2011-05-25 / Seniors

Technology Help For Tech-Shy Seniors

Dear Savvy Senior,

What resources can you recommend to help seniors learn how to use technology devices? I am particularly interested [in] learning how to text, e-mail and Facebook, so I can keep up with my grandkids.

Tech-Shy Senior

Dear Tech-Shy,

Keeping in touch with the younger generation these days is a lot easier if you know how to use basic cellphone and computer technologies. Here are several tips and resources that can help you get started.

Hands-On Help

While seniors make up the fastest growing group of Internet and e-mail users in the U.S., they still lag way behind the younger generation. One of the best places seniors can turn to for help using their cellphone or computer is their own grandkids who have grown up with these technologies and are practically experts at operating them. If that’s not an option, ask your friends or other family members who are tech-savvy to help you.

Depending on where you live, you may also be able to get help through your public library, local senior center, schools or community college many of which also offer basic computer and personal technology classes to seniors. To find out what’s available in your community, call the Department for the Aging in your area, 800-677-1116 to get a local number, or go to your public library.

Also check out SeniorNet, www.seniornet.org, 571-203-7100, a national organization that offers a variety of basic online computer courses as well as instructor-led workshops at around 60 learning centers throughout the U.S. A first year membership fee of $40 is required.

How-To Resources

Another nice resource that can help you is Eldercare Locator’s new publication, Staying Connected: Technology Options for Older Adults. This simple six-page guide will take you through the basic facts about how to use tools like Facebook, e-mail and texting, including privacy and safety information. The guide also introduces YouTube, Twitter, Skype, Instant Messaging and blogging, all tools that seniors can use to stay connected. To get a free copy, call 800-677- 1116 or you can read it online at www.eldercare.gov.

There are also a wide variety of howto books you can purchase that are very helpful. The For Dummies book series, www.dummies.com, offer dozens of technology guides for seniors like Computers For Seniors For Dummies, Facebook and Twitter For Seniors For Dummies, Instant Messaging For Dummies and many others. These books can be found in bookstores nationwide or online at sites such as www.amazon.com.

And some great online resources to check out are www.seniorconnects.org, which provides basic computer, Internet and e-mail training materials tailored to seniors that can be viewed online or printed out free. And www.teachparentstech.org, a site created by Google, offers a number of simple videos that explains how to do many computer functions.

Senior-Friendly Technology

Having the right tools can also make technology a little easier. Senior-friendly cellphones like the Jitterbug J, www.jitterbug.com, 800-733-6632, Doro phones sold through Consumer Cellular’s, www.consumercellular.com, 888-345-5509, and Just 5, www.just5.com, 800-709-0509 are all easy to see, hear and operate, and they all have texting capabilities.

For computers, Hewlett-Packard’s Senior PCs, www.enablemart.com, 888- 640-1999, the Go Computer, www.thegocomputer.com, 877-671-5846 and KiwiPC, www.kiwipc.com, are three options developed specifically for older adults.

Simpler Options

If you find that the technology is too confusing, there are other products and services available today that can help you stay connected to your younger techusing family members. One example is PostEgram, www.postegram.com, a service that will turn your family’s Facebook news and photos into stamped letters that you could receive in the mail every week.

Or, consider a Celery, www.mycelery.com, 866-692-3537, or Presto, www.presto.com, 866-428-0970, two companies that turn e-mails into printed faxes almost immediately. All of these services cost under $15 per month, but if you opt for a Celery or Presto you’ll need to purchase a fax machine too, which will cost about $100.

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.

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