Sample Essay on Teaching Older Adults Technology

Teaching Older Adults Technology


Growth and advancement in technology in the past 50 years has led to a greater challenge among the older generation, in terms of catching up with latest trends. The fact remains that the people born during 1940s, 1950s, 1960s and even 1970s did not grow up with the privileges of enjoying technological gadgets like cell phones, microwaves and computers. With time, it has become apparent that the latest technological advancements are a preserve for the younger generations. In fact, it has become very difficult for the older adults of between 50-100 years in catching up with the latest technological advancements. Nevertheless, research indicates that quite a number of the older adults are slowly adopting the use of technology in their daily operations. However, reports indicate numerous challenges encountered by the older adults on the use of cell phones, computers, internet and the teller machines. According to Heaggans (2012), younger American generations were online in larger numbers as compared to the older generations.

Computer technology remains an important backbone towards the growth of the world economy. When all generations adopt the use of computer technology, there is likely to be an enhancement towards more growth in all aspects of global life. This paper is a literature review that that looks at some of the many researches that have been conducted on teaching technology to the older generations. The discussion on teaching computer technology to the older generation is important because of the following factors: the older adults were never born with technology in place; therefore, they require special attention during the learning process (Heaggans, 2012). Unlike the younger adults who have made interactions with computer technology from childhood, the older generation requires proper process and introduction and teaching. Lack of desire for new technologies by the older adults can also be a hindrance, especially when the older generation fails to have a reason to learn technology. For the purposes of this literature review, older adults entail person above the age of 50, while younger adults are below the age 50. This review aims at finding out some of the limitations that older adults encounter while learning computer technology, identifying the efficacy of some of the technological programs used in training the older adults and their relevance. This literature review also looks into some of the areas of the topic that requires further research in the future.

Demystifying Biases about Technology and Older Adults

The impact brought about by technology impacts both the younger adults as well as the older adults, in a number of ways. According to Brookfield & Preskill (2005), the number of persons at the age of 50 and above has been steadily on the rise, necessitating the need for this group of US citizens to adopt the use of computer technology.  This group of the older adults has no option but to adopt some of the technological advancements like the use of teller machines, health monitoring devices that also help in dispensing the required medications and home personal computers that allow people to accomplish various tasks from home. On the same note, there has been an increase of more than 50% in the number of older adults who have learnt and adopted the use of computer technology in the United States; however, a number of these senior citizens have not been quick to either learn or buy some of the required technologies. Others are simply fearful or ignorant when it comes to what internet can help them achieve. Literature shows that physical, cognitive and perception limitations are major hindrances to the older adults learning computer technology.

Physical Limitations

Physical limitation is one of the reasons noted to hinder learning of computer technology by the older adults. However, Greg Kearsley and Mary Furlong disapproved this notion in the early 1980s when they gathered more than 300 older adults in San Diego in order to teach them computer technology (Glasser, 1998). According to their findings, physical fitness was a no hindrance to the motivation towards learning computer technology these elderly persons. There was enough motivation, even from persons who suffered from diseases like arthritis, who gathered enough strength to key in data into the computer. The six-week training that Greg Kearsley and Mary Furlong organized showed that the elderly were greatly motivated by their ability to take part on the daily activities within their homes and the society like entering data or maintaining digital files in local churches, hospitals and even clubs.

Greg Kearsley and Mary Furlong recognized special needs that the elderly may have in order to enhance their learning of the technology. On the same, they ensured that the information was repeated a number of times, they also used large-letter visual aids that made reading easy by the older adults. They were also allowed to read their instructions and work allowed during the training. Observations made by Greg Kearsley and Mary Furlong on learning technology by the older adults offer positive outcome on this subject; however, more analysis of the results needs to be done to gauge success (Glasser, 1998).

Development a successful training program for older adults requires that the study identifies the goals for the learning and whether the training is needed or not (Brookfield & Preskill, 2005). The next step should entail identifying some of the goals the program seeks to achieve, followed by what skills will be required in order to achieve the same. Such a process helps in coming up with necessary characteristics of the benefits that the trainees are likely to acquire after the implementation of the program. In this light, Greg Kearsley and Mary Furlong’s study fails to identify some of the technological needs that the older adults trained may have required, meaning some of the trainees may have learnt concepts that could have not helped them apply. Schroots (2007) argues that training older adults requires identifying needs of each one of the trainees before coming up with tailor-made technological courses. There is a possibility of making more achievements when specialized needs of each older adult student are factored while training computer technology. As much as Greg Kearsley and Mary Furlong’s study was a success in so many ways, it also fails to give findings of the evaluation of the older adults’ progress after training, with variables like knowledge retention ability.

Cognitive Limitations

Cognitive ability of an older adult is influenced by the interests of the different tasks that entail the training process. Older adults register different abilities when it comes to processing different tasks of the technological training. According to Crystal (2001), the amount of material availed during training of the older adults may provide cognitive limitations. Nevertheless, these senior persons prefer training manuals that offer step-by-step processes, in order to conceptualize ideas easily. This research finds out that long and laborious procedures during the training may lead to the decrease in the ability of older adults’ mind to process and conceptualize the information. Therefore, as much as they may require more information in order to understand the training, too much of the steps may lead to the cognitive limitations when learning computer technology (Crystal, 2001). This limitation makes it difficult for their minds to process and store the information for future remembrance.

The spatial ability of the older adults does not allow them to process some of the information as quickly as possible. This is unlike the younger whose spatial ability allow them manipulate information in their minds as fast as possible, making them quick learners compared to the older adults. Therefore, it is apparent that age can play a role in the development of the cognitive skills. The research done by Morris (1994) on the effects of aging when training older adult’s computer technology shows various results. This research entailed picking a number of the older adults and younger adults who had never had any previous experiences on using the internet to access a website. These people were given a set of instructions on how to access various files within the same website, organized in different hierarchies. Morris (1994) came up with the following results: Older and younger adults had the same ability to access the various sites or files within the website when instructions involved a few step; however, the older adults were less likely to accomplish a task that involved three or fewer moves in its process. The research also found out that the older adults were likely, than younger adults, to click into the hypertext links in an attempt to find out answers. The inability of the older adults to recall some of the previous actions performed while accessing the various website sections.

Teaching Strategies for Older Adults

Older adults have the ability to learn computer technology, just like the younger adults can do. However, the continued development in the technology means that the older adults must have the updated means of accomplishing different tasks during the trainings (Sigelman & Rider, 2009). These older persons require training manuals that entail repetitions in order to master what needs to be done, otherwise, the cognitive ability may be low. Research shows that older adult students require more time in order to learn basic computer technology skills, unlike the younger adults. These people also make more mistakes during the learning process and may require the full attention of the trainer throughout the learning process (Sigelman & Rider, 2009).

Jones and Bayen (1998) put down some of the recommendations on how to conduct effective computer technology training to the older adults: Training instructions should be broken into smaller sections that easily show the objectives and goals of the process. Any new information in the instructions should have a relationship to the existing knowledge by the older adults. This helps the older adults develop a focused training process that helps build their understanding from one level to another. Jones and Bayen (1998) also advocate for more time to the older adults to allow their minds process the instruction information and avoid confusion. This means that the lecturer should allow for breaks when the students can put down notes and ask questions in order to seek clarifications on various areas of interest. On the same note, too much reading may not encourage the older adults to study; therefore, the instructor should unsure minimal reading or more time for reading for the students to keep up with learning.

Settings of the computer programs also pay an important role into effective training to the older persons. The instructor should ensure that the ‘control panel’ is set in a way that makes their work easier. On the same note, it is appropriate to avoid command languages as much as possible and instead use menu systems and graphical interfaces to ease access of the files and computer programs (Brett & Ute, 2008). This means that other aspects of computer settings like fonts and styles should be made in a way that makes reading easy for the older adults. An important aspect of computer technology that the older students should understand is the online help that is ever available; therefore, the instructor should help these students utilize this function whenever they need to find how to complete a task. Most computers programs have easily accessed help menus that can help students learn more by themselves and at their own pace.

Jones and Bayen (1998) also note the environmental distraction in class may easily make older adults loose concentration in a computer technology class. Therefore, unnecessary movements should be controlled as much as possible during the class sessions. On the same note, other environmental factors like lighting of the room should considered because poor lighting may affect the learning process. As much as these steps may not be the main determinants towards learning technology, they may help create an enabling environment that favors learning for the older adults. They make these students become comfortable while learning different computer applications.

Evaluation and analysis of the learning process stands out as important concepts that can gauge effectiveness of learning technology. Many institutions have come up in the recent past to offer computer training to the older adults; however, there is need to conduct more researches on the same area in order to certain strengths and weaknesses of the process. This is one of the ways of developing training programs that are focused and effective. According to Gorski (2005), research on how to make the training programs accessible to all older persons is required. This means that a training program should ensure that older adults from all backgrounds can feel comfortable adopting. This also means that effective learning requires a program that promotes equality, devoid of hostility and racial prejudice. Training should equal and affordable access to all the resources required, something that involves entails taking advantage of social, cultural and economic gains availed by the computer technology (Salthouse, 1991).

Gorski (2005) suggests that successful training of older adults requires a well-lit room because poor lighting makes older persons less comfortable, something that may make them loose concentration. Larger screen monitors are most preferred when older adults train computer technology, with the 17 inch above flat screen monitors preferred. He also notes that adjustable chairs are required to help the students avoid disc injuries and allow flexible to them. On the same note, he also agrees with Jones and Bayen’s (1998) results that adjustments should be made on the computer to easily access the functions with minimal processes involved. For instance, he advocates for accessing settings of the screen resolution with just a click of the button. Ageing may lead to poor eye-sight, thus requiring large-print key tops in order to make typing easy by the senior students. The continuous use of mouse may lead to various injuries to the hands or arms; therefore, the mouse can be replaced with a trackball to help reduce the strain developed while working on computers.

Future Research

At present, computer technology should be part and parcel of the older adults’ daily interactions. More research should be done in order to find out how the older adults interact with technology on a daily basis, especially with the current social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and even Skype, among others. The numbers of the older adults’ continue to decline in the world due to a number of reasons that include death or illness. Therefore, more research should help find out ways in which technology can be used to enhance older adults’ lives in order to promote life. One challenge that these seniors face is loneliness and distance between them and other family members. On the note, more research should be done in an attempt to find some of the ways training older adults technology can help them reconnect with other family members. Technological knowledge has the ability to make life for the seniors more comfortable as they reconnect with other family members like children and grandchildren. Computer technology itself enhances learning because it helps these students communicate with other classmates as they share ideas and learn from each other.

In addition, there is need to research on the user friendliness of the different components of technology. For instance, new technological improvements and innovations keep emerging in the market that may pose a challenge to the older adults. This means that different companies must conduct the required research on the need of the older generation to help come up with technologies that suits it. Such a research can help in the marketing strategies for different technology providers. Other companies like Facebook should also carry out a research on how the older persons use their site in order to develop user friendly site that favors the older generation. In this note, it is prudent to mention the importance of the older adults having control on how technology can help them operate their day to day lives because technology has the ability to enhance lifestyles of these senior persons.


This article presents practical- based literature that explains how to teach computer technology to the older adults. This article articulates some of the researches done in order to find out effectiveness of teaching methods in place, some of the biases that have been identified when it comes to the training of older students and their ability to keep up with technology. This article also looks at the different strategies that trainers can put in place to enhance the older adults’ capability to learn faster and adopt computer technology that are relevant to their day to day operations. This article ends by noting some of the areas that need more research in order to enhance develop training programs that put into considerations friendliness to the older adults. Such researches should also help different technological companies develop products that take into account the older generation (Schroots, 2007). The continued development of technology requires consideration of the senior generation in order to enhance their lives.

On the basis of this literature review, a number of elements stand to be crucial when it comes to the training of older adults on computer technology. Training of older adults require the use of larger screens that allow for better visibility of the words, minimizing strain on their aging eyes. On the same note, larger keyboards with conspicuous letters are essential during the training of these important persons to make typing easy. A very important concept that stands to help training effort lies on developing a questionnaire that provides opportunity for each older adult to note how they would like to be accommodated in the learning process. Such a questionnaire helps in developing a plan that suits individual need while avoiding performing assignments that do not add them value. Repetition of steps during the training also comes out as an important aspect that helps the older adults conceptualize the processes of technology. More discussion is necessary on various ways in which technology can impact the lives of these older citizens as well as the practical aspects of what they learn to their normal lives. The elements noted in this conclusion may not be inclusive; however, they have been subjected to some of the empirical research methods in order to come up with results. Technology remains an important part of daily life and involving the older adults in adopting it makes life more complete. Nobody should left behind when it comes to technological advances at present.


Brett, D. J. & Ute J. B. (2008). Teaching older adults to use computers:

recommendations based on cognitive aging research. Educational Gerontology Journal, Volume 24, 1998 – Issue 7.

Brookfield, S. D. & Preskill, S. (2005). Discussion as a way of teaching: Tools and

techniques for democratic classrooms (2nd ed.). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Crystal, D. (2001). Language and the Internet. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge

Glasser, W. (1998). Choice theory: A new psychology of personal freedom. New York,

NY: Harper Collins Publishers.

Gorski, P. (2005). Multicultural Education and the Internet. New York: McGraw-Hill.

Heaggans, R. C. (2012). The 60’s are the new 20’s: Teaching older adults Technology. SRATE

Journal, Vol. 21, Number 2.

Jones, B. D., & Bayen, U. J. (1998). Teaching older adults to use computers: Recommendations

based on cognitive aging research. Educational Gerontology, 24(7), 675-689.

Morris, J. M. (1994). Computer training needs of older adults. Educational Gerontology, 20, 541-


Salthouse, T. (1991). Theoretical perspectives on cognitive aging. NJ: Erlbaum.

Schroots, J. F. (2007). Theories of aging: Psychology. In J. E. Birren (Ed.), Encylopedia

of Gerontology (2nd ed., pp. 611–620). London, UK: Elsevier.

Sigelman, C., & Rider, E. (2009). Life-span human development. (6th ed.). United

States: Wadsworth Cengage Learning.