Thursday, March 2, 2017

"Is It Any Wonder Our Clients Don't Like Technology?"

We know that there often is a disconnect with the older population when it comes to using digital media and computers. There is a distrust of the technology or an outright fear of it because it is not something they have grown up with and embraced as much as people younger than them.

For instance, many elderly simply have never learned how to use a computer and don't even have one to use. Even if they have purchased one in the thoughts that they would eventually learn how to use it, or if loved ones have purchased one for them, it hasn't made any difference as far as them embracing it.

We have to acknowledge this generational difference and be prepared to work with it in our presentations. Rather than promising to email a proposal, a video clip, or a photo to them, we need to mail it or physically deliver it. 

Whereas we normally might do an assessment and email the results later that day or the next one, we have to be prepared to leave a physical copy of it - in some form - while we are there. The prospect of getting something by email just doesn't work if they have no way for this to happen.

We lose all credibility if we can't meet their terms and deliver a physical product to them in person or by regular mail since this is what they are accustomed to having. Likewise, texting is out of the question because they don't use it or think in these terms.

Since computer and electronic media are not part of what they are comfortable using, we have to relate to them where they are used to communicating - in writing, by telephone, and in-person.

Nevertheless, it's no wonder many of them distrust computers and want no part of them. It's not that they are unaware of their existence and use. It's that they are uncomfortable with them or distrustful of them - many times with good reason.

Even when we call companies, we are met with a virtual operator that commands us to punch various numbers to talk with people that supposedly can help us. Sometimes the calls get dropped or mis-routed, and we need to call back and start over. Frustrating and time-consuming for us. Think how an older person must think about this when they are used to speaking to a real person on the phone.

Then there are the intake robots that ask us for a series of qualifying - and often very personal (social security or birthday information, for instance) - information and then proclaim that they can help solve our problem when they just aren't programmed to be able to do this. Eventually, we can bypass this system and get to a real person - wonder how many people give up in frustration before this point?

How about the ones that are incapable of communicating with us because they can't - or won't - understand what we say? They ask a multiple choice question and can't be interrupted until the question is completed even though we already have responded or pushed a numeric response (1 for the first choice, 2 for the second, and so on). Often they demand that they can't understand our response and we find ourselves trying to argue or be insistent with a digital device.

It really is not surprising that the older generation is distrustful of computers or anything digital and that they have not embraced them - cellphones included. We need to be sensitive to their experiences and mindsets and approach them appropriately.

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Steve HoffackerCAPS, CEAC, SHSS, is a licensed Certified Aging-In-Place Specialist-Instructor and best-selling author of universal design books. To learn about this and other programs for aging-in-place or universal design, visit stevehoffacker.com or call 561-685-5555.