10 Pieces of Technology Seniors Should Embrace

Written By: Guest Contributor - Sep• 17•13


By Sarah Stevensen, aplaceformom.com 

Forget learning how to program the VCR—the technology seniors have their eyes on today includes mobile gadgets, wireless connectivity and digital devices.

Is Grandma going gadget-crazy? Not quite yet. Yes, the number of older adults using the internet and related tech devices is increasing, with over half of seniors using the internet and owning cellphones, according to a 2012 survey by Pew Research. But there’s still a long way to go before we can consider our senior citizens to be fully tech savvy. The fact is, today’s technology can keep seniors engaged, connected, mentally active, and physically safe, making it increasingly important for our loved ones to keep in the high-tech loop. So what devices should seniors and their caregivers have their eye on?

Must-Have Technology for Seniors

  • Tablets and iPads. From games that promote brain fitness to apps that track health information, a tablet can have a variety of positive impacts on seniors’ lives. Seniors can view photos, listen to music, read, learn languages—plus the devices are lightweight, their touch screens are easy to use, and font sizes can be adjusted for easier reading.
  • Hearing aids. Having to wear a bulky listening device is no longer an excuse for older adults to go without hearing aids. The continuing miniaturization of devices and the improvement of wireless transmission methods like Bluetooth has meant great strides in hearing assistive technology. Hearing aids can be tiny, transparent, and nearly invisible—or even implanted inside the ear itself.
  • Video and computer games. Whether it’s World of Warcraft, Angry Birds, or the Nintendo Wii, video games have been shown to improve cognition, mental agility, and even physical health for seniors, with devices such as the Wii Fit. Not only that, video games can promote social interaction.
  • Skype. Speaking of social interaction, one piece of software every senior should get familiar with is Skype. Communicating with family long-distance is a snap, you can view your loved ones in real time, and it’s available for smartphones, tablets, and regular computers.
  • Health tracking software. If your senior loved one has a computer or a mobile device, they should be aware of the wealth of software and apps available to help monitor their health, remind them of medications, and even track their nutritional needs, empowering them to take charge of their own wellness. It’s a branch of technology that’s invaluable for caregivers, too.
  • Wireless internet. Most of the technologies on this list wouldn’t be possible without wireless internet. If you want your senior parent to take full advantage of these devices, make sure their residence is internet-ready. Even nursing homes are using wireless internet technology to make it easier for residents and care providers to communicate quickly.
  • Smartphones. Cell phones are becoming more senior-friendly, with models that have larger buttons and readouts, as well as photo speed dialing and voice recognition to make usage easier. Not only are cell phones crucial to helping seniors stay connected with friends and family, they may also help perform critical safety functions like providing medication reminders and GPS locations.
  • Wireless home monitoring. Home monitoring systems that employ sensor devices can be, literally, lifesavers for those seniors who live alone, either at home or in assisted living. They can detect emergencies such as falls, report unusual behavior, and even track vital signs—without intruding on privacy.
  • GPS. If you’ve got a senior loved one who is concerned about getting lost, or who has dementia and occasionally wanders, GPS technology can immediately alert caregivers to their location if they leave their comfort zone. There are separate GPS trackers that attach to the wrist or clothing, as well as smartphone GPS apps.
  • Home assistive devices. Assistive technology in the home can go far in helping seniors remain independent—and safe. Besides home monitoring and GPS, there are devices such as LED lighting, medication dispensing appliances, photo-enhanced phone dialers, and stove shut-off systems, all of which can help seniors with mild cognitive and motor impairment.

Which piece of technology has been the most critical for you and your senior loved ones? Do you think high-tech devices are necessary or is it an added financial burden? Join the discussion here.

About the Author: Sarah J. Stevenson is a writer, artist, editor and graphic designer living in Northern California. Her visual art has been exhibited around California, and her writing has appeared in a variety of web sites and print publications. In addition to writing about older adults, she also writes for younger ones–her first novel for young adults, THE LATTE REBELLION, was published in 2011 by Flux. For more information, please visit: http://www.sarahjamilastevenson.com

SeniorNet helps over-50 adults learn tech (Newsday)

Written By: Guest Contributor - Jun• 26•13
Photo credit: Steve Pfost. Volunteer Diane Asser assists Zinna Etmon, of Central Islip, with her computer during the Advanced Google class hosted by SeniorNet at the Huntington Family Service Center in Huntington.

Photo credit: Steve Pfost. Volunteer Diane Asser assists Zinna Etmon, of Central Islip, with her computer during the Advanced Google class hosted by SeniorNet at the Huntington Family Service Center in Huntington.

By ERIN GEISMAR, Special to Newsday

Reboot Camp

In a small, boxy classroom, 13 students split up into two groups, each of which is huddled around a laptop at opposite ends of the space in Huntington. Instructor Jeri Usbay, who was teaching a class on using the social networking site Facebook, asked for their patience as she fiddled with the settings of one laptop. Suddenly, a xylophone-like melody filled the room. After the group on the other side of the room hit a button on their screen that said “answer call,” the students broke into smiles as they saw their counterparts through the screen. For many in the group of over-50 adults in the room, it was their first experience with video chatting. One man moved his face closer to the screen and waved at it, commenting that he could use it to talk to his granddaughter.

Usbay, 59, said moments like those are one of the reasons she loves teaching seniors how to use Facebook. “The smiles I see when someone discovers an old friend or finds new pictures of grandchildren is priceless,” she said.

Usbay’s Facebook classes are just one set of options for students at SeniorNet, a national nonprofit with a branch run in the Family Service League building in Huntington. The organization also offers classes in computer basics, word processing, photo editing, MicrosoftExcel and more. To participate, seniors pay $40 a year to become members and $10 per course, each of which typically meets once a week for four to eight weeks.

SeniorNet also offers free seminars at libraries in BabylonGreenlawnHauppaugeHolbrookand Northport, and brings its mobile learning center to Paumanok Village affordable senior housing in Greenlawn and the Northport VA Medical Center.

Teaching the courses is a dedicated group of volunteers: instructors who lead the classes and coaches who sit in on each class to help students who might fall behind. Behind the scenes are others: an executive committee that includes directors Slava Vero and Bill Baker, plus other volunteers who keep the books, schedule the classes, register participants and help publicize the organization. “Everyone here is a volunteer, so everyone wants to be here,” said Vero, 79, of Northport. “We are like a family.”

Learning about computers

In March 1999, a group of volunteers at the Family Service League identified the need for technology education for seniors. Through research, they discovered SeniorNet and decided to sponsor a branch. Vero and 39 other volunteers got the organization off the ground and opened the SeniorNet classroom that August.

At the time, society was quickly coming to rely on computers, Vero said. Participants were eager to learn the basics, including how to turn on the device. “In the ’90s, people would be so excited about email because they could email their children,” Vero added. The organization has evolved with the times. Basic classes are still offered, but the course selection has grown to include not only Facebook but lessons in using Skype and digital cameras.

SeniorNet is still entirely run by volunteers, which now total more than 140, including high school students in the summer. Classes for SeniorNet members are offered at the Huntington classroom, and the organization also runs a remote learning program with technology that allows instructors to access students’ computers from home, and also teaches classes at an East Yaphank annex.

There is another SeniorNet operation based in Hempstead that is part of the national organization but is not affiliated with the Family Service League.

SeniorNet at Family Service League has received support from Suffolk County and the Town of Huntington and has been awarded numerous national grants. Through a joint venture with National Grid Foundation, SeniorNet volunteers also refurbish computers to distribute to the needy. Over the years, the support has enabled SeniorNet to teach about 11,000 students in its classroom alone. “Our mission is to teach seniors computer skills and bring them into the 21st century,” Vero said. “Our world is no longer you write a letter or a note; you have to know these things.”

Helps with healing

Nina Saporito, 64, of Huntington, thinks it was divine intervention that brought her and SeniorNet together in 2007. She received the group’s brochure in the mail shortly after her husband had died unexpectedly from a heart attack. Though she was still grieving, Saporito thought it would be good to get out, so she signed up for four courses at once, bringing her to the center four days a week for the next eight weeks.

After completing courses in word processing, graphics, Internet and Excel, Saporito decided to become a coach and eventually advanced to become an instructor, teaching Basic Introduction to Computers 1. She also attends trade shows to spread information about SeniorNet.

As a student, Saporito said she was able to learn the skills necessary to move on with her life as a widow. Her husband, Eugene, who owned a data processing company and a rental business, had handled the bills and kept the files. After SeniorNet, Saporito was able to maintain the rental business on her own; she sold the data processing company.

On a personal level, the SeniorNet network and the feeling of accomplishment she felt as she became an instructor helped lift her out of her grief, she said. “It’s very good for my self-esteem,” Saporito said. “When you’re dealing with grief and everything else around you stops, you do kind of feel a little bit useless. It gave me a venue to stay in the outside world rather than secluding myself, and it was a wonderful, wonderful venue for me.”

Satisfaction in teaching

Usbay, of Huntington, started volunteering for SeniorNet about three years ago after retiring from a 25-year career in the IT business. When she discovered SeniorNet, she said she felt like she was coming back home. “Technology is there to enrich your life and make your life better,” Usbay said. “But it really confuses a lot of people. I get a lot of satisfaction out of showing people how to use new technology or Facebook, just to make their lives a little better.”

Technology gave Jim Brick a new lease on life.

The Huntington resident had a stroke in 2004 that left his right side paralyzed. The former theater professor, flutist, actor, poet, sculptor and printmaker had never thought much of computers, but suddenly, with half of his body “like wood,” he said he found himself capable of engaging in few of the things he used to enjoy.

A couple of years into a slow recovery, Brick, 67, became acquainted with SeniorNet volunteer Mike Early. Through the group, Early was able to get Brick a refurbished computer and began teaching him some computer basics. Eventually, Brick signed up for SeniorNet’s remote learning program, through which he has been able to advance his computer skills without leaving his home. He compared learning the language of computers with traveling to a place where English is not spoken. “Being able to navigate through that land, it’s that critical,” he said. “I had no knowledge to any of the things which now are central to the way we live.” He now uses the computer for personal research, email and to listen to hard-to-find Indian music, his favorite. He said SeniorNet has drastically changed his quality of life. “I can’t tell you what kind of relief it was to have something to concentrate on besides a book,” Brick said.

After years of therapy, he has slowly recovered some use of his right side but still uses a wheelchair to get around. “I have a second language that I now can speak,” he added. “The fact that SeniorNet exists and that it continues to expand is great.”

Sign me up

Volunteers are needed in the Huntington and East Yaphank centers to serve as coaches and teachers, offer technical support and to work on various committees. A volunteer application and job descriptions can be found at seniornetli.org.

Contact: SeniorNet at Family Service League, 631-427-3700 ext. 268 or ext. 235.


VIDEO: SeniorNet teaches computer skills to seniors

Written By: Kim Hong - Jun• 17•13

“SeniorNet offers a broad curriculum with courses serving absolute beginners, sophisticated users, and everyone in between.” – Michael Fairchild.

Are you interested in learning more about SeniorNet and how it enriches people’s lives every day? Click on the video below to find out what SeniorNet- Long Island is doing, and what students are saying about the courses!

4 Ways Older Adults Who Can’t Drive Can Catch a Ride

Written By: Guest Contributor - May• 06•13
Misty Franklin (right), a driver with SilverRide, picks up client Agnes Dunn at her home in San Francisco. — Winni Wintermeyer

Misty Franklin (right), a driver with SilverRide, picks up client Agnes Dunn at her home in San Francisco. — Winni Wintermeyer

Source: AARP Bulletin

Need a ride?

More than 20 percent of Americans age 65 and older don’t drive, according to an analysis of the federal government’s National Household Travel Survey by AARP’s Public Policy Institute.

Soon, even more people will be clamoring for rides as the country’s 78 million boomers, now ages 49 to 67, shed their car keys. (And men typically outlive their driving days by seven years; women outlive theirs by 10.)

According to Transportation for America, an advocacy coalition, by 2015 more than 15.5 million Americans 65-plus will live in areas where public transportation service is poor or nonexistent.

Getting older nondrivers where they need to go could become a national conundrum.

Some communities and organizations are pursuing local solutions. For instance, the trailblazing nonprofit Independent Transportation Network, launched in Maine in 1995, transports people by using a combination of paid and volunteer drivers. Now serving 27 localities, it provided its 500,000th ride last December. Other nonprofits, for-profit companies and municipal and county agencies — often working together — are scrambling to fill the transportation demand.

To read about the four innovative initiatives around the country that are getting nondrivers where they need to be, click here to read the full AARP article.


SeniorNet in the News! (Northwest Arkansas Newspapers)

Written By: Guest Contributor - Apr• 23•13

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SeniorNet in the Media

SeniorNet Dallas on YouTube: Courageous Seniors Join the Social Media Revolution

Written By: Kim Hong - Mar• 26•13

I was blown away by SeniorNet Dallas’ “Slice of Life” video on YouTube and was compelled to share it with everyone! During the 6-minute video, volunteers share their personal experiences with students who were once fearful of computers and technology, and students also talk about what encouraged them to take their first steps into the digital age. The students express how they were able to overcome their deepest fears with the help of friendly volunteers who were patient and willing to take things step-by-step at their individual pace. SeniorNet volunteers are dedicated to educating and empowering older adults.

I contacted Jay Rydman, the SeniorNet volunteer who helped produce the video and uploaded it to YouTube, and asked him a few questions about the organization.

Q: How long has SeniorNet Dallas been around?

A: SeniorNet Dallas has been around for about 17 years.

Q: Who should sign up for SeniorNet classes?

A: We encourage anyone who wants to learn more about how to use computers and the digital age to sign up for classes. You can see what we offer on our website seniornetdallas.org.

Q: What is your most popular course?

A: Internet and email is our most popular course. We introduced courses on the iPad and iPhone last fall and they have been popular.

Q: Why did you decide to become part of SeniorNet?

A: About 20 years ago my parents wanted to learn how to use the computer and I wanted to help them.  My mother gave up trying to master the mouse but my dad kept at it. I discovered quickly how one who helps seniors with computers needs to have gigabytes of patience. But seeing eyes widen and some “a ha’s” along the way made it rewarding for me.  So when I became a senior and wanted to do something volunteer wise, I looked for a place where I could work with those who had yet  to discover how to use and control a brand new world.

As a social media enthusiast, I commend SeniorNet Dallas for producing such a telling video and sharing it on the Web! SeniorNet students are encouraged to extend their computer knowledge by becoming volunteers and coaches after completing their courses. As a matter of fact, the current President of SeniorNet Dallas was once a student in 2008!

“I discovered SeniorNet in 2008 after finding an ad in our local newspaper about a Digital Picture class.  In my closet, I had an unopened digital camera still in its original box and thought to myself ‘it’s about time to open the box and learn how to use it!’  So I attended the Digital Picture class and learned a lot of new skills, and had so much fun that when the next Digital Picture class was offered, I volunteered to be a coach.  I ended up coaching several classes and found that each time I did, I learned something new as well.  In 2011, I was asked to join the board of directors and assumed the role of President in 2012, a role I will hold again this year.  Not only this but I have graduated to teaching classes, something I never thought I had enough computer skills to do. ” – Gloria Meyer, President, SeniorNet Dallas.

For more information about the Dallas location, visit seniornetdallas.org today!

Thank you Microsoft!

Written By: Kim Hong - Mar• 05•13

Screen Shot 2013-03-05 at 3.11.15 PM

SeniorNet is proud to announce that we have received a very generous donation from Microsoft. This grant provides us with the long-awaited Windows 8 and Office 2013. This software is currently being distributed to your centers. Please contact your center leaders to sign up for new classes to learn about Windows 8 and Office 2013.

Windows 8
The newest version of Microsoft’s operating system has a lot of new features – but also a lot of changes! Even advanced computer users may be surprised by the new interface, which uses a start screen with tiles instead of the familiar start menu. Visit your local SeniorNet center to learn more about this new operating system and sign up for classes today!

Office 2013
Microsoft’s popular productivity suite (containing Word, Excel, Access, Powerpoint, Outlook, and others) is used widely in home and office environments. The newest version, released earlier this year, puts a greater focus on “cloud computing”: the sharing of files and applications over the internet. For more information about Office 2013 and cloud computing, check with your local learning center for classes and workshops.

Don’t be left behind… Contact your center today!

Seniors train in new technology

Written By: Guest Contributor - Feb• 15•13

 COURSE FOR SENIORS: Paul Woodward introduces his students to the SeniorNet website in a lesson on accessing the Internet. (Photo Credit: The Sentinel-Record)

COURSE FOR SENIORS: Paul Woodward introduces his students to the SeniorNet website in a lesson on accessing the Internet. (Photo Credit: The Sentinel-Record)

 For more than 25 years, Hot Springs SeniorNet has provided older adults with computer and technology training courses to enhance their lives and introduce them to a world of information online.

Since 2003, the Senior Center on Woodbine Avenue has increased its enrollment numbers from 20 to 30 students to an average of 100 students for each session.

“We currently have around 70 students,” said Paul Woodward, instructor. “We have two classrooms here and can teach about seven or eight students in each class.”

SeniorNet offers three sessions annually with classes ranging from topics like computer basics to utilizing social media. They also offer day workshops.

“Our classes are one day a week and are about one to two hours long,” said Rosemarie Kawlewski, co-coordinator for Hot Springs SeniorNet. “Each student gets a manual and with two coaches and one instructor for each class, they get hands-on instruction.”

“Some instructors stay after class to help,” said Cheryl Denison, instructor and website coordinator. “If I see a student who’s really struggling, I try to help them individually. Our job as instructors is to encourage our students.”

Every instructor is a former student of the program and with around 34 volunteers, Hot Springs SeniorNet is able to cater to its students’ needs.

“Each chapter operates a little differently, but all of our manuals and teaching materials come from our national headquarters,” Denison said.

But occasionally during a class, the instructor will go to a website or check their email and students will want to know how they did it.

“For those things we don’t have in the manual, our students will scramble to take notes,” Kawlewski said. “They’re so enthused to learn and that is exciting for us.”

Because of this excitement, the volunteers at SeniorNet said very rarely do students not come back for more courses. And once students are comfortable with their new skills, there is a whole world online available to them.

John McFerrin, who teaches courses on Internet and email said one of his favorite websites to show his students is YouTube.

“You can find videos on any topic and learn how to do just about anything,” McFerrin said.

And for people concerned they may not catch on as quickly in the courses, the volunteers at SeniorNet suggest enrolling with a family member or friend.

“We’ve had several students enroll with their siblings or spouses and that really helps them,” said Beverly Jackson, instructor. “They can help each other and they’ll also have a friend. Though many of our students become friends.”

And it’s not just the students who benefit from SeniorNet.

“We get a lot out of the courses,” Kawlewski said. “It keeps us thinking and busy and as long as we’re helping people, we’re making a difference.”

Registration for the Spring session will be on March 22 at the Senior Center and classes will start on April 8

Source: The Sentinel-Record, written by Beth Bright

New App Helps People with Vision Loss Easily Take Notes on iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch

Written By: Guest Contributor - Feb• 12•13


For the millions of Americans with vision loss looking for a simple, convenient way to take notes at work, at school, or at home, the American Foundation for the Blind (AFB) today launched the AccessNote™, a specialized notetaker for the iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch.

“Apple products have earned high points from us for their out-of-the-box accessibility for users who are blind or visually impaired,” said Carl R. Augusto, AFB president and CEO. “We designed this app to complement the iPhone’s other popular features, like web browsing and email, so that users who are blind have all the tools they need in one, handy device.”

A traditional notetaker is a portable electronic device that enables users who are blind or visually impaired to take notes, create documents, and access applications. These devices, extremely valuable for people who are blind or visually impaired, usually provide either speech or braille output (or both). They retail for upwards of $2,000 and much more for those with a built-in braille display; AFB’s AccessNote app is available for $19.99.

In addition to being a low-cost alternative to traditional notetakers, AccessNote allows users to combine efficient notetaking with many other features and functions of the iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch. This allows people who are blind or visually impaired to use the same popular devices that their sighted peers are using in classroom or business settings.

This is the first notetaking app developed and designed specifically for users with vision loss. AFB evaluated many of the other available notetaking apps, but found none to be very efficient or user-friendly to people who are blind or visually impaired.

What sets the AccessNote apart includes:

  • Seamless Navigation. Customized keyboard commands make notetaking more intuitive and productive than ever before, including quick access to important features like Search All Notes, Search Within a Note, as well as several navigation options.
  • Automatic Saving. With an automatic save on every few keystrokes, notes will never be lost.
  • Cursor tracking. When navigating among multiple sets of notes, users can always pick up right where they left off.
  • Unparalleled Simplicity. With a clutter-free interface, users can create, read, find, and sync, making it easier to spend more time with actual content and less time with tools.
  • DropBox Integration. All notes, always on hand. DropBox keeps AccessNote in sync with the user’s desktop (and other devices) so their notes are always available and backed up.
  • Compatibility with Bluetooth keyboards. AccessNote is optimized for efficiency with the Apple Wireless Keyboard and for today’s wireless braille displays.

AccessNote was developed in conjunction with FloCo Apps and is available on the App Store℠.

The American Foundation for the Blind (AFB) is a national nonprofit that expands possibilities for people with vision loss. AFB’s priorities include broadening access to technology; elevating the quality of information and tools for the professionals who serve people with vision loss; and promoting independent and healthy living for people with vision loss by providing them and their families with relevant and timely resources. Headquartered in New York, AFB is proud to house the Helen Keller Archives and honor the more than 40 years that Helen Keller worked tirelessly with AFB.

AARP’s 2013 Almanac, a free E-book

Written By: Guest Contributor - Jan• 22•13

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Be in-the-know in 2013: Get AARP’s 2013 Almanac! A free E-book with facts, figures and forecasts for the year.

AARP’s inaugural Almanac is packed with facts, figures and forecasts relevant to people 50+. With dozens of categories, this treasure trove features—

  • a look ahead at the key issues and happenings expected in 2013
  • a look back at 50th anniversaries, including President John F. Kennedy’s assassination and Martin Luther King “I Have a Dream” speech
  • ways to save money this year, including places to get free stuff (from good-for-you yoga classes to decadent doughnuts) as well as sales tax holidays and seasonal best buys
  • tips for staying healthy, from power foods to delicious recipes to the screenings you need this year
  • movie, TV, and music trivia, with Billboard top hits, M*A*S*H* memories and all-time classic flicks
  • great vacation spots this year (don’t miss the monarch butterflies before global warming changes their patterns!) as well as film festivals, book fairs and food festivals nationwide
  • deadlines, new laws and Supreme Courts cases that could affect you and your family