I finished with a client in Santa Monica and was walking to my car on 5th near Broadway when I heard a voice, “Excuse me, do you know how to do this?”
I turned around and saw a woman holding her credit card, looking befuddled, and pointing at the parking meter. I went over to help.
After we were finished and I was walking away, I thought about the words I had used and the directions I had given her. They were very similar to what I do with my clients working on their computers or phones.
I approached her and said, “It is confusing. Especially when the sun is hitting the glass.” (I acknowledged the issue and expressed that I’ve been there myself.)
I showed her the image of the credit card on the meter and patiently showed her how it corresponded with her card: front side facing up, magnetic strip on the right. (Just last week, I showed a client the face-up image on her document feeder. Lesson: If you stop, breathe, and look, the directions are right in front of you.)
Then came the tricky part: the amount to put on the card and the amount of time it would give her. I heard myself say, “Let’s look at the screen.” (Notice I said “Let’s,” meaning the both of us. I assured her we were in this together.)
I showed her the plus and minus buttons and how to use them to get the right amount of time. She pressed one too fast and it exceeded the time she wanted. I reassured her, “It’s alright; we can go back.” (Again we, not she, and calm, calm, calm.) When we were sure she had enough time, she pushed OK. I heard myself say, “We did it!” (Always finish with positive reinforcement.)
Then, out of my own experience (which has included a $63 parking ticket), I told her she could set her phone alarm to alert her 10 minutes before the meter was up.
You just got a glimpse into one of my tech lessons with an older adult. I balance the instruction with a lot of acknowledgment, patience, reassurance, and positive reinforcement.
If you know someone who needs a little extra TLC learning how to use a tech device, please share my number. I work with PCs, Macs, tablets, and smartphones. And every now and then, a parking meter.