Let me know in the comments what approaches you take. Also, if you were teaching my “Tech for Boomers (and above)” class, what would you include?

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