Senior citizen practicing yoga in front of computer with pink yoga mat.

How to Help Seniors in Your Community Understand Virtual Programs (& Technology)

ACTIVE Network
September 3, 2020

Even for those of us well-versed in the latest operating systems and productivity apps, technology can oftentimes be less than straightforward (TikTok anyone?). But for people who aren’t as fluent, or don’t used a computer, smartphone or tablet very often, technology can create a serious barrier to entry despite being designed to make our lives easier.

Especially with the widespread shift to online platforms due to the global pandemic, seniors are one such demographic that are feeling the effects of this reliance on technology. Their day-to-day routines have understandably been flipped upside down, with their in-person meetups and fitness classes moving solely online to protect this vulnerable population.

When it comes to offering virtual programs, this presents a new set of challenges not only for registration but retention as well. As a director, making your class or program for seniors as easy to navigate as possible will maximize their experience and create a more engaged community. Despite being on the “nth” month of self-quarantine, these virtual programs will help boost their quality of life by keeping them less isolated and more connected.

Consider these tips and tricks to make your virtual offerings not so intimidating for seniors.

Initial Setup

Often the hardest part of participating in an online class is the act of setting up (and signing up). Play around with different apps in the space, and figure out which is the most user-friendly and easiest to operate—both on a desktop and on mobile. For example, does your program have a video call component? Play around with Zoom, Google Hangouts, Facebook Messenger, Skype, etc.

Send Hard Copies

Once a senior registers for your program or class, consider sending them a packet of physical step-by-step instructions to their home (you can email them a version, too). This “guide” should have pictures and diagrams of exactly where to click, as well as a list of steps for logging in, finding the schedule and more. Even if you think it’s too simple, it’s probably not (yes, show how to click on an app on the home screen). Technology is very visual and tactile nowadays.  

Enlist Help From Family and Friends

Your senior participants likely have family members, friends or neighbors who are more than capable of handling any technology requirements for your program or event. Lean on these trusted relations by giving them resources on recommended devices (tablet vs. desktop), how to register, frequently asked questions and more. Remind them to be patient, not to share too much at one time and to try to lower the learning curve by dealing with the login and set-up process themselves.

Create Support Groups

Facebook has widely been embraced by the senior community, so creating a private Facebook group for your class or program is an effective way to keep participants engaged and provide them a safe space to ask tech-related questions. It’s not only great for technology help—they’ll be able to connect with likeminded people and discuss the day’s events. Remember, you want them to embrace technology and thrive.

Be Available

This might not work depending on the size of your program, but consider including a phone number that connects the participant with a member of your team if they have any tech-related questions. You probably won’t want to provide your personal cell or home phone, but you can create a Google Voice number for business use. Set time frames when you’re available and ready to answer “where’s this” and “what happened” questions.  

Keep It Simple

This is a great tip for all age groups, but it especially rings true with the senior community. Keep your consumer-facing online platforms simple, clear and organized. Use strong imagery, use as few words as possible, leverage infographics wherever appropriate and keep redirects and necessary clicks to a minimum. Try to streamline the process as much as possible, and create a central hub where they can access anything they might need, from the schedule and supplemental materials to the links for the video call link and private Facebook group.

Set yourself up for success.

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