For many of us, it’s hard to imagine life without the internet nowadays. However, we know that it can be difficult to convince our older parents and loved ones to give it a go. After all, if they’ve gone this long without needing the internet, why change now? Well, we believe the internet can open doors for people of all ages, especially the elderly. We’ve put together this guide to help you introduce the internet and its benefits to your elderly parents or loved ones. Once they’ve opened their eyes to the possibilities of the internet, they won’t want to go back!
Fortunately, the vast majority of UK households already have internet access – 96% according to 2020 statistics. However, households with one adult aged 65 or over still have the lowest proportion of internet connections. If your loved one’s home doesn’t currently have internet access, they’ll need to sign up for a broadband package. We’d recommend using a price comparison site to get the best deal. After selecting a package, the new user will receive a router which will need plugging in. In some cases, an engineer may need to come and set things up. After this, your elderly loved one will be ready to start surfing the web!
What Interests your Loved One?
The first challenge when helping your elderly parents use the internet is deciding where to start. Consider their interests and think about how the internet could serve them. If your loved one wants to get in touch with old friends, start by helping them set up an email account. If they are struggling to get to the supermarket, start by showing them how to order their shopping online.
Some of the most popular internet activities among older adults include researching family history, sending emails, contacting family, and playing games. So, now you know what your loved one would like to learn and what they’re interested in, it’s time to welcome them to the internet.
The Technical Stuff
There are several devices that your loved one could use to access the internet. If they own multiple devices, ask them where they’d like to start. They might already feel confident with their smartphone. Alternatively, they may prefer to start with their computer or tablet, where the larger screen may come in handy.
At first, go slowly and explain everything you’re doing. It might help to write things down step by step. Remember if you grew up with technology, you might think these things are intuitive, but they might not be obvious at all to an older person who is just getting started. Try to avoid unnecessary jargon – or be ready to explain what a term means. After showing your loved one how to do something, give them a chance to ask any questions. Then get them to have a go themselves. Patience is key – both on your part and theirs!
Sometimes, older people avoid using the internet because they’re worried about security. While it’s definitely wise to be cautious, this shouldn’t be a barrier to internet usage. A good way to resolve these worries is to help your loved one choose some antivirus software. This will help protect them from viruses and other internet threats. Like all good things, the internet comes with a few risks. Therefore, everyone should take care when sharing information online. There are plenty of free guides to help you stay safe online. Some simple tips include:
- Install antivirus software on all your devices.
- Never leave your device unattended.
- Back up your data regularly on an external hard drive or secure cloud service.
- Never share your passwords
- When choosing a password, be sure to include a mixture of numbers, letters and special characters. Make it hard to guess.
The internet has a truly huge range of websites. It will allow your loved one to shop for anything and have it delivered directly to their door in just a few clicks. Online shopping is one of the biggest benefits of internet usage for elderly people. Lots of older people might struggle to get their shopping home from the supermarket, especially if they’re reliant on public transport. From mobility and transport issues to cold winter weather, there are plenty of challenges when it comes to shopping in person. Internet shopping could help your loved one stay independent and happy at home.
Ordering food online is simple and easy. In most cases, you’ll be able to get a delivery within a few days of ordering (some even deliver on the same day). All your loved one would have to do is put the shopping away once it’s arrived!
Their favourite clothes shop likely has an online store too. Show them how to browse online shopping websites and search for clothes or shoes in their size, for example. They’ll be able to order pretty much everything they need online.
The internet is an incredibly useful tool for staying in touch with friends and family. There are several social media sites that your older parent might enjoy. Facebook is the most popular social media platform in the UK, so that would be a good place to start. You might also want to consider Twitter and Instagram. Help your loved one set up a profile using their email address. From there, they can connect with family and friends around the world. Go through the privacy settings with them and make sure they’re happy with their setup.
It Won’t Break
Some elderly people might worry about the risk of breaking an expensive smartphone or computer. Be sure to show your loved one just how robust some devices can be! If you’re purchasing a tablet or smartphone for an elderly parent, make sure to choose a sturdy, shock-absorbing case.
It’s Okay to Ask for Help
Finally, remember that your elderly parent or loved one may not want to ask for help if they get stuck. Having a younger teacher in a completely new environment can be difficult. Some older people may not want to ask for help, as they worry that they should know how to do it, and don’t want to be a nuisance. Show your loved one how to use a search engine to try and find the answers themselves, but also encourage them to ask you for help if they need it! After all, we were all beginners once!
The Careline Service
We all want to feel safe and independent in our homes. Older people are no exception. A Careline personal alarm can provide reassurance and peace of mind to the whole family. With a Careline alarm, the user can call for assistance quickly in the event of a fall or medical emergency, no matter the time of day or night. Our 24-hour Care Team are always on hand to help. To find out more, read our guide to the alarm service here or get in touch today.
Note: we updated this article on 10/12/20 to include up-to-date information.
It was originally published 29/08/18.