How to Get Seniors to Use the Internet

Claris One Connects Family Members with Aging Relatives

Claris One combines the best of a tablet, computer, digital picture frame, mobile phone, and monitoring device rolled into one simple device that is managed remotely.. Claris Healthcare

Picture a life without email, text messaging, photo sharing, or a computer. Some days this would be ideal. Then consider all of the missed interactions with friends and family or the world of information that would suddenly become unavailable if you were never able to go online again. While more and more seniors are embracing the Internet, many are still not. The carrot could be a new technology that helps connects seniors with family members better than Skype or Face Time can.

Recent research shows Internet use reduces the probability of depression in retired older adults by 33 percent. Less than 50 percent of 75-79 year-olds have become Internet users leaving the remaining 50 percent dependent on the telephone for communication with distant loved ones. Conversely, younger generations are using the phone less, creating a communication divide based on one’s ability to adapt to new technology.

It can be challenging to include uninterested seniors in the technology loop by encouraging them to adapt to new trends, but there is more we can do to empower seniors to get online in a manner that is comfortable to them.

Here are a few lessons that we’ve learned in creating Claris OneTM, an easy-to-use communications service that connects family members with aging relatives, while also allowing the family to share the responsibility of caregiving. 

  1. It’s not for you, it’s for me – if you give a computer as a gift, you’re likely to get the response “Oh, I don’t need that”. You’ll have much greater success if you explain that it is easier for you to communicate with them this way. Knowing it will alleviate stress on the entire family, your loved ones will likely be much more receptive to the idea.
  1. One feature at a time – introduce new technology slowly. Present the computer as a device for only one purpose: checking incoming email messages, viewing pre-loaded photos, or receiving video calls.
  2. It’s better to give than to receive – once you’ve introduced email, for example, continue to engage your loved one by sending messages without the expectation of any response. Provide consistent and interesting content (e.g. pictures of the grandkids). It may take over a month before they consistently engage with the new device, but once it becomes part of their daily routine, it will be absolutely indispensable.

    Our unique approach combines intuition and simplicity with technology. Buttons say what they do, and messages, photos, reminders and more are pushed automatically to the device and appear full screen, in large text, with no need to launch applications, or enter passwords.

    We’ve found providing a level of comfort and usability promotes self-confidence, which ultimately allows users to enjoy the benefits of technology, such as engaging with friends and family. We’ve enabled more than 170,000 interactions between family members, and improved the quality of life for countless older seniors.

    About Paul Sharman, co-founder, Claris Healthcare

    Paul began his career with Neoteric Technology after receiving his degree in mechanical engineering from UBC in 2000. At Neoteric, he held a number of key positions from Product Manager to Director of Marketing.

    After Neoteric was acquired by Haemonetics in 2009, Paul took the role of Senior Marketing Manager for Hospital Information Management in Global Marketing which included Go-to-Market Strategy, Strategic Market Research, Customer Management, Product Management, Branding, Sales Process Development and Multi-channel Marketing.

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