Surviving the Ups and Downs of Technology


Cary Sweeney
August 2022

Several times this week, I encountered challenges with technology that were frustrating though I didn’t get upset. When trying to figure out a new parking app I drove around to three parking lots with no success, I finally asked a young man getting out of his car who helped me. It turned out that the parking app wasn’t working and he helped me figure out a work around. In other instances, I trudged through a non-intuitive website, a confusing e-invitation, and a seemingly non-functioning payment app. 

I keep thinking of all the steps I took along the way - some natural and some lucky- to accomplish each task.  I understand in many of these instances it would have been very challenging for some of the retirees we serve to navigate. The Retirement Center often gets calls from retirees who are frustrated with their technology they encounter. In many cases it’s due to websites with poor design, not intuitive or simply not working.  I wanted to share a reflection that might be helpful to readers, along with some links to resources. 

This week as I was navigating these tech issues, I had some things working in my favor.  I’ve been using a computer since I was a teenager; my father was an early adopter of Apple computers; I started using email and the internet in my late teens/20’s at college; a smartphone in my late 20s/30s. My first job out of college was teaching the community how to search safely for health care information on the internet. I consider myself curious and enjoy “figuring it out.” When a new app or gadget comes out I try to find out more about it. All together, I feel pretty comfortable using technology.  I consider myself a “digital native” or someone who grew up during the age of digital technology and therefore familiar with computers and the internet from an early age.

While growing up with computers from an early age can make it easier to adapt to new technologies, it doesn’t mean someone who didn’t grow up with it can’t develop skills to increase their comfort levels.  This is easier said for the things we’re motivated to do, like join friends via zoom. Who would have thought we’d be zooming and facetime as much as we do now before the pandemic? Though we may be less motivated by that new parking app required. How nice would it be to have a parking attendant there to take our money? Though times change.  Either way, whether you’re motivated by something that is fun or because systems have changed, it’s possible to increase your comfort levels with these new discoveries. The following are some thoughts when technology is giving us challenges.

Surviving the ups and downs of technology: 

  • Lower your expectations -   Most of the time when I’m working with new technologies (or old ones), I have reasonable expectations about whether or not something is going to work;  When possible, I build in time for when it doesn’t work. 

  • Improve your knowledge -  Adopting a goal of improving computer knowledge can help build confidence and lower instances of frustration; it can be helpful in seeing a frustration as more of a challenge and less of a setback. I’ve included links at the end of the article to some of my favorite providers of technology education. 

  • Give yourself time -  allow for tech challenges to interrupt your plans and expectations. 

  • Identity is central -  See yourself as powerful and creative.  The way we see ourselves drives how we see what is possible and appropriate for us. 

  • Recognize sometimes there’s a better tool for the solution - it can be difficult to navigate the internet on a smartphone; an website may not be optimized for the smartphone, the font is too small, not all the same features are available on the phone for a particular website or our fingertips may not always activate things when touching the screen; it may make more sense to access something from your desktop or tablet vs. the phone. 

  • Walk away from it and come back -  In one case this week, I was at a loss of how to make the payment app work; I ended up actually closing the app and coming back to it the next day and guess what? It worked. 

These are just a few things that can help. And remember, most instances with technology can be trial and error even for those of us who are most comfortable with these tools. 

Helpful resources

Free tech trainings aimed at non-native computer user

Tech-enhanced Life
Comprehensive summaries of choosing different technologies 

Cyber Seniors
One-on-one training

Helping Mouse
One-on-one training and support

Calming computer jitters: Help for the elderly who aren’t tech-savvy
Judith Graham, Kaiser Health News
July 11, 2021

Most libraries offer free computer training and most librarians are available to help you navigate a complex website or task on the internet. When my 98 year neighbor became legally blind, and had difficulty hearing, she would take the bus to the library to ask the librarian help her access her email. 

Publication date: 
July 31, 2022
Publication type: 
Journal Article