Technology Options For Computer-Less Seniors
I recently read an article about some new devices that allow you to send e-mails and pictures to people who don't have a computer. How is this possible? My 73- year-old "technology phobic" grandmother doesn't have a home computer or the ability to use one, but would love to get regular e-mails and pictures from her grandkids. Do you know anything about these products and where can I find them?
There are actually several products on the market that can help seniors join the computer age without a computer. Here's what you should know.
While seniors age 65 and older make up the fastest growing group of computer and Internet users in the U.S., they still lag way behind younger generations. Currently 33 percent of seniors go online, compared to 70 percent of 50- to 64-year-olds, and 82 percent of those ages 30 to 49.
No Computer? No Problem
Looking to reach out electronically to your computer-less grandmother? Take a gander at Celery! This is a unique service that will give your grandmother the ability to actually receive e-mails, pictures and documents, as well as send handwritten letters as e-mails, all without a computer. It uses a color fax/printer connected to a standard phone line instead of a computer, and it's simple to use.
How does it work? Sending an e-mail to a Celery is just like sending one to any other e-mail address (you choose a Celery e-mail when you sign up- for example firstname.lastname@example.org). After you send grandma an e-mail, Celery calls her announcing she has a message being sent, and is automatically printed out on paper. Then to reply, she simply hand writes a letter, putting your name in block print at the top. She then places the letter into her Celery, pushes two buttons and the letter is sent to your e-mail address as an image document. The system use handwritingrecognition software to match your name to an e-mail address stored in her Celery address book. To eliminate spam, Celery delivers messages only from people you allow. The cost for this system is $99 for the fax/printer machine, plus a monthly service fee of about $14 or $140 per year. Visit www.mycelery.com or call 866-692-3537.
Another neat device you should check out is the Presto (www.presto.com, 866- 428-0970). It's similar to the Celery, where your grandma can receive printed e-mails, photos and even newsletters without a computer, but the drawback is it doesn't offer a way to respond, unless you do it the old fashioned way- by telephone. Presto works using a special Hewlett-Packard printer called the Printing Mailbox which costs $150, plus a service fee of $10 per month or $120 per year.
The GrandCare communication system (www.grandcare.com, 262-338-6147) is another unique way to stay connected. This system differs from the Celery and Presto because it lets you send e-mails, pictures, video clips, calendar appointments and more directly to your grandma's home television set, which she can see any time. The only thing she needs to do is turn on her TV, and turn to the GrandCare dedicated channel. This system works off a small computer that connects to her television and the Internet and costs $1,295, plus a $13 monthly service fee. This system differs from Celery and Presto because it lets you send e-mails, pictures, video clips, calendar appointments and more directly to your grandma's home television set, which she can see any time. Simply log on to the GrandCare Web site and e-mail her any time you choose.
If sending pictures is a priority, check out Ceiva (www.ceiva.com or 877-692- 3482). This is a digital picture sharing device that allows you to send pictures from your computer or camera phone directly to a high-tech picture frame that can sit anywhere in your grandmother's home. She can enjoy a slide show of pictures any time, and you can even send a short message along if you choose to. The picture frame uses a standard phone line that silently dials a local number to automatically pick up and display any new photos that were sent that day. The Ceiva starts at $150 plus a $10 monthly subscription fee or $100 per year.
Send your senior questions to: Savvy Senior, P.O. Box 5443, Norman, OK 73070, or visit www.savvysenior.org. Jim Miller is a contributor to "The NBC Today Show" and author of The Savvy Senior books.
The Gazette does not endorse the contents of The Savvy Senior. Check with professionals about the contents of this column.