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Technology and The Elderly: Its negative impact

Technology is a global resource and has advanced over the years. It has become a part of our daily activities, culture and society. Infact, many of the things we do and have achieved would be impossible without technology. The internet, specifically, has ushered in so many other things. It has made it easier for us to seek information and learn, shop, entertain ourselves and most importantly, communicate with one another. Currently, the young generation find it extremely easy to use mainstream technology especially the modern ones like the internet and social media. They grew up with it and many are being born with it. But the elderly adults and seniors have less experience and might have less interest towards it. Some of the reasons include; It is hard for them to master. They have little to no knowledge of it and as technology is rapidly changing in so many areas, it will be hard for them to keep up. As they are now older, their priorities are different and would focus more on living a comfortable and peaceful life. 

This could directly impact their interest or hobbies as they would prefer to engage in more simple activities like book reading or listening, bingo or yoga, unlike gaming online, going to the cinemas and even going to playrooms and centers for entertainment. Another reason is also their health and mobility. As elders, their health and strength naturally decline so they might have issues like poor eyesight, assisted walking/hearing or using a wheelchair unlike young adults and teens that still have strong bones and are extremely agile. 

According to an article by lifeline 24, older people are using technology more than before. It mentions “Recent internet use in the 65-74 age group has increased from 52% in 2011 to 83% in 2019, which means older people are closing the generation gap in technology usage. Older people aren’t just using their computers either. They’re branching out into mobile phones and tablets too.” Further below, we will briefly discuss a few negative impacts of technology on the elderly.

Normal adults and teenagers are already at risk from the use of technology. They can suffer from physical health effects like eye strain, back ache, sleeping problems, poor posture and many more. From spending hours glaring into a phone or tablet screen or sitting at a table, being bent towards a computer device, all these pose a higher risk for the elderly that are already battling from some of these health problems. Also, being stuck at a digital screen for too long can prolong reduced physical activity. According to the medical news today website, “More extended use of these technologies promotes a more sedentary lifestyle, which is known to have negative health effects, such as contributing to: obesity, cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes and premature death”. 

Still under health issues, a number of seniors experience a condition called “leathery fingers” where the skin of the hand hardens or tightens and causes the fingers to curl inward and form a claw-like shape. This will cause them to struggle with touch screen devices that are already extremely common in different types of devices. According to an article by No Inclusion, “Accounting for those with leathery fingertips, reduced muscular function and subjective cognitive decline, the total number of people who are likely to experience problems with touchscreen devices is 5.6 million”.

Social media, a very integral part of modern technology and the global society, can lead to issues with mental health and psychological issues. An elder might find themselves constantly comparing themselves to people they see online or be abruptly affected by sad news and

events. The use of social media can also become extremely distracting and this can affect their cognitive abilities and memory. The rapid sound of notifications and the long hours of scrolling can contribute to this. They can forget or ignore their physical activities like walks, reading a book or newspaper to catch up on content online. An online article writes “Seniors often struggle with reduced reactivity, making it harder to keep up with fast-paced technology, e.g. platforms that use notifications. 9 percent of seniors at the age of 75 or over have severe visual impairments, and 18 percent have severe hearing limitations in the EU (Eurostat, 2017).

Another very important risk of using social media and surfing online is that elderly adults can be victims of cyber scam and fraud. Their information can be stolen or hacked. And this could affect them seriously in the long run. Some of these scammers like to target seniors because they think they can be easily frauded. With no one around to constantly make sure they are on safe sites and are well protected online, they could fall victims to these scam systems unknowingly.  

Technology has both positive and negative effects for all the age groups. In today;s society where we all revolve around technology and media, it is important to address all age groups especially the elders who are usually ignored in discussions like this. There are indeed a number of good advantages of technology and this will be discussed in our next blog! Keep an eye out for the next blog where we discuss positive uses and benefits of technology for the elderly,  as well as upper week’s, where we discuss how to effectively use technology in a balanced way as an elder. 

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