Name Stories
GRAY MATTERS: Small Miracles

Elders' Technology

Many young people believe elders are technology challenged and indeed, a larger percentage of old people do not use computers and the internet than do young folks.

One reason is that many elders retired before computers were ubiquitous in the workplace and so were forced to learn on their own. Some succeeded, maybe with help from adult children or young grandchildren. Others never tried. But our numbers are increasing.

The Pew Internet and American Life Project released its annual Generations report this week. It shows that although 58 percent of people age 65 to 73 use the internet, only 30 percent of those 74 and older do so. Actually, I think those are pretty good percentages given the challenges novices face.

The survey reports that the number one reason for not using the internet (among all age groups) is “just not interested” - 31 percent. The fourth ranked reason is “too difficult” (9 percent). Although the study doesn't break down that result by age, I suspect they both are concentrated in elder age groups.

Yesterday, Stone Bridges became the latest blogger to join TGB's Where Elders Blog feature admitting to being a bit of a technophobe while noting the 1980's telephone next to the computer. It's a fun anomaly.

By definition, anyone who reads this blog uses a computer and the internet. But I wondered, as I read the note from Stone yesterday and the Pew study, how “techie” we are. To check on myself, I took an inventory of my modern technology usage:

Laptop computer
Netbook computer
Smart phone with Blutooth earpiece
Digital camera
Kindle Wi-Fi

Those are the major pieces of hardware. I don't consider a modem, router, external hard drive for backups and printer particularly techie as once they are set up, they just toot along without too much need to understand them.

If you don't count a recent difficulty connecting the Kindle to my wi-fi, I understand most of the computing processes that can occasionally cause problems and I don't have much trouble fixing them when necessary.

It's pretty amazing what we've learned, I think, when you recall that the most complex technology we used as kids were dial telephones and radio knobs.

What technology do you use and how comfortable or proficient are you with it?

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, D. Sugar: From Coney Island to Madison Square Garden, Ruby Kessler


I use:

desktop computer
Mac laptop computer
2 digital cameras
Computer telephone with C.C.

Hint for younger people; give your elder a computer and a series of lessons. It will change their lives.

I suppose the computer, digital camera and a cheap-ass cell phone are about it for me.

If you recall Ronni, I seem to have a problem being able to tell the difference between the TV remote control and my hand-held telephone. I just have to try and remember that if there is no dial tone – it is probably not a telephone! :)

I'm one of the 30 percent over 73. I consider myself a techie, since I trained people to use computer programs in my last job, in the nineties, and keep up with all the latest junk, but, ironically, I am tethered to an eighties phone to do my pacemaker phone checks. That's not me being anachronistic. The pacemaker people ought to get on the ball. Some day there won't be any of those phones around.

Yesterday, old technology...names, today the new....electronics. Yes, GPS, and how I love it, 5 computers and two a company laptop. 3 digital cameras, he has a smart phone, I have a cell, printer, scanners, but no Kindle. Someday.

Plain cell phone on cheapie plan, great digital camera, and a desktop pc. Like Ruthe I trained people to use computers before and after I retired. Also have a land line that is often the only thing working when we get our big wind storms and/or the power goes out. Losing my edge but can usually fix what ever happens to go wrong.

More Nature, less machines--that's the world I want, but I use a desktop MAC, take part in webinars, and have a digital to read books on paper, have managed to sidestep the cell phone so far.

My mother was an early adopter, back in the late '60s(!) she was training bank tellers to use computers. She retired in the mid '80s and I think got her first personal computer shortly after. She loved email, but some of her correspondents didn't have computers so she would fax them. She had a car phone, the precursor to the cellphone, but didn't live long enough to get into modern cell phones. I'm sure she would have.

My mother was great at cracking computer security, she got a promotion based on showing her superiors how she could use the computer in her office to embezzle millions of dollars. When my sister and I worked at competing banks we were grilled at the dinner table about computer procedures at our respective banks, she was convinced their security was inferior to her bank's. I lived in constant fear of losing my job thanks to her.

I got involved with mainframes in the late 60s just as computers were coming into use. I rode that bus to retirement in 2001. I still have a few of the cards that were fed into the sorters at the beginning. It was a great ride. I loved it and grew with it as the technology grew. I still love it and volunteer for a couple of non-profits doing what I did at retirement. Database technology. Love the challenge of keeping up and find great satisfaction at helping people see how the technology can help them. I have a desktop at home and use it daily. I have resisted the cell phone since it seems more trouble than it is worth to me, but I think I will have to give in soon. I have a digital camera that I love and am working on upgrading to a more advanced one. I do have a home fax which was very useful when I acted as a dispatcher for my daughter's trucking company. That about does it although I am open to new items as they come along. My husband on the other hand, doesn't even know how to turn the computer on nor does he have any interest in spite of my pointing out that he might enjoy the games. At least that way there is no argument about who uses the computer.

I too am a technical person. I started with the mainframe back in the 1960s, learned Basic and then Fortran, and worked my way forward to SPSS and SAS.

I always felt a sense of elation at each new conquest, still do. I worked for AT&T as an economist demographer, and the Census Bureau as a statistician-demographer. Both entities that were into computing big time. The head of the Census Bureau invented the Hollerith card, and later founded Big Blue. The Census files are very big and I learned how to manipultate them and spin out information like a pro.

Learning how to use a laptop, digital camera, and the like were also big challenges.

I began with the clunky computers AT&T had back in the 1960s and 1970s and went forward from there.

Ronni,thank you for welcoming me into your web world. If you look closely at my computer station, you'll see I also rely on other relics such as paper books, paper photos and -- gasp! -- pens and pencils.

But before everyone consigns me to the recycling bin, let me assure you I also have a kindle, digital camera, satellite radio and cellphone. My kids are trying to shame me into getting a GPS. But I as I admit on my blog I still prefer the old-fashioned map, which I maintain is older but better technology.

I learned all that I know from my son who is a contract computer geek. I get all his old equipment and lessons on how to use the new (for me) stuff. I am fortunate for this arrangement. I am not a cell user or GPS user. I really don't particularly like machines or many modern day conveniences. But I refuse to give up my computer. -- barbara

Excellent responses here, just great. In 1983 my friend showed me this upright box with a litle screen and a wire coming out of it and a much smaller box at the end of it. He did a full demo of the first Macintosh with just the mouse. I've used them exclusively since.

Today I use the Intel iMac desktop, TracFone, my composing/editing/recording devices/software and a custom-wired Stratocaster (is that technology? Probably, huh)

I acquired and ditched the SideKick smartphone 3 years ago when I worked in the Deaf community.

No TV technology of any kind.

No TV.

My first experience with computers was Junior College learning Fortran and I took a long time to average the temperatures in a month.

Hated it.

I find that as everything advances and "improves," I reject it for what I know and trust. I will use Apple's Tiger software until it stops working, because I learned all my Mac stuff before most of it was introduced. I used Google's videochat feature, but not Chrome because it's too advanced for my system.

I don't care :-)

Thanks again for this post and the responses.

I am a shameless promoter of the iPad! I bought it chiefly as an eReader but ended up using it for everything else. It's a boon for travel and the Maps feature on it is better than my Garmin. It shows your car as a little flashing circle approaching your destination and the screen is HUGE and easy for these cataract-surgeried eyes to see.

IBM mainframes - Commodore Portable - Mac Classic, iBook, MacBook 4.1 (now).
1st Cell phone in '98 now on my 3rd Blackberry. 1st digital camera was a bad Kodak in '01, now it's a Canon "Power Shot"
From mimeo to wireless printer. It's all been a very cool trip

I'm 75, heading like a bat out of hell for 76. Bought my first computer in the late 1990's because I wanted to know what was behind the .com. Had never even touched a computer, thought it might be interesting to learn.
It was, it is.
This is my fourth computer, printer, scanner, etc. Two or three cell phones round out my 'new age' equipment.
No camera, gave my SLR and all the lens - quite a few - to the kids. Just keep a drugstore camera on hand in case I forget to charge cell phone.

Desk top - 2 monitors
Lap top
2 digital cameras
2 printers
cheap mobile phone (cell to you I think!)

Also still got a Commodore Amiga boxed up somewhere and lots of Amiga disks

What I would love is something about the size of a kindle that rolls up phone, camera, e-reader and pda in one. The iPhone screen is just a bit too small and the iPad too large.

iMac desktop
2 laptops (one Apple, one PC)
Roku streaming video player
Logitech internet radio player
Wii gaming system (does that count?)
Just ordered a Kindle

I feel very comfortable with hardware, no problem making the connections, setting up, etc. What does give me trouble, for some reason, is learning new software.

Two Mac laptops.
One PC desk computer--hasn't been turned on for at least three years, but the Hewlet-Packard light and dark grey goes so nicely with the Two Grey Hills Navajo rug hanging above it. It's part of the decor!
No GPS--prefer/trust maps more.
My only phone is an old and very basic cell phone ($25/month) which I keep turned off except when I need to make a call.
A Kindle. Just ordered an IPod to help motivate me to exercise.
No TV. Everything is Netflix or iTunes.
I love being able to find out anything with an online search. I suppose I am technical. (I can do a lot of things with DNA. And I know quite a few software programs.) But, I don't feel like a techie and new stuff always creates some anxiety.
The real problem with some of the new gadgets is that contracts/and upgrades can add a lot to the monthly budget.

I'm not a techie but 28 years of marriage to one taught me a lot. I have been online for -- my stars and garters! -- for about 23 years!!!!

I'm not into a lot of gadgets but I have more than I need probably.

I do most of my own maintenance and surprise friends (younger) by telling/showing them how to fix things and where to find help.

One PC desk computer.
Mac laptop.
Net book with downloaded Nook app(free). I like it well enough I took the Kindle off my Christmas list. Good for reading free google books too.
Digital camera.
Garmin GPS which is great when we remember to use it. lol
Cell phones which have been very, very helpful more than one time in our family.
Satelite TV with one of those automatic recording programs when the children who live out of state call in the middle of our favorite TV program.
Fortunately two teen aged grandchildren who live near by and a neighbor whose day job is head of college tech/computer/media equipment.
I first got a computer because I didn't want the grandchildren to think I was a dinosaur. Figured if I could not use one it would be the same as my MIL (1898-1985) not driving a car.

I remember, back in the early '60s, working in the accounting dept at a Navy base, walking through a roomful, rows and rows, of keypunch machines, and then into a huge room filled with massive, thundering machines processing the data from those keypunched cards. The whole scenario, then, was as remote to my needs and interests as becoming a race car driver or a basketball player.

Then, in 1984, I bought my first computer--the original Mac, beige plastic and a little bigger than a shoebox. I laugh now when I remember how primitive it was, but then everything it could do evoked gasps of awe from me! I went online in '93 and never looked back.

I firmly believe the Internet has given me eternal youth.

I am so impressed with your geekiness, Ronnie!

I was one of the last people I know who got a microwave oven/expensive popcorn machine, so I'm relatively easy to impress.

They'll have to pry my cold, dead fingers from around a real, bound book; did it take you long to adapt to your Kindle?

Now that I start naming them, I'm surprised since I once considered myself a technophobe. But: iMac desktop, iPod, cell phone, digital camera, Kindle (soon to go to my husband) because for Christmas- an iPad! Just about daily email, facebook and a romp through the blogoshere since I have one of those, too. I feel like my life is expanded by these devices. My world is bigger.

Mac laptop
digital camera

That's it. I think often of getting a cell phone but don't really need it. I very much enjoy searching for things on the internet, writing and reading blogs, and doing a great deal of work processing on my Mac. Maybe some day I'll start to use Skype.

My own lifestyle is quiet, I don't need a GPS and find Kindles and such horrifying. I've never been a gadget person -- well, I have had a microwave a long time, does that count?

PS - I haven't had a TV since before cable, 1989. No, I don't ride a horse or even a bike but I like the idea.

15 years ago I told my stepson no way I wanted a computer--and e-mail? Why not write a letter or call. Since then I do most of my purchases on-line and even found my mate on line.

Today have a cell phone, 2 digital cameras, desktop computer with large monitor hookup, scanner, 2 printers, I-phone, I-pod touch (only for Facetime so I an see my grandkids and vice-versa). I am using my husband's Kindle 'cause he downloaded a book I'm interested in, but I'm not at all sold on it. I can't flip pages back to check anything, can't look forward to see how many more pages, and I have so many books unread I can't see using anything other than real books for a long time to come. I wouldn't have all this were it not for my computer keep spouse!

I meant computer GEEK spouse! And yeah, I'm keeping him too!

I'm married to an original techie--although he admits that one person can't know (almost) everything about computers, as was the case back in the day. Over 20 years ago he urged me (a dyed-in-the-wool NON-techie) to learn how to operate a computer. He said I'd need that skill for work. He was absolutely right. I've worked for the same nonprofit for 35 years, but I'd have long since been toast without basic computer skills.

Although I'm still no techie, I currently have a desktop and a new laptop (courtesy of my agency) that I'm learning to use. I have a cellphone, although it's pretty much for family/emergency use. We have a copier/scanner, a digital camera and a GPS.
As far as how all these things actually work, I'm not much of a fixer. I try to solve problems when they come up, but if I can't fix whatever's wrong in a reasonable length of time, I won't hesitate to call for help.

Although I use Facebook and Twitter, I prefer email--it seems easier and more direct, but I'm sure young people disagree. I do think a lot of productive time is lost when computers, etc. don't work like they're supposed to. Younger people are at a total loss when the system goes down. Many have no clue how to keep things going with old-fashioned tools like pen and paper.

Started with computers at work in the early 60's bought Apple II+ in 1980 and kept going. I have two laptops, iMac and PC desktop, 3 digital cameras, scope to attach camera to for digiscoping, iPhone, Satellite TV, had a GPS but prefer the mapping program on the iPhone. Set up my wireless network, just bought an HDTV with wireless capacity. Basically learned how to do something on the computer when I wanted to use the capacity so my knowledge is spotty. My son is a computer engineer so he keeps me up to date.

In 1980 I took a one-day Introduction to Computers class. Couldn’t wait to get my hands on a computer, which finally arrived at my workplace.

An Apple IIe was the first computer I owned, in 1985, with which I earned some money printing mailing labels for an art gallery. Next computer was an Epson Equity I+ with a whopping 20-megabyte hard drive!

More computers brought me to the present.

My current hardware:

• Desktop computer, Windows 7
• Notebook computer, Windows 7
• Wacom graphics tablet
• Scanner
• iPod
• 5 digital cameras (1 DSLR, 4 point-and-shoot)
• Cell phone (5 years old, used mostly for texting)

Gone gear:
• Palm (became obsolete, died)
• Had first-generation Sony Reader (sold due to incompatibility with Win7, haven’t replaced it yet)
• No TV for a while now (seldom miss it)

My favorite software: Adobe Photoshop, Acrobat and InDesign; Corel Painter; BreezeBrowser Pro (for viewing my photos).

My favorite website for photographers: Nikonians (primarly for Nikon owners; excellent, friendly forums and advice).

I have a website and blog (seldom updated).

I enjoy creating greeting cards using my photos, photo-art and sketches.

Shop and bank online.

Am pretty good at troubleshooting computer problems.

Would love to have tons more camera and other electronic gear but have to rein in those impulses and eagle-eye those dollars now, which are flying out faster than they’re coming in. Learning to live with less!

We have a lap top, GPS, PC, 2 cell phones, 1 Kindle, 2 iTouches (and I am lusting after an iPad), two digital cameras. We have several techie problems - keeping track of all the passwords (we now have a little black book full of them and boy to I howel when we fail to write down a password!), and keeping track of the various gadgets and gizmos that charge, amplify, connect for uploading and downloading, etc)

Present: Laptop, PC, wireless printer, cell phone, digital camera, GPS. (I have an IPod I don't yet use because I'm a bit averse to figuring it all out) Past: Shortwave and VHS radios when living on cruising sailboat. My husband depends on me to "fix" his computer when he gets it all bolluxed up. I can usually solve his and my problems w/out resorting to Geeks.

The computer phobia suffered by my brother reminds me of how long it took our mother to warm up to the microwave oven.

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