New services and smart technology are introduced constantly. Life expectancy is also still increasing, so senior citizens will continue to have plenty to learn.
With advancing years, even a small change in a digital service may seem like a big one. An updated operating system may be beyond a senior user.
“If some button is moved or it looks different, to senior citizens the situation is quite different from that perceived by younger users. They feel they no longer know how to use the familiar service. This should be borne in mind by service designers – so no changes just for the sake of it. Ageing users are plagued by one fear above all else – if I make a mistake, what happens then, will something get broken?” Liisa Tiainen reminds us.
Tiainen heads the SeniorSurf scheme of the Central Union for the Welfare of the Aged, which coordinates national internet help for the elderly, provided by volunteers. The aim of SeniorSurf is to ensure that the ageing population can cope in the increasingly digital world.
“Seniors are interested in the very basics, such as searching for information. Or how email is used. Public services often require that files are attached to an email, and this is another skill not everybody has,” Tiainen says.
SeniorSurf is led by user’s needs
“If you’ve acquired a new phone, for example, you need to learn how to use it. Another clear area is using services, such as Facebook. Many people need a lot of help to get started. Official services, My Kanta Pages and online banks also fall in this category – one needs to use them, but an older person does not necessarily know how without outside assistance.”
Ageing users are fairly satisfied with the Kanta service.
“We have had a few requests for a larger font and clear buttons for enlarging the text. The helpers would also like a demo version of Kanta, so that they can walk through the functions without anyone’s personal information,” says Liisa Tiainen.
Good digital services make seniors’ lives easier, too
A digital service is not bound to a time or place and can be used anywhere with an internet connection. But Liisa Tiainen is also aware of problems.
“Not everyone is able to get the equipment and connection, let alone have the know-how. The technology also goes out of date quickly,” Tiainen sums up the challenges facing ageing users.
No help desk for pensioners
People often think that the recently retired are well placed for using digital services.
“But even new pensioners don’t know everything, especially if they didn’t have to use digital services at work. The workplace also often had support staff or a help desk. When you retire, this luxury is no longer available,” Tiainen says.
“Nevertheless, I see the digital future as a bright one for the elderly. Operating environments are becoming easier, but yet there should be another way to take care of your affairs as well as the digital services,” Liisa Tiainen believes.
Information on free internet help organised in Finland on the SeniorSurf website.