57% of Americans Are Dreading Tech Gifts for Lack of Know-How — Here Are Some Worthy Substitutes

Senior woman with phone looking frustrated.
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If you have a Luddite on your holiday gift list, or even someone with only average tech skills, you might want to think twice about giving them a high-tech gift. More than half of Americans who expect to set up new tech devices “dread” doing so, according to a new survey from expert platform JustAnswer.

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The survey — conducted in two parts in November and released on Dec. 14 — found that more than one in three respondents (36%) have received a holiday gift they have never used because it was too complicated to set up or use. Of those who expect to get a high-tech gift this year, 57% dread the thought of setting it up.

Each of the surveys polled about 1,200 adults and included baby boomers, Gen Xers, millennials and Gen Zers. Even though younger folks have a reputation for being more tech-savvy than older ones, high percentages of millennials and GenZ — 47% and 41% respectively — said they received gifts they didn’t use because they were too complicated to set up or use. The challenge is even greater for seniors not raised on high-tech devices.

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“When choosing tech gifts, it’s essential to remember that what seems like an easy device to set up or use personally might be more challenging for Grandma, Grandpa, or that friend or family member who struggles with their smartphone,” JustAnswer tech expert Dustin Sandlin said in a statement shared with GOBankingRates.

So, what tech gifts should you avoid giving older people and the tech-unsavvy? Cris Angulo, another JustAnswer tech expert, said some of the most complicated gifts seniors receive are Android phones, Alexa or Google Assistant, and streaming devices such as the Fire Stick or Roku.

“These devices require some setup which most seniors have never really done before,” Angulo told GOBankingRates. “Switching from an iPhone to an Android can be difficult and a learning curve many need guidance with. Streaming devices require you set up the account, know your Wi-Fi and then figure out what apps to download and subscriptions to use.”

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Among the gifts Angulo recommends for low-tech friends and family are the Amazon Kindle, which is “fairly simple” to use and set up, and the iPad or iPhone because of the availability of training sessions at Apple stores.

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A recent report from the Daily Caring website listed the worst expensive tech gifts you can give to seniors, as well as better options. Here’s a rundown of the five worst:

  • The latest smartphone: Many seniors prefer to stick with something simple and/or familiar. Better options are simpler smartphones, flip phones or specialty phones.
  • The latest tablet device: These often come with advanced features that can be complicated to navigate. Better options are low-tech tablets, video-based devices, or devices that mainly focus on photos.
  • Robot vacuum cleaner: These require setup, maintenance and room clearing that can be complicated and inconvenient. Better options are traditional vacuum cleaners or paying for a house cleaning service.
  • Flat screen smart TVs and/or streaming services: Smart TVs can be complicated to set up and operate, while streaming services often provide more choices that many seniors want or need. Better options are simpler TVs they don’t require much tech know-how and DVD players.
  • Smart home appliances: Again, these can be complicated to set up and operate. Better options are low-tech gifts like traditional coffee makers or electric jar openers.

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About the Author

Vance Cariaga is a London-based writer, editor and journalist who previously held staff positions at Investor’s Business Daily, The Charlotte Business Journal and The Charlotte Observer. His work also appeared in Charlotte Magazine, Street & Smith’s Sports Business Journal and Business North Carolina magazine. He holds a B.A. in English from Appalachian State University and studied journalism at the University of South Carolina. His reporting earned awards from the North Carolina Press Association, the Green Eyeshade Awards and AlterNet. In addition to journalism, he has worked in banking, accounting and restaurant management. A native of North Carolina who also writes fiction, Vance’s short story, “Saint Christopher,” placed second in the 2019 Writer’s Digest Short Short Story Competition. Two of his short stories appear in With One Eye on the Cows, an anthology published by Ad Hoc Fiction in 2019. His debut novel, Voodoo Hideaway, was published in 2021 by Atmosphere Press.
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