Technophobia: Older Adults Fear of Using New Technology

Have you ever heard of Technophobia? No, it’s not fear of electronic dance music. It’s very real and is defined by National Council on Aging as, “an overwhelming fear of new technology.

Overwhelming Fear of Technology

Older adults are especially prone to technophobia since they grew up without 21st-century innovations like cell phones, email, and the internet. This fear goes beyond a reluctance to learn new technologies.”

Consider: Do any situations below fill you with dread and anxiety?

  • Zoom Calls
  • Scheduling appointments online
  • Getting a new cell phone
  • Using your bank or other business institution’s new app
  • Trying to figure out the newest tech method your kids or grandkids want to use to connect with you

These are all examples of technophobia. And if you experience any of these, you’re not alone. Being afraid of new technology is nothing to be embarrassed about—-studies have shown that as many as one in three older adults feel fear and anxiety around technology.

Technophobia is an understandable fear, as well. Learning a new technology can quickly become confusing. And things that are confusing can easily become overwhelming and stressful. Many older adults who find themselves facing the need to learn a new technology either for work, day-to-day life chores, or staying in touch with friends and family often are tempted to throw in the towel.

Older adult woman sitting at the computer

Avoiding the use of technology can lead to health concerns and isolation.

However, while your frustration is understandable, and you shouldn’t feel shame about your technophobia, you should take it seriously. The anxiety around your fear can lead to serious health issues and even impede your ability to work efficiently.

Moreover, older adults who allow their fear of computers or cell phones to prevent them from learning new technologies that allow them to connect with friends and family can easily experience feelings of isolation and loneliness, which seriously impedes their quality of life. This isolationism can also prevent them from taking steps toward a healthy lifestyle, like making doctor appointments or picking up prescriptions.

For all these reasons, it’s important to understand and address your technophobia before it affects your lifestyle.

To understand your technology fears, it’s helpful to identify where the stress begins: is it the thought of learning the new technology itself that is scary? Or is it more along the lines of worrying about what will happen if you don’t grasp this new technology?

Older adult using a computer to pay bills

Tools to Conquer Your Fears

If you are more anxious about learning the new technology itself, consider these three helpful tools to conquer your fear of technology:

  1. It’s helpful to make a list of small steps you can take toward your goal of understanding your computer, smartphone, or another new tech you are learning. If you’re not sure where to even start, don’t be embarrassed to ask your children, grandchildren, or a close friend! Additionally, many senior centers and libraries offer classes that help seniors learn how to use new technology.
  2. Keep it simple. Don’t feel like you need to learn every new technological gadget that comes on the market, or download every app that’s out there to make life “simpler.” It’s okay to be selective, and only choose the devices or apps that will truly make your life easier once you’ve mastered your new technology.
  3. Many people say that the root of the fear of technology is getting scammed or having their identity stolen online. This is a very legitimate fear! Luckily, there are many things you can do to protect yourself from scams and identity theft. Many identity theft protection services and financial institutions provide free checklists and webinars, and talking regularly with friends and family about best practices can help you feel more confident. (Our favorite advice? Never respond to urgency. Places like the bank, IRS, or other institutions never call for personal information and never demand something immediately—they’re far too bureaucratic! You’ll always have time to hang up, ask for a second opinion from a trusted friend, and call back if needed if it is truly legitimate.)

father and older adult dad using iPad togetherYou’re Not Alone

If you are more anxious about learning the new technology itself, and what will happen to you if you don’t learn it, just remember that you’re not alone and that this fear is not anything new. People have been skeptical of technological advancements since the printing press—maybe even before that! You are not alone in your discomfort, and there are so many resources and people just waiting for you to turn to them.

The National Council for Aging and the Senior Community Service Employment Program are two excellent examples of organizations that have come together to help people just like you. And don’t hesitate to seek professional help, especially around your anxiety. A counselor can help you process your fears and point you to further resources in your community.

Finally, consider looking at your local senior living communities. Good senior living communities go out of their way to provide excellent services for the aging members of their community, and sometimes even offer public events to help educate and support seniors in their cities. For example, at Morningside, we offer (workshops to educate and equip our seniors so they can navigate new technologies???).

If you’d like to know more about how we help our seniors navigate Technophobia and the many other challenges of aging well, schedule a tour now at Morningside. We can’t wait to show you around!