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South Texas Living


Help for tech-shy seniors




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Jim Miller
The Savvy Senior
April 19, 2011 | 1,992 views | Post a comment

Dear Savvy Senior,

What resources can you recommend to help seniors learn how to use technology devices? I am particularly interested 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 cell phone and computer technologies. Here are several tips and resources that can help you get started.



Hands-on help

One of the best places seniors can turn to for help using their cell phone 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 your Area Agency on Aging (call 800-677-1116 to get your local number) or your public library.

Also check out SeniorNet (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 called “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. To get a free copy, call 800-677-1116 or you can read it online at www.eldercare.gov.

There are also how-to books that are very helpful. The “For Dummies” books (see dummies.com), for example, 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 book stores nationwide.

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



Senior-friendly technology

Senior-friendly cell phones like the Jitterbug J (jitterbug.com, 800-733-6632), Doro phones sold through Consumer Cellular’s (consumercellular.com, 888-345-5509), and Just 5 (just5.com, 800-709-0509) are all easy to see, hear and operate, and they all have texting capabilities.

For computers, Hewlett-Packard’s SeniorPCs (enablemart.com, 888-640-1999), the Go Computer (thegocomputer.com, 877-671-5846) and KiwiPC (kiwipc.com) are three options.



Simpler options

If you find that the technology is too confusing, there are other products and services that can help you stay connected to your younger tech-using family members. PostEgram (postegram.com) is 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 (mycelery.com; 866-692-3537) or Presto (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 run around $100.

Jim Miller is a contributor to the NBC “Today” show and author of The Savvy Senior book. Send your senior questions to: Savvy Senior, P.O. Box 5443, Norman, OK 73070, or visit http://SavvySenior.org.
 

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