Anyone who has ever helped an older adult learn to use technology can relate to how difficult that can be, and how important it is to demonstrate patience while providing encouragement along the way. For the CTN staff and volunteer trainers working on the Home Connect program, they have the added challenge of being remote. Not only are they working with learners they don’t know, they can’t sit next to them to provide guidance and encouragement like they can easily do when meeting in person.
The most common Home Connect challenges are the ones we have anticipated, like the learner initially being fearful of the device and worried they may break it either by physically damaging it or by pressing the wrong button. Their lack of confidence is obvious, made even worse by their preexisting notion that they are too old to learn. Although the older adults do well during the session when they work and explore under the watchful eye of their trainer, they are more reluctant to work on any “homework” between sessions. This is especially true following the earlier lessons as they experience problems with passwords and navigating their device to begin the next lesson.
There is an obvious improvement as the sessions progress (also as expected), with the learner gaining confidence and proficiency with unlocking devices and passwords. One learner had the unfortunate experience of being robbed in the past and was worried about her identity and privacy being compromised by the internet. She paid particular attention and asked a lot of questions during this session to help her stay safe.
One of the critical success factors for Home Connect is the use of screen-sharing software by the trainers so they can see what the learners see — a huge advantage that you don’t realize is so important until it’s gone. We have found that the favorite lessons focus on using email, accessing YouTube, managing the camera and photo editing apps, using Google Meet, and the Google Play store.
We want to express our appreciation and our admiration for the staff and volunteer trainers for their commitment and dedication. Your patience and awareness of the older adults’ concerns make their learning that much easier.