Most young children are familiar with gaming apps and can amaze most adults with their ability to maneuver characters, build Minecraft cities, or catch monsters. But unfortunately, this expertise has not proven useful when it comes to virtual learning. The average elementary school student uses several learning applications during the course of the day, none of which include killing dragons or building cities. They are using Word, Power Point, and various other applications such as Dreambox and Lexia that all require adult assistance and an updated computer. Many older adults have also discovered that computer literacy has become essential for virtual doctors’ appointments, ordering groceries, or interacting with family on social media and Zoom. Some of the challenges they share in common with children include:
- Access to internet and computers – Many older adults and young children do not have computers, or the updated software needed to attend virtual learning or doctors’ appointments.
- Training – Teachers had little time to receive training on the apps used in the schools and children must learn the software as well as the material being taught. Seniors are also challenged with learning how to operate new devices as well as learn to use the various programs that would make life in isolation more tolerable.
- Social interaction – Older adults are accustomed to seeing friends at the library, senior center, or community events and must now learn to use communication platforms such as Zoom or Microsoft Teams to establish some semblance of a social life. School children are also missing out on community events and the cancellation of team sports inhibits their social interactions.
- Assistance – The one thing that’s guaranteed with using any technology is that there will be software glitches and internet outages. Both children and older persons need consistent support to help them through these obstacles.
- Physical limitations – Young children may be adept with a game controller, but most have not learned to type with two hands on the computer keyboard. It is also difficult for mature adults with arthritis or other physical vulnerabilities to use keyboards for any length of time.
Both children and older adults experience many of the same stressors that arise from the need for internet use and learning, and both of these demographic groups should be considered when adopting programs to help those in need.
Check out my next blog on ideas for how to bridge this digital disconnect among children and older adults!
Guest Author Hannah Parker is a social work student intern at Jenerations Health Education, Inc. for the 2020-2021 academic year. She will graduate from Salisbury University this spring and plans to attend graduate school.
FUN FACT: Hannah played basketball from the time she was five years old until her freshman year of college as a point guard. For the last several years she has coached boy’s and girl’s recreational basketball at the elementary and middle school level.