• Teaching senior citizens IT

    There is this frequent question that I received from people.. “What makes you keen to teach the seniors citizens ICT (Information Communication Technology) / IT?”

    I had asked myself the same question too. I don’t have an answer to that myself… what I know is seniors are a very nice bunch of folks to teach.  Seniors who come for our ICT classes are usually really keen to learn. They are typically polite, less demanding, and many a times express gratitude to the trainer teaching, making effort to teach feel really worthwhile.

    In this fast moving digital world, many seniors are forgotten and left behind in the crazy digital movement. They frantically try to catch up but not all are able to jump successfully on the bandwagon.

    Family members can sometimes unconsciously not be very helpful in supporting the seniors in their journey learning IT. Things like making remarks or trying to do everything for the seniors out of good will so that things could be completed much faster, can sometimes make the seniors loose confidence.

    Instead of looking outwards and setting self imposed expectations on the senior citizen students, have empathy, show care and look inwards on how you can make learning easier and more motivating for the senior students.

    Learning IT for the Chinese educated seniors are made more daunting because most app and information are in English. Language barrier couple with IT unfamiliarity make learning IT more scary a task for the seniors. Some seniors self-reproach on their slowness in learning, saying things like “I am old and lousy”. Frequently I need to remind them that everyone has different strength. They might be less savvy in IT but they are more savvy in other things like cooking, sewing etc. which I am totally clueless in. My only best dish is Maggie with egg.

    One of the main purpose of the seniors coming to the class is to learn (and also maybe also to meet their friends… haha..). However, I feel the most important task for the trainer, besides imparting technical skills, is to give them confidence and to make them enjoy learning. An unpleasant experience can result in mental block and thus make future learning IT a more daunting task. I had met student who had mental barrier before coming to class and thus it becomes very difficult for them to open their heart and minds to absorb new knowledge. I am big on the idea of giving encouragement and support without judgement. There is no stupid questions in my class.

    But I must say it can be easier for a trainer in class to teach the seniors than their family members. Isn’t this sometimes the same for children too? 😊

    While teaching the seniors IT, the seniors taught me how to manage life and how to be a better version of myself. Friendship are forged. While many youngsters find senior’s daily “Good morning” and motivational WhatsApp message meaningless and “disturbing”, it is a way for the seniors to show their care and thoughts of you. Their persistent to send a daily message consistently over the years really impressed me. I don’t have any “Good morning message” to send them, maybe only an acknowledgement or a simple good morning text in return, but that does not stop them from sending. Their way of looking at the world make me change my perspective of money, pride and status. I would say I am a very different person from what I started out teaching them 7 years ago.

    Sometimes people say “You need a lot of patience to teach the seniors!” Seniors are not sitting for any academic exams. I would think we must remind ourselves not to post our expectations on our senior learners eg: “This should be the way! I am so clear they SHOULD understand! Why are they not understanding?”

    If the student is not learning, the trainer has to look inward and evaluate if the current teaching style and pace is optimal for the senior students to understand. Instead of looking outwards and setting self imposed expectations on the senior citizen students, have empathy, show care and look inwards on how you can make learning easier and more motivating for the senior students. Everyone learns differently and at a different pace. Didn’t we have our peace of struggle in school before? (ok, I have, I am not sure about you 😊)

    Lastly, for those out there who are interested to teach the seniors, don’t hesitate to start! For all you know, the seniors could change your life more than you would change theirs!

    – Polly Lim, CEO of Simple IT!