5 January 2020

What Teaching Digital Skills to the Elderly has Taught me about Curiosity and Motivation

Have you ever been asked by an elderly person for help on how to open the web browser, find an app, log into an email account, or as I was asked;

“what is this google cloud and why does it keep taking away my grandchildren photos?” 

I am supposed to be on a family holiday at the moment. But the millennial in me who is in a “serious relationship” with social media feels compelled to be logged on, and keep up with his social media relationship commitments.

Thinking about how I can make the best out of this, I decided to share my experience from A Global Shaper Munich project called Digital Skills for the Elderly, which I am most proud of, and simultaneously looking forward to the next scheduled event on January 24th, 2020 at the WeWork Office in Munich.

What is Digital Skills for the Elderly?

“Appreciate youthfulness and empathize with elderly people.” ― Lailah Gifty Akita

In October 2019, myself, Kevin, Mehdi and Debie from the Munich Hub of the Global Shapers Community collaborated with LichtBilck to organize our first “Digital Skill for Elderly” workshop in the city of Munich. The project is geared towards digital inclusion and integration of older adults. And working with Wege aus der Einsamkeit eV., we are helping the elderly with basic digital skills, and around topics like how to use basic functions on their smartphone and tablets.

Do you think you are curious? You have not met this group of elderly folks!

“So curiosity, I think, is a really important aspect of staying young or youthful.”— Goldie Hawn

Kevin, Mehdi and Debie from the Munich Hub of the Global Shapers Community collaborated with LichtBilck to organize our first "Digital Skill for Elderly" workshop in the city of Munich

We normally assume that as we grow older, we would no longer have as great a capacity to learn new things, right? But the experience of working with this elderly group has taught me that older people are as eager to learn as most young people, plus, they also have the right motivation about wanting to learn something new. And this experience is not only reshaping my world view but also helping me better appreciate life and approach work differently.

Now reflecting on the last workshop, I am forced to admit that I must have taken advantage of the opportunity to learn a lot more than I could offer them. And this is why I wanted to share two of the essential things the session has done for me:

1. It stretched me greatly and helped me improved alot

I have always craved for more opportunities to improve my German language skills.

What better way could there be to do so than trying to explain what “gifs” are to a senior German citizen in the German language?

And working with the elderly is insightful

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Alongside the array of questions that needs to be answered, they also do have a lot to say. So, one has to become a very patient and an “exceptional” listener as this group of seniors do have many years of great experiences and stories to tell. As someone who “fortunately” likes to listen, I benefited greatly from their insights – what they have seen, felt, encountered and still remember.

2. Made me reflect more on my relationship with social media, my motivation for learning and family commitments

I am by default motivated to acquire new “digital skills”, primarily for professional reasons. I mean, I work in communications and digital marketing, and I have always felt that I needed to be up to date with all the latest communication tools and concept to be efficient and effective on the job.

Google Mail, Slack, Trello, Microsoft Teams, Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and of course, my current favorite LinkedIn.

But for the elderly participants at the workshop, it was more a question of;

“How can I use WhatsApp to send photos to my grandchild? What can I put in an Email to my son?” 

During the session, the primary focus and motivation for them to learn about every digital tool or concept were to enable them to remain connected with their family, friends, and the people they care about. This left a strong impression on me.

“You can do anything you set your mind to” ― Ben Franklin

For many elderly individuals, understanding and using today’s technology is still a challenge which can keep them from reaping the benefits offered by some of the newest tech innovations that come naturally to most of us from the younger generation. But as I have seen, they too can learn these skills, and can also achieve proficiency much quickly because they have a “better” motivation than many younger people like myself. 

I am now taking a page from the book of the elderly. I will begin to think a lot more about my relationship with social media, my motivation for learning and most importantly, family commitments.

And right now, I, unfortunately, must abruptly end this here. I must “log off” and set the dinning table. #Family commitment 101!

What about you?

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