Does this sound like anyone you know?
Four months ago, Cindy Sanders, 68, bought a new computer so she could stay in touch with her grandchildren. She wanted to follow them on Facebook and have Zoom chats, to be part of their lives. So where is that computer? It’s still sitting in a box, unopened. “I didn’t know how to set it up or how to get help,” said Sanders, who had been extremely cautious about venturing out during COVID.
Who hasn’t had this experience?
My friend Cheri has a brand new Kindle that she’s never used. She thought it would be great for travel. “It’s still in the box. I have no idea how to set it up or use it.” For seniors who retired and never used computers during their careers, a new computer represents a formidable learning curve. If they don’t have kids or friends who will teach them how to use it, it remains a mystery. And a liability. We’ve learned important lessons from the fires and Covid. We depend on our digital devices to share important messaging and keep us safe. We know that we can run our lives from our phones or our computers.
Older adults: Purchasing more devices, but need help using them
A recent AARP survey found that older adults increased technology purchases during the pandemic but more than half (54%) said they needed a better grasp of the devices they’d acquired. Nearly 4 in 10 people (37%) admitted they weren’t confident about using these technologies.
Happily, there are some wonderful resources that help seniors learn to use their electronic devices.
- Generations on Line: Service dramatically increased during the pandemic. Before the pandemic, Generations on Line provided free in-person training sessions at senior centers, public housing complexes, libraries and retirement centers. When those programs shut down, it created an online curriculum for smartphones and tablets and new tutorials on Zoom to help older adults with technology. All are free and available to people across the country.
- Cyber-Seniors: Grants and nonprofits for technology mentors. This organization pairs older adults with high school or college students who become technology mentors. They’ve trained more than 10,000 seniors since April 2020 — three times the average of the past several years. These services are free and grants and partnerships with government agencies and nonprofit organizations supply funding.
- Phone support for seniors struggling with technology issues. Seniors can call 1-844-217-3057 and be coached over the phone until they’re comfortable pursuing online training. According to Brenda Rusnak, Cyber-Seniors’ managing director, “A lot of organizations are giving out tablets to seniors, which is fantastic, but they don’t even know the basics, and that’s where we come in.”
- digiAGE: Digital training for seniors that started during Covid. Lyla Panichas, 78, who lives in Rhode Island, got an iPad from the digiAGE program. She is getting help from the University of Rhode Island’s Cyber-Seniors program. Lyla got off to a rocky start: “The first time my tutor called me, I mean, the kids rattle things off so fast. I said, Wait a minute. You have a little old lady here. I couldn’t keep up and I ended up crying.” But Lyla didn’t give up. Lyla’s now playing games online, streaming movies and Zooming with her son and sister who live in other states.
- OATS/Older Adults Technology Services: OATS runs a national hotline for people seeking technical support, 1-920-666-1959. It operates Senior Planet technology training centers in six cities (New York; Denver; Rockville, Maryland; Plattsburgh, New York; San Antonio, Texas; and Palo Alto, California). All of its in-person classes converted to digital programming when Covid closed down much of the country.
- Emergency Broadband Benefit for low-income individuals. The current administration’s commitment to infrastructure includes broadband. An immediate priority is educating older adults about the government’s new $3.2 billion program that was funded by a coronavirus relief package and became available last month. That short-term program provides $50 monthly discounts on high-speed internet services and a one-time discount of up to $100 for the purchase of a computer or tablet. A caveat: this benefit isn’t automatic. You must apply to get funding.
- Candoo Tech: In libraries, senior centers and retirement centers. Candoo Tech launched in February 2019 and works with seniors in 32 states as well as libraries, senior centers and retirement centers. For various fees, Candoo Tech provides technology training by phone or virtually.
- GetSetUp helps seniors acclimate to the online environment. It relies on older adults to teach skills to their peers in small, interactive classes. It started in February 2020 with a focus on tech training, realizing that their fear of technology was preventing older adults from utilizing the internet as a communication tool and source of entertainment.
All of these programs have easy-to-navigate websites
I googled each of these organizations and found fully functioning websites that were easy to navigate. Hopefully you can take it from there. I think of my mom, who died when she was 94. We kept trying to get her to use a computer when she was in her 80s, but she insisted that she was too old. Being able to share Facebook posts, send a quick email or text would have gone a long way toward helping us stay connected.
Is it time to update your Living Trust?
One more thing. While you’re updating your skills, this is a very good time to check on your Living Trust. If you created your Trust more than ten years ago, there’s a good chance that it needs to be updated with life events—things like births, deaths and marriages. Make sure you’re taking care of those you love. Our Trust package includes a Power of Attorney and an Advance Healthcare Directive. We guide you through it and we prepare the legal documents. Schedule an appointment today.
Guideway services the entire Bay Area
Berkeley, El Cerrito, Richmond, Pinole, Alameda, San Leandro, Castro Valley Newark, San Lorenzo, Concord, Alamo, Danville, Lafayette, Orinda, Moraga, Pleasant Hill, Martinez, Pittsburg, Antioch, Brentwood, Oakley, Discovery Bay, Pleasanton, San Ramon, Livermore, Tracy and Fremont. Our clients also live in the Napa Valley, Benicia, Vallejo, Martinez, Fairfield.
The information in this article is based on an article in Kaiser Health News.