Social Media Web Culture

Tech Through 90-Year-Old Eyes: Are We Really Better Off? [Feature]

Yaara Lancet 04-01-2013

technology for seniors“Computers should be an ideal tool for older people, but they’re afraid, and it’s a hard barrier to overcome. Computers can open the world to disabled people. Are you lonely? Play a game, get angry with your computer for winning!” -Sarah


Sarah (alias), age 87, is not afraid of computers. In fact, she could give many of us a run for our money when it comes to online chats, music downloading and understanding fear of technology. But this doesn’t mean she sees everything the same way that younger generations do.

Sonia (alias), age 90, types up documents in Word for dozens of people in her senior citizen community. She learned to touch type on a typewriter sometime in the 1930s, so why should computers be any different?

Young people tend to look at the older generation as second class citizens when it comes to technology. This is apparent from jokes we see online every day, and it stems, among other things, from the real need to help our parents and grandparents cope with the huge technological advances of the last ten years or so. But what is it like for them? Are they really making use of everything technology has to offer, or are they merely standing at the sidelines of this revolution? Are they also striving to own the latest iPhone? Or maybe they don’t even know what smartphones are?

technology for seniors

Thinking I knew everything there is to know about people’s relationship with technology, I met with these two women, one of whom is my grandmother, and tried to find out first hand what’s technology really like if you’re 90 years old. I was in for the ride of a lifetime.


Without Internet, My Great-Grandson Wouldn’t Even Know Me

technology for senior citizens

I met my grandmother, Sonia in her apartment. Her bedroom features a modern workstation, complete with a PC desktop, a 15-inch monitor, a webcam, and even an all-in-one HP printer. She uses her computer every day to type up memories and stories, and even holds a weekly music class where she reads out interesting facts from Wikipedia about various composers. Right from the beginning, my grandmother shows me that there’s more than one way to use computers.

“I open my email [Internet Explorer, Y.L.], and I see a line where I search what I’m looking for. I write Schubert, for example, and I find the whole story about him. I don’t want to listen to music, I have CDs for that. I only read. But there’s too much text, I need to find only the facts that would interest the people in my class, so I read, I write down in a notebook all the important things, and then I type it in and print it.”

You write it down by hand?” I’m amazed. Not just because she doesn’t use copy and paste, but because it highlights for me how lazy my own generation has become; the mere idea of copying something by hand in this way seems like an outrageous amount of work. And yet Sonia does this happily on a weekly basis.


“It’s a lot of work!” she says “And I know it’s not up to date. But I don’t know how else to do it. I tried several times to print all of it, but it prints so many pages.” When I ask her about copying and pasting, she explains that someone’s tried to teach her how to do it, but it didn’t work. “I’ll tell you why, it’s because you need to highlight for that, right? I’m not sure why, but I’m worried I’ll erase something.” She laughs.

“When we lived in Switzerland, there was no phone. We didn’t talk to our parents for 3.5 years! We never heard their voice.” –Sonia

technology for senior citizens

Sonia checks her email every day. Her friends know she loves animals, so she gets animal pictures, videos and presentations in abundance. She types up and prints out memories and stories for friends who don’t even own a computer and uses Skype to talk to her grandson and great-grandsons in Australia.

“I don’t know my great-grandsons,” She tells me, “but I can see them growing up. It’s incredible. And they know me, they can see me on Skype, otherwise they wouldn’t know who I was. They even call me grandma” Her great-grandson, who’s 6 years old, has barely ever met Sonia in person, but thanks to Skype, he draws pictures of his family including her, and even sends her these drawings via email.


technology for senior citizens

In the times before Internet, people wrote letters. Real ones, on paper, with stamps. The letters would travel by boat, and reach their destination in several days, sometimes several weeks. “We wrote a pile of letters.” She tells me of a period in the 1940s when she and her husband lived in Geneva. “We wanted our parents to know everything about our lives, it was the only way to communicate. We wrote very long letters. Today you don’t go into details as we used to. I don’t think you’d want to tell me in an email about every little thing you did today.”

“Of course it’s better!” she answers, when I ask her about Internet communication vs. the old times. “These days, when I want to talk to my grandson, I call him on the phone and he calls me back on Skype. I really enjoy it.”

Can you imagine not hearing your parents’ voice for three and a half years? How about giving birth to your firstborn, with your parents barely knowing you were pregnant? “When our first son was born we sent a telegram,” She tells me of the birth of my father, in the year 1948. “Every word cost money so we tried to use as little as possible. We wrote ‘Sonia and her son Daniel are healthy’. They didn’t know I gave birth, they didn’t know anything! Who is Daniel? What are we talking about? It was a real joke.”


In an age when we take our phones and computers everywhere, when our phones are in fact our computers, this form of communication is almost impossible to fathom. How often do you speak to your family and friends when you’re away from home? Every day? Every couple of days? I bet the least you do is check for updates on Facebook or Twitter.

“I don’t know anything about it,” Sonia tells me when I ask her about Facebook “I’ve never started with it, and I have no idea what it is. I’ve heard that you put your details on Facebook, and people answer and you communicate. I don’t know anything else.”

“People don’t communicate. They learned to communicate using smartphones, or using websites like Facebook, and they can’t sit and talk any more. I think this is the most painful aspect of the entire technological advance.” –Sonia

tech for seniors

Another piece of technology we take for granted, and Sonia never will, is the smartphone. “I never had one and I don’t want one.” She tells me. But don’t think for a minute that this is due to some general fear of cell phones. Sonia owns a rather new Nokia C2 device, and doesn’t leave the house without it. “I think smartphones had a bigger effect on communication than the plain cell phone. Even when cell phones were already around, before smartphones, there wasn’t this need to communicate [through smartphones Y.L.] all the time, everywhere. I’m very worried about the disconnection from people.”

tech for seniors

Like many others, she thinks children spend too much time in front of the TV, computer and smartphones, but what really worries her is the effect this could have, or already has, on our interpersonal communication abilities. “When my children were young,” She tells me, “everyone wanted Reebok shoes and jeans, that’s what they thought about. Today it’s devices. Had it not come in place of personal relationships, it could have been great.”

“I saw something on TV where 10 people sit around a table, each with their own device, and a little boy is trying to tell his mother something. Preoccupied with her phone, she tells him, ‘can’t you see I’m busy?’ This is our major loss, with all this new technology”.

tech for seniors

When You Were Very Young, There Was Something Called ICQ

At 90 years of age, Sonia uses technology better than most of the residents in her community, and after talking to her, this was about the level I expected when I met Sarah in her apartment two floors below. What I discovered left me dumbstruck.

Before I even get the chance to start asking my questions, Sarah already has me transfixed on stories of ICQ, online friends and meetings abroad. In the 13 years she’s been using computers, Sarah has met with two people in Germany, a woman in Spain, two people in Hungary, and one person in England. And I thought I was brave for meeting my husband online.


In Hungary, I met two people, with one of which I had a very moving experience.” She starts off her amazing tale. “We decided to meet in my hotel on Sunday morning at 10AM. He was very cautious and said he only had time till 12PM. It was before we had digital cameras, and it didn’t occur to me to ask for a picture.” At this point, I’m already at the edge of my seat, as she continues. “In comes this man, tall, with a huge beard. I was amazed. We sat together, and there was an instant click. 12PM came and went, and suddenly he had lots of time. He asked me if I had any plans, and I said I wanted to go to the cemetery where my mother is buried, but I was concerned that I won’t find the grave again. It has happened to me before. This man says to me, if you are willing to wait until Tuesday, I will ask to be late for work on Tuesday morning, and I will take you to the cemetery.”

And on Tuesday he came. The man made his way through the rundown graves, through the thorns and untended plants, and he found the grave. “We sat there, and I was very cold. I told him ‘I’m cold, hug me’. And he hugged me.” Several years later, Sarah received a message from the man’s wife, telling her he’s passed away, but she remains to this day with this enchanting memory of a man she met, of all places, on ICQ. But it doesn’t end here.

Sarah goes on to tell me about her closest online friend, a man 45 years her junior who lives in India. “He kept telling me, you travel around so much, why don’t you come to India? I told him an old woman has nothing to do in India, BUT, if he can make it to Europe, I’ll meet him there. One day he told me his work was sending him to Brighton. So on to Brighton!”

This was only 8 years ago. Sarah was already living in her current residence, and as you can imagine, not many could understand her position. “Everyone in this house thought I was off my rocker. Going to Brighton for 3 days to meet a stranger! I told them, he’s not a stranger, we’ve known each other for two years!” And so, at nearly 80 years of age, Sarah went to Brighton, something most of us would never dream of doing. “I spoke English in a Hungarian accent, he spoke in a Hindi accent, and we understood each other perfectly. We laughed a lot, it was a blast.”

“On the first lesson he told us, ‘don’t be afraid, you can’t break the computer, you don’t know how to’. This gave me confidence.” –Sarah


“One day a good friend came to me and said, do you have an extra $1000? I asked why. Let’s buy a computer! She says. What for, I asked her? She says, I don’t know, but my grandchildren have one, and it’s fun.” This is how it all started for Sarah 13 years ago, and she hasn’t looked back since. She’s not afraid of her computer, not one bit. But that doesn’t mean she didn’t have her share of trouble.

“At first, every little thing paralyses you. Things just don’t work! One time there was this ad, a very nice monkey asked me to be his buddy. I liked him, and I agreed. From that moment on, I couldn’t get rid of him. No matter what I opened, my buddy appeared! And when that happens to someone, it’s very confusing.” She’s laughing as she tells me this, so it seems that her malware buddy did not inflict any serious damage, in case you were worried.

Today Sarah doesn’t chat anymore. And she too doesn’t use Facebook. “I don’t see the magic in it. I have an account, I uploaded a picture, people talk to me but I forget to check it. There’s no magic in it.” She repeats, “It’s wide open, everything is out there.”

After this dazzling opening, I go back to basics and try to find out what Sarah does on her computer on a daily basis. I discover that aside from sending and receiving emails, playing around with PowerPoint and some games, Sarah also bought a large 19-inch monitor to watch videos on YouTube. She also listens to music on her computer, which makes you wonder where that music comes from. “Do you download your music?” I ask her, “Yes! I download a lot.” She says. Curious, I inquire where she downloads her music from, and the answer has my jaw nearly hitting for floor, “There’s a program that turns music from YouTube into….” She cuts off seeing my expression, “What, you didn’t know?”

At this point, I can’t help it, and tell Sarah her abilities far surpass anything I’ve ever expected. I thought my grandmother was a computer whiz, and here is this 87-years-old woman, doing things my friends probably don’t know how to do. “I don’t really know anything”, she confides. “I can’t touch type. I once bought a program that was supposed to teach me how to touch type, and it was very good, but it was BORING. After the fourth lesson I was sick of it completely. I type very slowly, but I make do”.

“I don’t write letters any more. My family remained in Hungary I used to write letters to everyone — real letters with stamps and envelopes. I don’t do that anymore, it’s all emails.” –Sarah


Like Sonia, Sarah has relatives abroad which she communicates with every day. “Communication with people abroad is much better today [than it used to be]”, she tells me. “I have relatives in Hungary, we write each other every single say, several times a day. We have nothing to write about, but we still communicate. For example, I know it’s snowing there today and that it was very cold last night and they went out to see the first Christmas lights. And I told them what I did today — three lines, no more, but the connection is immediate, it’s simple, it’s easy. When I was writing real letters it was once every 6 weeks or so, and we wrote very long letters, with all the stories.”

It’s not all emails, though. Sarah uses Skype, and used to hold regular video chats on Yahoo! Messenger back in the day. She even shops online, although like many of us, she’s wary about buying things without trying them first. “I need to try things for myself. If, for example, I want to buy a new chair, I’ll look online, but I want to sit on it before buying!”

There are certain things she does buy online, though. “I do buy things like play tickets. Getting tickets for a play in another country a month before travelling — this is something we couldn’t do before. Sometimes there are surprises, though. It’s not dishonesty, necessarily, but when I went to Brighton I booked a hotel online. I saw pictures of the hotel, a description of the room — it said everything, except that the room is in the basement. The landlady said ‘it’s not a basement, dear, it’s ground floor’, but you had to go down some steps to get into the room. That wasn’t written!”

This seems like a good time to ask about Google. Naturally, as this stage, I very much assume Sarah knows something about Google, but she manages to surprise me yet again with the extent of her knowledge. “Ah, Google! You can’t do anything without Google, Google knows all! You know how many times I listen to a lecture, and come home later to search for something I heard about? Or let’s say there’s an argument — no need to argue, Google knows!”

“I think people my age have become slaves to cell phones. It affects them badly. They become dependent on calls, and young people never ask them if it’s a good time or not.” –Sarah

technology for seniors

At this point, I veer away from computers and venture to the subject of cell phones. After everything I’ve learned about Sarah in the past hour, I’m not entirely sure what to expect. I mean, what would you expect at this point?

“I went into an Apple store, found a nice lady, and asked her if she has enough patience to educate a grandma about what a tablet is and what it can do. She did, and I understood. I also understood that it’s very expensive. I came home and started thinking, do I really need it? I don’t. It’s very nice, but I don’t need it.

In fact, when it comes to cell phones, Sarah doesn’t need much of anything. She owns a simple Samsung C450 device, which she has to go look for when I ask to see it. The phone is switched off, and she gives out the number to absolutely no one. “I don’t need people calling me. I’m not that important that people have to call in the middle of the day. They can call me at home and leave a message.” She also has pretty decisive views regarding the way others use their cell phone. “I view it in a somewhat cynical eye when people jump up in the middle [of a lecture] and run out to answer their phone. I ask them afterwards, ‘what happened?’ ‘My son called,’ they say. ‘Where is your son?’ I ask them, ‘Oh, he lives close by.’ Come on, he’s right here! Can’t he call in an hour? I think people my age have become slaves to cell phones. It affects them badly. They become dependent on calls, and young people never ask them if it’s a good time or not.”

Many of us have grandparents or even older parents who need help with technology, but it’s not always easy to provide that help. When I ask her about the reasons behind the fear and general difficulty with technology, she’s ready with yet another insightful answer; “I started with Windows [Microsoft Word. Y.L.] 13 years ago, we didn’t really have Internet. We didn’t start using the Internet for months. Today when people start, they start with Internet straight away, and that’s why they don’t know how to use the computer.”

In addition, if you were thinking of passing along your old laptop to your grandparent or parent, think again: “For young people, laptops are very convenient. So a granddaughter is not using her laptop anymore, and she decides to pass it along to her grandmother. This is the best way to make grandma fail. Her fingers are not so flexible anymore; she needs a big keyboard, a big screen. We don’t need laptops and tablets. Young people don’t understand that. If you want to give grandma a gift, spend the money and get her a desktop computer. There’s always room for one, you just need to plan it right.”

Sarah knows that not being afraid of computers sets her apart from most people her age, and wishes it could be different. “I think computers should be an ideal tool for people my age. You go out less, especially if you’re disabled. But they’re afraid, and it’s a hard barrier to overcome. [Computers] can open the world to disabled people. Are you lonely? Play a game on your computer, get angry with it for winning!”

Are We Really Better Off?

What will things look like when we’re 90 years old? Will we have a head start on technology, or will we too be a part of a completely different generation?

Getting a glimpse into the way older people view technology is definitely thought-provoking. There’s a common conception that 90-year-olds, and even 60 and 70-year-olds can’t use technology properly. This is obviously wrong, the subject vastly misunderstood.

Before speaking to these two amazing women, I couldn’t help but sometimes wonder, do we really need all this technology? The answer is we probably don’t, but if it’s useful enough and powerful enough for people from a whole different generation to use it, we must have something truly big in our hands. And yes, in all likelihood, we’re probably better off.

Do you have elderly grandparents? Parents? Aunts or uncles? They can make use of technology, and it can help them lead a better life. But think carefully before trying to help them — do they really need that new iPad? Is your old laptop really the best fit? Let these amazing women provide the inspiration, and find ways to make a difference for someone you care about. There’s nothing to be afraid of.

Affiliate Disclosure: By buying the products we recommend, you help keep the site alive. Read more.

Whatsapp Pinterest

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

  1. peter daley
    January 18, 2017 at 2:05 am

    I am 93 and have made good use of the internet in preparing and publishing my book
    "Metaphysics and The New Age"(Amazon). I certainly could not have done it without, and continues to provide free films and news on Youtube which are routinely suppressed on the media.

  2. Lu-Anne Nelson
    February 27, 2013 at 11:19 am

    Wow... She's better than my mom who's under 60. Where we live also impacts the kind of technology we are exposed to. When it comes to anything beyond a word processor, my mom freezes.

  3. Duane Adam
    February 22, 2013 at 8:36 pm

    Most of the older generations here prefer to stay old school. They know about the existence of the technology but refuse to learn. I am not sure if it's either because they are ego, unable to digest new things or fear that they might lose themselves and get tempted into this new thing they are learning and get addicted.

    As for me, I prefer a blend of new and old. You just have to know how to balance. And as for Einstein's quote, sad but true. I think the newer generations should be able to know how these things work instead of just buying smart devices that they don't even know its full functionality or how it functions etc. Some of my friends don't even know what OS is running on their devices. I am not asking everyone to be geek (which is not a bad idea) but come on, how hard is it to at least know some extra stuffs.

  4. Ellen Henderson
    February 16, 2013 at 8:00 pm

    Thank you so much for writing this thought provoking article on a subject that is usually ignored on sites like these :)

  5. Josh VanMeter
    February 15, 2013 at 10:51 pm

    Powerful and timely, especially for up-and-coming tech professionals.

  6. Jill Davis
    February 15, 2013 at 6:58 pm

    When I returned to work after my children were born in the early 70's the very first thing I brought was a computer, it was a joy and a wonder, I sat down every night after the children were in bed and taught myself everything I could. Then along came the internet, well that was a whole new world I loved it. Now I have never not had a computer, I brought and taught my children and then my grandchildren their first computers, in my working life I taught people who were afraid of technology that the computer was just an extension of the pen and typewriter. I absolutely love technology and I use a laptop, tablet and Samsung Galaxy S3 smartphone every single day.
    I live in an "Over 55's village" and always come up against people here saying they would never use the Internet or even have a mobile phone, but to me that is their loss, I can still give my grandchildren a lesson or two when it comes to technology and they still come to me if something goes wrong, I install all my own software and hardware, and also have dual Win8 and Linux Ubuntu which I love.
    People have to look past the age , my only frustration is when I used to go into shops with my husband to look at the newest gadget, young sales people would invariably look to my husband to ask could they help but thats something easily overlooked.
    So keep bringing new technology I love it.

    • Yaara Lancet
      February 16, 2013 at 7:48 am

      Thanks Jill! Very inspiring comment. I hope I'll be able to keep up and still teach my grandchildren about technology. :)

  7. Rakesh Pal
    February 11, 2013 at 6:23 pm

    Maybe it’s one of the advantage of living in developing country. We still take notes by hand, although reports and assignments are mostly done digitally. I agree that we retain information longer by handwriting. I admire your spirit to keep learning. Actually, I think people who go to college later in life know what they’re going to do in contrast to youngsters who go just because of society pressure. You’re there to actually learn and pay enough attention to the class.
    Hahaha, good thing my parents introduced me to books in my early years. It helps me developing attentiveness. Most of my friends don’t have patience to read through any book longer than 50 pages and not comic.

  8. Ibnu Ruslan
    January 19, 2013 at 11:19 pm

    Such a great story. Here in my Malaysia, I would say majority of the elders are very "scared" to confront their computers. Seems funny, but this is the reality. Luckily there were some NGOs who voluntarily arrange some program literacy for the elders throughout the country. :)

  9. Jan Corlew
    January 18, 2013 at 11:01 pm

    The story reflects what most of us senior citizens feel! We were not raised with this technology, are forced in most circumstances to learn the ins and outs of computers just to accomplish daily tasks.
    I for one am grateful for the resources available to me on this site and others to learn!
    When I started with my own PC in 1995, there were no classes available in my rural area, so pretty much learned on my own by trial and error. Thankfully, today I can go to just about any site with a 'help' section and learn what to do , how to do it and and explanation of the program and how it can be of use to me.

  10. Charles Yost
    January 17, 2013 at 11:39 pm

    I wonder what my grandparents would think of all this technology that we have now? They passed away 15 years ago before some of the things that we find popular today were even around. When I was in high school, we didn't even own a computer or cell phone. Too expensive. I bought my first computer back in 2002, my first year in college. Still have it till this day and the last time I used it, last year I think, it still worked. I have be lucky to have grown up with technology and learn how to use the new stuff pretty quickly. I am only 33 so don't think that I am some old fart or anything. I do feel that we rely on our gadgets a bit too much and some of us have lost the art of conversation and even letter writing. I still write in cursive, I know that is going the way of the dinosaur since they stopped teaching it in school. I write better in cursive than I do in print.

  11. Jonen
    January 15, 2013 at 6:37 pm

    Im writing this in a text based editor, i feel like such a dork

    and im only 17...

  12. Yuri de Groot
    January 13, 2013 at 9:18 am

    I have another observation to make:
    When a younger person is showing an older person how to do something on the computer, they tend to reach over and grab the mouse and start clicking away here and there.
    This is wrong, wrong, wrong!
    Step back, and let the person do it for themselves while you talk them through it. Pause as often as necessary to let them write down notes about what they're doing.

  13. Lee Miller
    January 13, 2013 at 4:39 am

    Excellent article! I'm 82, and have been using computers since the days when punched cards were used for input of data into mainframe computers. I have used PCs since the first DEC and IBM desktop computers became available in the 1980s. There are actually lots of oldsters like me, who are completely at home with the use of computers, and who enjoy learning and using new technologies and new kinds of software as they become mature enough to be useful. My wife (age 78) is only slightly less excited by new technologies than I am. She's the one who follows our grandchildren on FaceBook and tells me to log on when something delightful shows up. She also uses an iPhone and an iPad.

    I was surprised to find no mention of speech-to-text software. (Or did you mention it and I missed it?) For seniors who find typing difficult or who are just not completely comfortable with computers, that software is a lifesaver. I have a lot of arthritis in my hands, so handwriting is a total loss; typing is easier but still difficult because I make (and have to correct) lots of mistakes. Since I started using Dragon Naturally Speaking software, I am making great progress in "writing" our family history. Using the microphone that comes with the software, I tell my personal stories, and it all shows up as text on the computer screen like magic. There are a few errors, of course, but the software gets better at understanding my speaking voice with every session.

    I encourage you to find other outlets for your very useful article.

    Lee Miller

    • Yaara Lancet
      January 13, 2013 at 5:45 pm

      I'm glad you liked the article!

      Dragon is an excellent piece of software, and you're right, I didn't mention it in the article. I think the reason it was never brought up is that both my interviewees don't speak English in their day to day lives, and accordingly, their writing is not done in English either. Dragon is great for English, but for writing in a different language, there aren't always such good solutions.

  14. Ken E Baker
    January 12, 2013 at 9:10 am

    This is a great article. I really enjoy how you guys are spending the time to bring us a quality piece.

    Watching my own 85 year old grandmother and her ipad is very entertaining. The woman is playing more multiplayer online than I am (bridge vs gears)

  15. Scutterman
    January 11, 2013 at 11:21 pm

    I can never be sure that, when I get older, I won't suddenly find myself behind the times as technology leaps forward behind my back.

  16. Robbie Pence
    January 11, 2013 at 4:22 am

    This is fantastic. Great piece.

  17. Dora Henaire
    January 11, 2013 at 12:06 am

    Thats coool..I know shes happy!

  18. Robert Backlund
    January 10, 2013 at 1:21 pm

    I am not all that old, I will be 60 in March. However age is just a matter of perspective, as you grow older you do not feel any different than you did 20 or 30 years ago except for a few more aches and pains in the morning and perhaps needing glasses now and possibly not hearing as well as we once did. However as just because one ages does not mean that our brains stop functioning. We are every bit as intelligent as the next person and in some ways the older generation is smarter and in some not quite as informed. Most people in my generation and earlier (I live in the US, just substitute your country and language) can write and use the English language better than their children and grandchildren. I think this is because of all the spell check, grammar checks and cell phone texting that is so prevalent today and most young people do not sit and just read a good old fashioned book. I am probably not your typical 60 year old, I became very interested in computers back in the late 80's. My first computer was a Commodore Amiga that I purchased in 1987 and for its day was truly amazing in comparison to anything else that was available and at times I miss this old friend. As time went on I learned more and more about pc's and began building my own systems back in the mid 90's and after having to go on a medical retirement I became an avid PC gamer, yes you read that correctly, I bet I have a larger STEAM library than most younger people and currently own 142 just on STEAM and several from I also am very interested in digital art and have a Wacom Intous4 tablet and use it with Photoshop and my favorite program Painter 12. I to not know if I will ever be successful at it but I am also very interested in learning 3D modeling and animation and have been attempting to learn to use Blender. I am happy to say that I was the one to introduce computers to my parents. At first they too were afraid of computers, it was just this mysterious box sitting there that they saw me using and their attitude at first was "we have lived all these years with out one why do we need one now" They did not understand all the wonderful and interesting things that computers can do for them if they only would make a little effort to learn new things. I have over the years introduced my parents to mp3's, digital video, and email just to name a few. They now have more than one desktop and a couple of laptops and bought a slide scanner, a turntable that automatically encodes their collection of records to mp3's, and they just bought a usb adapter from Roxio to convert their collection of home video tapes to digital format. Out of the two my father is less tech literate than my Mom however they both now own smart phones and enjoy listening to Pandora radio and mp3's stored on the memory card and use it to check email from Gmail as well as getting up to date weather reports, and news feeds. This is rather amazing considering that my Dad is now 86 and my Mom is 80. For Christmas I built them a home theater PC and loaded a lot of music from the 40's and Bluegrass/Country for my dad as well as several movies that I knew they would enjoy watching and am amazed that they are fighting over who gets to listen to what music or watch which movie. Oh, Yaara I do disagree with one thing in your article about thinking twice about giving your parents a laptop that is no longer being used because they may need a large monitor and keyboard. If this is the case just get them a large monitor and a regular usb keyboard and mouse to use with the laptop. I currently use a 32" LG 3D TV as my computer monitor and hook it up via HDMI from my desktop and DVI when using my laptop because it does not have an HDMI port. I think my TV even has an older VGA connector and even a 3.5mm audio in port for use with a computer. It is a very good article and thanks for pointing out that we all view new things a little differently with the older among us being perhaps a little intimidated by them. But this is a good thing, if you want to get to know you grandparents just help them with their computing needs and if they do not have a computer yet get them one but only if you are willing to spend time with them to teach them and to show them how much fun that they can be.

    • Yaara Lancet
      January 11, 2013 at 8:20 am

      Thanks for your comment, Robert. The "don't give your grandparents a laptop" was not my observation, but Sarah's my interviewee, and that's her opinion.

      You're right, of course, that you can hook the laptop up with a USB keyboard and a large monitor, and that would work great. All she meant was that a laptop in itself might be too small for older people to use, but that's really subjective, of course.

  19. Mark Alsisto
    January 10, 2013 at 11:34 am

    great article....very very very nice.

  20. Anonymous
    January 10, 2013 at 7:30 am

    Great story! I think there has to be away to talk about the app that Google said couldn't be done: Small Call is now in he Google Play Android Market!

  21. Rhonda Paulson
    January 10, 2013 at 1:36 am

    Wonderful article. Sarah and Sonia made me a bit teary-eyed.

  22. Nancy B
    January 9, 2013 at 7:33 pm

    That's a terrific story about these ladies and how seniors can use computers. I use to work in an old age home (for 17 years) and when I would tell the ladies about talking to my grandsons 600 miles away online they were amazed.
    I want to check with the college about donating a couple of desk tops to a few homes and senior buildings and help teach the ladies on how to do the basics, so they too can talk to their grandchildren and great grandchildren who are hundreds to thousands of miles away.

  23. Scott Macmillan
    January 9, 2013 at 5:38 pm

    A brilliant article!!!It gives a new window of info about assisting some of my more elder relatives.Thanks.

  24. Anup Agarwal
    January 9, 2013 at 4:51 pm

    Senior Citizens know their ways. They are more strong mentally and have stronger will to achieve than today's young crowd. Hats off to Sarah. Wish all grandma to be same.

  25. Lee Ford
    January 9, 2013 at 2:52 pm

    Proof of the truth in this article: My mother in law is 81 years old, and everyone in my circle on Facebook was wishing her happy birthday. I had to remind them that, since she's not from the generation that grew up with computers-and is too intimidated to learn out them- the only way she'd see the greetings is to show them to her on their phones or PCs. Sure enough, one of my followers mentioned me in a post saying that when he told her of the greetings on FB, she remarked, " My face ain't got no business on anybody's book!"

    • Yaara Lancet
      January 11, 2013 at 8:13 am

      That's awesome! You should make a plaque out of that and send it to Mark Zuckerberg. :))

  26. Vaibhav Bakhshi
    January 9, 2013 at 11:04 am

    This was a touching article in everyway.

  27. Lisa Santika Onggrid
    January 9, 2013 at 9:34 am

    This is a wonderful article and I can see it in best 20 articles of 2013 already. You took an interesting topic here and found two great sources. We often underestimate elders, but as you said, I know many people who can't do half of what they do daily. Sonia and Sarah are amazing person, not only because they embrace technology in their age, but also know how to make it work for them. It's true we are spoiled nowadays, and they wisely choose selective connectivity and maintain quality of their communication. The BonziBuddy incident is funny, but it has happened on so many people that we can't blame her for that.
    A lot of people shun 'oldschool' style for the sake of it, but they know how to combine the system.
    Despite being born at mid 90s, I'm glad my attention span is good enough because of reading habit, and I still prefer handwriting for most cases, though it's hard to go back to early days, writing pages of report manually. The advantage is you probably remember more, but doing edit is painful.
    I wonder why people are discrediting elders on technology while there are so many younger people who are afraid of anything concerning computer. Like your parents always said, respect your elders!

  28. Wendell
    January 9, 2013 at 8:44 am

    My mom is 68 years old and knows how to play Tetris using her computer. And that's about it. I think older folks have a different view on how to use technology simply because of where they came from and how they used to do things. Good for them.

    Very good article, thanks.

  29. Patricia del Valle
    January 9, 2013 at 6:53 am

    Hi Yaara,

    Thanks for a great article. Many seniors are just like that ... and very friendly while being more reserved in specific areas, like phone usage.

    Personally, I know there are other seniors quite engaged on the computer with blogs, and social media. Several of my friends are, as I am also. We grew up with computers, used them in business, science, and accounting.

    We transferred those skills when we retired and upgraded our home computers.

    Those of us who value our health enough to have made other changes along the way, not always pleasant at first, have businesses online. My second one is under construction.

    Keep up the good work.


    P.S. I'll be updating my photo, and adding other information, but you can find me on Facebook. Oh, by the way, A very happy New Year :)

  30. Thierry Bechard
    January 9, 2013 at 6:29 am

    Dear Yaara.

    Thank you for this beautiful article.

    Thierry (49)
    Floreal, Mauritius

  31. Ashok Katariya
    January 9, 2013 at 4:34 am

    Amazing Story!

    My Ma in Law, now aged 70 years, never used computer in her life. She learnt it to save International and Long Distance telephone call charges, as her husband and son both are in Gulf Countries and daughter, my wife, in Mumbai. She learnt to use e-mail and chatting on Yahoo Messenger. Now she is proficient user of Internet and also constantly stay in touch with everybody thru Whatsapp from her mobile.

  32. Ian Leong
    January 9, 2013 at 4:09 am

    I think old people should learn about computers. They have too much of time without knowing what to do, instead, they pick up something to learn to spend their spare time. I believe have them learning something will reduce their chances of Alzheimer's Disease. But also don't forget to get some exercises! :)

  33. Tim Tschirhart
    January 9, 2013 at 2:44 am

    Hi Everyone
    Great Story! I'm a 56 YOA male and disabled. I would have gone stark, raving bonkers long ago, if it wasn't for my computer. I've kept in touch with family and friends that I haven't seen in over 40 years. I just now learned that on this site, if you hit the Ctrl button by accident, your half-finished comment gets posted. All kidding aside, the information that's available today is truly astounding. Speaking philosophically, I believe today's 'Information Age' is society's rebound from the 'Dark Ages', when all knowledge was strictly controlled.
    Though, for all the benefits in accessing and sending information, I do believe that we have lost a little part of what makes us human. With regards to writing out a list and typing out a memo, I do both. I find that writing something out is far more useful when I wish to commit something to memory.
    My 24 year old daughter has her phone out 15% of the time I'm with her. I used a cell phone 20 years ago (when a Motorola cell phone, was just a cell phone), but disconnected it about 15 years ago. There's something to be said for being purposely incommunicado.

    Tim J. Tschirhart

  34. Tim Tschirhart
    January 9, 2013 at 2:28 am

    Hi Everyone
    Great Story! I'm a 56 YOA male and disabled. I would have gone stark, raving bonkers long ago, if it wasn't for my computer. I've kept in touch with family and friends that I haven't seen in over 40 years.
    I just now learned that on this site, if you hit the Ctrl button by accident, your half-finished comment gets posted. All kidding aside, the information that's available today is truly astounding. Speaking philosophically, I believe today's 'Information Age' is societie's rebound from the 'Dark Ages', when all knowledge was strictly controlled.
    Though, for all the benefits in accessing and sending information, I do believe that we have lost a little part of what makes us human. With regards to writing out a list

  35. Tim Tschirhart
    January 9, 2013 at 2:03 am

    Hi Everyone
    Great Story! I'm a 56 YOA male and disabled. I would have gone stark, raving bonkers long ago if it wasn't for my computer. I've kept in touch with family and friends that I haven't seen in over 40 years.

  36. catherine parke
    January 9, 2013 at 1:24 am

    My almost-93-year-old mother uses a laptop, and has done for years. She can do what she wants to do, but doesn't need to learn all the extras. She uses email and Facebook to quickly and easily keep in touch with friends and family locally and overseas, and I've scanned some of her old photos and enlarged them onto Word docs so she can type in comments at her leisure (I'm hoping we'll get our family history expanded a bit this way). The main problem is that she's out and about so much that she doesn't have a lot of time....

    • Yaara Lancet
      January 11, 2013 at 8:08 am

      93 years old and still out and about! Sounds like an amazing woman, even I'm not out and about so much. :)

      • DrAwkwArD
        January 12, 2013 at 2:23 am

        The fact that you keep calling these people amazing says more about you than it does about them. The younger you are the less understanding you have it would seem. Did you never stop to think elder people may say to themselves 'I've not needed a PC for the last 90 years - I don't see why I need one now.' It might not be fear of technology at all.
        Another point is that kids show each-other how to use technology & think nothing of it. When I had my first android I asked my son why, when I touched the touch screen, it didn't work. He told me that if I didn't know how to work it I shouldn't have it. He would have told his peers that you need to slide down the bar onscreen with your finger, then it works. So maybe it's not all the fault of the seniors that they are not 'au fait' with modern tech.
        Further, when I did start to get the hang of it, I had to set preferences, download apps (first I had to learn how to do that) etc. etc. I used to just buy a thing and use it. Remember the Walkman? Open it, put a tape in, close it & press play.
        Windows by contrast is pretty rubbish. Do I want to spend the price of a sea cruise to buy something that takes ages to load, then wants to upgrade the antivirus, then wants to upgrade Adobe reader (happened to me today) then wants to switch off to reboot when you are trying to get it to start up, then wants to install Windows updates & reboot again? That requires I learn to type first? Than requires I learn how to use a mouse before I get started?
        As you get older you become less willing to waste what time you have. The rewards need to be more tangible. It may be less a fear of technology than not having someone to explain it nor having the patience to spend hours setting it up.
        Another thing is that 80 year olds, who have just as big an ego as 20 year olds, don't like being told 'You must try this' Instead, show them a picture of your son backpacking in Thailand, taken yesterday. Tell them about the Skype call you made to your daughter on another continent only yesterday. Say to them “Listen to this Beethoven sonata I just downloaded off the internet” and tell the how easy it is to do. Let them make up their own mind that they want it. They are capable of thinking for themselves you know.
        Stop thinking like a young person & try to think like an older person. When my daughter was 14 she got quite upset one day when I called something ‘cool ‘– a word I’d been using for 30 years. “You can’t use that word, you’re an old person” (at that age 25 is really, really old). I laughed, though I didn’t let her see me. I wonder if these elder people are laughing at you with your patronising "Wow!! You’re amazing" but to polite to let you see it.
        As for facebook, I quite proud that i've never had an account. I know pleny of people who have said -I don't want to know that Sue's just bought a tim of beans. It's so trivial. And twitter. I can tell people what I think but they only want to tell others what they think. So why bother. Oldies often have a different perspective, which you won't understand unless you ask them.
        One other thing people, please use a spellcheck.

        PS good article

        • Yaara Lancet
          January 13, 2013 at 6:44 am

          First of all, thanks for the comment.

          I find nothing wrong or patronizing with saying someone is "amazing". I would say that about a young person just as I would say that about an older one. If they're amazing, that is. :)

          As I already explained elsewhere in the comments, what's amazing about these women (to me) is not that they CAN use technology, that goes without saying. It's that they want to. Exactly like you said yourself, many people that age don't see any need for it, and ultimately, it's their loss. These women understood what it can bring to their lives, and took the time to learn how to use it. It's more than I can say for many young people I know, and yes, to me that's pretty amazing, because it's not the easy road to take.

          As for fear of technology, this was not my interpretation, but direct quotes from the women I interviewed. They chose to talk to me about fear of technology they see in their friends, and what they feel about it.

          Most of what you write is true, and I'm sorry your kids think you're old (but all kids think their parents are old!), but it doesn't mean I have no respect for these women. And had they felt I was patronizing them, they wouldn't have sent the article to all their friends (the ones who use email, anyway). :)

          My respect doesn't go to people according to their age, but according to what they choose to do, and in this case, I feel these women are amazing for doing something not many people their age bother to do. It's your right to disagree.

  37. DataLogger
    January 8, 2013 at 10:29 pm

    A wonderful article. My father (an English teacher) was using a PC at home several years before I did. I was using them at work, but honestly only as a glorified word processor and to run a simple database (I could not figure Lotus 1-2-3 out, so used a simple and free flat file database that made sense to me). My first PC was an 8086, a hand-me-down from my father. When its brain became scrambled a few times, it was he who set it right again. I traded up to a 286, another hand-me-down a few years later, then finally bought a Win 98 machine (a 486). Dad had used Win 98 for a couple of years by then and knew it inside and out. Again, it was he who set the machine straight when things when awry for the first year or two. I finally learned to do it myself with his coaching.

    He kept ahead of me with the purchase of an XP machine and when I finally upgraded to XP, it was again he who guided me in the process. I figured XP out pretty quickly, however, and soon was helping him with his problems. We both purchased Vista machines about the same time and worked together to straighten them out.

    Dad became versed in a relational database program and soon was a beta tester for the company, finding many bugs. He used several word processors, email, ripped LPs and CDs to mp3 files, burned LPs to CDs, and was beginning to venture into transferring home movies to DVD when he became to ill to use the computer. I will be ever thankful for his help and patience getting me using computers.

    Through work, I have become good with databases and spreadsheets, although the finer points of word processors still elude me. My sons regularly load Linux on their machines, and the younger of the two is relatively fluent with Linux command line. He has also started helping friends of my parents repair and tweak their machines. I go to him now for help on some things.

    Find a point of interest, and anybody can become comfortable with a computer at some level. And yes as one commenter said, when help those (of any age) who are learning, have them write steps down in there own hand. It goes a long way to helping them learn what they need to do.

    • Lisa Santika Onggrid
      January 9, 2013 at 10:02 am

      Wonderful story. What a happy family you ave there.

    • Yaara Lancet
      January 11, 2013 at 8:07 am

      Thanks for the comment, loved reading it.

  38. Johan
    January 8, 2013 at 10:11 pm

    Wonderful article. Had a great time reading it!! (:

  39. Pat
    January 8, 2013 at 8:53 pm

    What a brilliant article about the older people and computers. I'm 65 and consider myself to be technologically literate as I was self employed but these women are awesome. What I do agree with is that I don't need smart phones or tablets. Love the look and ease but I just don't need them. I also agree with their concerns about the effect on the quality of communication - this is a big concern to me and why I use FB only in a limited way or in closed special interest groups. Their lack of concern for our privacy is unacceptable to me as is the lack of depth in the exchanges. So thanks again for keeping us seniors in mind. Your blog is one of my favourites.

  40. Allen Orchulli
    January 8, 2013 at 8:52 pm

    if this is what i can look foward to, bring it!

  41. Anonymous
    January 8, 2013 at 8:40 pm

    Thanks for this wonderful article! Anyone with an older parent wants them to use at least some aspects of technology, but most of them remain VERY resistant. I get told that "phones are just for talking". I work with the elderly, and find that a simple roll of duct tape solves most tech problems for them - tape off almost all the buttons and they "get it"! I wish there was a range of products that just had simple 'on/off', etc, because I notice that they become totally overwhelmed with the amount of information needed just to start something up.
    Big tip - get them to write down every step in a notebook, in their own handwriting. How to begin right at the start, from where the 'start' button is on the computer, what to click next, and so on. If you're 'arty', make up a little booklet with screen-shots using the 'Print Screen' button on the top right of your keyboard. Copy it into Word and off you go.These are two of the most valuable tools I use to help my elderly folk understand computers/the Internet.
    The other helpful product are those tiny coloured, stick-on dots that you buy from your Office supplies shop or book store. I use these on all the main On/Off type places. For the partially sighted, the rounded, raised, bump-like stick on button makes things much easier to find. Thanks again for a very inspiring article. Regards,
    Tui Pearson.

    • Yaara Lancet
      January 11, 2013 at 8:04 am

      Yes, notebooks are great. When my grandfather was still alive, he had a notebook where he wrote everything he needed to know about using his computer. I remember vividly how exact everything was, and he would open the notebook and follow these instructions he wrote himself and get things done.

      My grandmother also has a notebook, but she said she rarely uses it now, because she remembers how to do some things, and she can't be bothered with newer things most of the times.

  42. Carole V Anderson
    January 8, 2013 at 8:36 pm

    I am one of the Elder Surfers..72yrs...before 2006 I didn't even know how to work a mouse... I now have 2 laptops, a desktop, and an iPod.... and play Skyrim , plus many other sidelines...mainly self taught , and have just about every major Astrological program going...Cut my computer teeth on the most expensive & comprensive astrology program I could get; I already knew how to do the charting in astrological matters, but had to learn how to work with the computer program, as well as how to use the computer...Nothing like jumping in head first !! I never looked back , and now wish so many others could get over the 'fear' of failure...we learn by our errors , and as long as you are able to take your time and carefully read the screen, much can be accomplished.. It is a MACHINE.... and the plug can be pulled, if all else fails... I like my TOYS and my 18yr old grandson calls me Geek....By the way, my 90 yr old Mother-in-law also has her computer..... still going strong... I really enjoyed the article and hope it encourages others to join the adventure.

  43. Richard Wesley Eby
    January 8, 2013 at 7:51 pm

    This is a great article. It really goes to show that wisdom does come with age. She understands not only technology, but also the detrimental effects that some of it has. Great piece.

  44. David Farquharson
    January 8, 2013 at 7:20 pm

    As we get older I think we get more set in our ways - a person that is open to new ideas, adventurous will continue to be so. My father got his first computer when he was 70 and proceeded to blow my brother and myself away (both heavily into computers) by figuring out how to use CP/M for complex ballistics programs. His letters to me (more than 5000 km distant) were a riot. We are also now entering the time period when people who have worked in the computer industry for their entire lives are into 'old age' and are beginning to spend more of their time spreading their expertise to friends and relations rather than to business colleagues. Some of us are still working and thoroughly enjoying it. I'm 68, have worked with computers for over 43 years and am a full time IT support person.

    It is almost impossible to 'pigeon hole' people based on something like age groups. When you get talking to the individuals you will find (as usual) a staggering array of diversity. One trend I would expect is a reduced tendency to follow the latest fad because they have seen countless 'new, exciting, world changing' things come - and go. I fit into that mold. I had an expensive feature filled, Internet connecting cell phone half a dozen years ago. I NEVER used any of it's advanced features. Now I carry the simplest cell phone I can find and prefer to use the amateur radio whenever possible.

  45. Ap Coach
    January 8, 2013 at 6:57 pm


    I have taught computing technology for over 10 years to older people. Your article gives a fair and insightful view of this topic, and I was glad to see how accurate you were with the attitude of the young. Although there are a growing number of caring young people who work within the home, care, voluntary, charity sector in the UK.

    Although your interviewees were not keen to, or needed to use tablets. I have found that some older people have been able to access the Internet easier, using these types of device, than trying to master the mouse or learn about Windows. So older people should be presented with all the options.

    • Simon Harris
      January 9, 2013 at 10:04 am

      AP Coach - proof that the Internet might be a smaller place than we thought!

      Agree totally with how well Yaara has researched and written this article.

      I've yet to be convinced that such small screens as tablets, are the best way forward in a situation where vision is almost certainly declining.

      My advice to older (80+ in the context of this discussion) people - think carefully about your eyesight; I have often been told about a sudden decline in vision, at these ages. So my "personal opinion" always tends towards advising people to invest in larger screens 21" or 22" at least, and a fullsize standard keyboard.
      Bigger laptops with a 19" screen usually have just about fullsize keyboards, so are almost as easy to use.

      • Rhonda Paulson
        January 10, 2013 at 2:06 am

        As a senior with constant eyestrain problems, I would encourage website developers to consider the size of the fonts they use to present their information and it isn't only the size, it's the color. Too many sites not only use a smaller font, but make it grey when quoting something/someone. It makes reading almost impossible. Since I do a lot of reading, I don't want to take the time copy/paste everything into another program or application. I just want to read it and move on.

  46. Becky Bowman
    January 8, 2013 at 6:56 pm

    My 87 year old mother wants to use her laptop as more than a glorified typewriter, but she gets easily overwhelmed with technology. I have never been able to show her that there is an enormous world out there on the internet. She's a very intelligent woman, but I supposed she's fundamentally afraid of new technology. She wants to learn it, but not enough to try more than once a month or so.
    She does turn on her computer every day so she can enjoy the pictures on her screensaver! She's hilarious and I love her very much.

  47. Genifer Snipes
    January 8, 2013 at 6:34 pm

    What a fantastic article! I am the "official" tech person for family members and the ways they find to use the computer, and what they find intimidating about it, have both baffled and impressed me.
    I've found that the fear of breaking something and being unable to fix it is the greatest challenge in getting them to try new things and engage. The line about "don’t be afraid, you can’t break the computer, you don’t know how to" is one of my two mantras. The other is: "It's not you, it's the technology"-which it usually is. Some level of un-intuitiveness or change in the screen that just doesn't make sense is the biggest barrier for them to try new things.
    And yet, my grandmother (who has never deleted an email message in her life) can find any message on any subject because she has mastered Gmail's search abilities, created her own filing taxonomy, and bludgeoned Gmail into workable submission. Plus, she runs multiple email newsletters, tracks down genealogy contacts, and has created an internal Wikipedia of subject and person info on her computer...and yet, she still thinks, because she's not on Facebook everyday and doing everything on the computer (she does handwritten notes too), she's stupid with computers.

    She does look at things very differently, but if I can can keep my own "I know what to do!" impulses under control and listen to her, her reasons for doing X on the computer one way and not doing Y at all make perfect sense.

    • Lisa Santika Onggrid
      January 9, 2013 at 10:00 am

      Actually, your grandma is much savvier than many people I've met before, perhaps one fifth her age.

    • Yaara Lancet
      January 11, 2013 at 7:58 am

      Your grandmother sounds amazing. It's funny to me how not knowing how to use Facebook makes people think they're stupid about computers. My mother is the same, she knows lots of things, but not Facebook, and she keeps telling me that she doesn't know anything because of that. I keep telling her Facebook is the last thing she needs. :)

  48. Anonymous
    January 8, 2013 at 6:23 pm

    I lost my dad to Dementia in 1997. He was a WWII & Korea Vet-an officer in the Army Corps of Engineers-and very technically oriented. We've all wondered if having access to a computer & the Internet would have helped him, but we'll never know. I applaud these two women, and ALL the seniors, who have such a pragmatic approach to technology: It's a tool not a lifestyle.

    It is sad to me that people, with each incarnation of technology, withdraw farther and farther from human interaction. It is downright scary to hear results of studies showing that teens' brains, when deprived of their phones, react similarly to a crack addict deprived of that horrible substance. (In that the same area of the brain triggers the addictive need and euphoric reward) As a society, we are criminally failing our children due to our addictions to technology and the status placed on its devices.

    Technology SHOULD be a tool, and a damn good one, but it should not be the proverbial tail that wags the dog. As the latter it is destroying our minds, our relationships and our language. Anyone see the movie "Idiocracy"? I'm afraid that's where we're headed with our ever-growing preoccupation with the juggernaut that is technology.

    • Yaara Lancet
      January 11, 2013 at 7:54 am

      I must say I somewhat agree. I think it's up to use to set the limits between using technology as a tool, and using it as a constant distraction and addiction. In my day to day life, I make an effort to not use my smartphone for much more than calls and texts, unless I have to. I try to read emails only when I'm in front of my computer, and not take my phone out at all when I'm with people.

      Unfortunately, I'm one of the only people I know who do this, and the limits are really getting stretched. And my generation is not the one born into Internet, we're the children of the 80s, all this stuff only came around when we were already young adults...

  49. Anita
    January 8, 2013 at 5:57 pm

    Very insightful. Thank you.

  50. Shmuel Mendelsohn
    January 8, 2013 at 5:37 pm

    And herer I thought that computers were only for you young folks!

  51. N
    January 8, 2013 at 5:17 pm

    One of the best yet. This story cuts across all the teen oriented hype.

  52. Dee Wheat
    January 8, 2013 at 5:16 pm

    Hello, children, meet your grandmother. Yes, that's right, while I'm not 90 (I'm 64 LOL), in the eyes of most of you, I'm a hopelessly outdated dinosaur who can't possibly understand you and the technology you use, much less use it myself.



    In actuality, I was using computers when many of you were merely a gleam in your father's eye, if that. I was using computers when we only transmitted text documents via a special phone line on my desk that I hooked up to every time I needed to send something. My monitor was hopelessly small and weighed a ton, and came in two choices: green or amber. If I wanted to delete a file, I had to do it with the backspace key. We won't even talk about that old dot matrix printer, either.

    There was no internet, no picture files, no chat of any kind, Fortran and Cobol were common words, and NO ONE had a personal computer, because what in the world would you use it for unless you had a home office? Those were an oddity then too.

    Then I had an eight year hiatus, when I lived in a place so remote that there was no TV or phone service, not even on those 30 pound bag phones we thought were so cool, even though they were virtually useless because cell towers were still more science fiction than reality. But that was OK, because I could get into my vehicle and go the five miles to town and use a....dare I say it? phone!

    When I finally decided to rejoin mankind, the internet had become a reality, and using a computer was a whole new world, one about which I knew virtually nothing. I bought my first PC....a Compaq with a whole 6 gig hard drive that I was assured was more than big enough. I called my phone company to set up my *gulp* dialup, and it was a mess. The woman who was helping me asked if my granddaughter, who was eight, was there. When I said yes, she told me to put her on the phone because she was pretty sure SHE could set it up, and do it much faster than I could. In, literally, a few seconds, we were online.

    It took me only a minute to realize that I had unleashed a cobra in my livingroom, a cobra that I had no clue how to subdue, much less tame. I immediately decided that my grandchild was not going to know more about this cobra than I did, and the rest is history. I called the phone company woman back and explained my dilemma, and we became fast friends. Within a few weeks, I was helping other people set up THEIR internet, and giving them some basics regarding computer safety and how to know if their kids were doing things online that they shouldn't be doing.

    Now, almost 20 years later, I have a desk top, three laptops, a netbook, a tablet, and a phone I can access the internet with, although it's not a smartphone and it's such a PITA that I never use it for that. I did get one with a slide out keyboard for easier texting LOL. I ALSO have a DSLR and a good assortment of lenses, a point and shoot that takes pics almost as well as many DSLR's despite its age, a digital camcorder that has its own hard drive, three external hard drives, and more memory cards and thumb drives, including one that LOOKS like a thumb, than I care to think about. Oh, and thanks to the MUO contest that I won, I have a Kindle that I use every single day and absolutely LOVE!

    Hello, children, I'm your grandmother, and you are just going to have to adjust your perceptions of us old folks, because there's a lot you don't know about us. In my case, as is the case of most of us "adults", there are things that are on a need-to-know basis, and you never will need to know.

    Now you're REALLY wondering, aren't you LOL?

    • dragonmouth
      January 8, 2013 at 9:44 pm

      Right on, granny! You tell the young whippersnappers how it is. :-)

    • Lisa Santika Onggrid
      January 9, 2013 at 9:58 am

      Wow, you're a cool one. You ought to tell this to everyone else and show them what you're made of ;) Never disrespect your elders!

    • Yaara Lancet
      January 11, 2013 at 7:47 am

      Excellent comment! Thank you so much for sharing your story, I absolutely loved it. My mother is exactly your age, and while she's not as tech savvy as you, she definitely knows her way around her laptop and smartphone, and uses them non-stop. I doubt she could set up a connection for other people, though. :)

      Thanks again! it's comments like this that make writing this article even more worth it.

  53. Venkateswara Swamy Swarna
    January 8, 2013 at 5:12 pm

    A good article. I am 64 and use the PC Desktop. I did use my son's laptop too and now am slowly getting used to a 9.7 inches Android Tablet where I type onscreen. I do have a smartphone but use it more for accessing emails etc. than for making calls. For making calls, I prefer and use a simple feature phone with a QWERTY keyboard so that it is easy to send a SMS when needed.

    Many people of my age in India are keyboard phobic and are generally averse to all things related to computers and technology. Most of them are of course poor too but there is a large middle class that can afford these things if they really want.

    Some of my friends had to learn to use Computers (esp. Skype etc.) because of their children and grandchildren being abroad. Some learnt to use IPAD etc. because they were gifted these by their children and also got fascinated when they saw them using.

    I especially agree with you about stiff fingers and the need for elders to be given larger monitors and big keyboards. I can still manage to type slowly on the laptop / netbook keyboard but I prefer the regular desktop keyboard and the 17" LCD monitor (5 years ago LCD monitors were fairly expensive and so I settled for the 17" size. If I need to replace now, I will probably go for 19" to 21" or even a little larger.).

    All in all, a nice article, covering a topic that is not well explored. Thanks again.

  54. Anonymous
    January 8, 2013 at 5:12 pm

    I introduced my mother to the use of the computer when she was in her 70's she used one until 2 years ago. Now she is 100 and has no interest in just about anything except sleeping. For some one who kept track of the state of the trans-Atlantic cable and saved up to call home to England it was a marvelous invention that kept her in touch with generations of her relatives.

    • Yaara Lancet
      January 11, 2013 at 7:41 am

      Your mother is 100 years old! Now that's impressive. And to think she still got to enjoy a computer and Internet, that's incredible. Thanks for sharing this!

  55. Susan
    January 8, 2013 at 5:06 pm

    Yanaa, you really got to the point by showing that "seniors" (or as I call them "Seasoned Citizens" are just as inquisitive as anyone else! I've spent the last 20 years assisting people in getting over their fears and have developed a series of seminars to address this. Unfortunately, most people who I approach about providing a venue don't think that these Seasoned Citizens would be interested! Thank you for your most insightful article, and thanks to MakeUseOf for publishing it!

  56. Ellen Odza
    January 8, 2013 at 4:47 pm

    My 84 year old mother-in-law is nowhere near as tech-savvy as the seniors you've described, but she does find uses for the computer! She emails a lot and plays various games on the computer, and downloads her daily crossword (if her internet goes down and she can't get her crossword fix, she's on the phone to me to fix it NOW!) We recently switched her to a laptop, because she moved into a studio in an assisted living facility (no room for her big computer desk and desktop computer), and got her a wireless printer, and she's adapted to that just fine.

  57. MarciaH
    January 8, 2013 at 4:41 pm

    Wonderful article. I thoroughly enjoyed it. I'm "only" 71, but I love using technology. I earn my living as a web designer (self-taught) and I am forever trying to turn on my luddite peers to the wonders available through the great web of information available to us now. I'm a real researcher by nature, and I just love having access to any kind of knowledge imaginable. That is a great joy to me.

    I do see the downside, however. I agree with another commenter about the apparent inability of the tech-addicted to be still, be alone, be not in contact. The connections that people are making these days seem to be more frequent, but also more shallow. That, I think, is a loss.

    • Effie Mae
      January 8, 2013 at 4:55 pm

      Agree wholeheartedly! I always laugh at the car commercial with the young woman who has thousands of 'friends' on facebook but is sitting in a room with a computer while her parents, who have less than 20 friends are out having fun.

    • Yaara Lancet
      January 11, 2013 at 7:37 am

      Thanks for sharing this, Marcia!

  58. Ruth H
    January 8, 2013 at 4:41 pm

    I am 76 and have been using computers since CPM on a Kaypro II; and the internet since the early days of usenet. I find them the greatest tool invented in my lifetime. I could not wait to get one when we got our first one. I use Facebook all the time to keep up with my five siblings, three children, four grandchildren, 21 nieces and nephew and their children. What a blessing to be able to chat with them and interact about their daily lives and the progress of all the children.
    I also found I had let my country down and did not become politically active until socialism had taken over. Now I am chairman of my tea party. Me, a little old lady, what a terrorist I am! My group has few in it who are not either bald or gray.

    • Yaara Lancet
      January 11, 2013 at 7:35 am

      Thanks so much for sharing this. 21 nieces and nephews! I have one and she seems like a handful. :))

  59. Paul Clayton
    January 8, 2013 at 4:36 pm

    Thanks for this article,it really is a rarity to see an age related article in a tech site - and also for drawing the comparisons for the different ages. As an IT tutor working with the over 50s for some time (and mostly with the physically disabled these days) I noticed one major point that you've missed, the big thing that is overlooked..accessibility. The fear factor can be overcome by the fiddle factor (and knowing what adult learners want always helps), but making text bigger, changing the mouse speed and size, zooming into web pages and documents all can make the machine more usable by anyone. Very much overlooked by many well meaning people that 'just give a hand'; this is why I always am justifiably miffed when I am called in to help an elderly learner with all of the knobs and whistles, but the screen resolution is maxed out and mouse is a tiny flashing sliver on the screen.
    Dolphin guide is a great tool for the elderly who wish to communicate and do some writing - created for people with low or no vision, I reckon it would suit many a elderly frightened noob; unfortunately it is on the expensive side.

    • Yaara Lancet
      January 11, 2013 at 7:34 am

      Good point, Paul. It's interesting, but neither of my interviewees mentioned this factor. My guess is that screen resolution and such are pretty easy to control, and it's probably one of the first things that was set up for them when they got a computer.

      I did ask them about the button and screen size on their cell phones, which are pretty small, but since both use reading glasses anyway, they both said it's just fine.

      The factor they did both mention was the button size, and keyboard size. If they keyboard or buttons are too small, it's harder for them to control it, and that's mentioned in the article.


  60. Andre
    January 8, 2013 at 4:24 pm

    Both my mother and father-in-law are in their early eighties but have been using computers for all kinds of things for about 7 years now.

    Both Skype regularly and I service the computers remotely.

    I am amazed at my mothers abilities to search as well as spotting potential problems in e mails, mall ware etc.

    I know a few people in their 60's that cant do without a computer as its their only way to communicate with family spread across the world.

    All have cell phones and inherent the phones we dump when upgrading so they are not far behind.

    My personal experience is that the over 50 generations have been neglected by the Internet community including the big players.

    It is not an easy market to get to but there are ways and its a potentially huge market as money is usually not a problem as one starts to live life for quality and enrichment, not monetary gain.

    I am 55 and have two smartphones, 2 pads (NOT Apple, NEVER Apple), 2 laptops, two desktops and two travel mini computers. Add a camera, video camera, wireless security cameras, and a blueprint to connect almost anything that I can to solar energy and regulate it all via 'smart' programs and I am set.

    I am not a Geek, just a very good user of tech. I have also played around with robots and virtual reality and love taking things apart . The Raspberry Pi is my next one as I would love to program stuff for my own personal use. I used to program useful little 'Apps' in the eighties when basic was still around.

    I cant wait for augmented reality, voice and smart household devices and perhaps full virtual reality to be standard stuff before I move on to the next life! :-)

    And I play games, preferably the ones that require full body movements, keeps me fit. Oh, just remembered, I had a good tennis game but it gave me tennis elbow! LOL!!

    Evolutionary Change at Revolutionary Speed

    • Yaara Lancet
      January 11, 2013 at 7:31 am

      That's quite a lot of gadgets you have! Good luck with the Raspberry Pi, it seems like an incredible gadget. If I had the stomach for programming I might have tried it. :)

  61. Pamela - Computer Tutor
    January 8, 2013 at 4:06 pm

    I am very proud of your Grandmother and all seniors who take the challenge and delve into the exciting world of ever changing technology. For more than two decades I have devoted my time to the computer and now iPad and iPhone education of seniors. In my opinion it is so important or seniors to keep their minds alert and realize that the Internet is a "window to the world" especially for the housebound.
    Thank you for publishing this story; it really made my day!

  62. Globalwalyy Temilola
    January 7, 2013 at 4:22 pm

    Amazing One, i keep reading and doing that again..

  63. Big Doody
    January 7, 2013 at 6:49 am

    Amazing article Yaara. Hard to find anything written like this nowadays.

    • Lisa Santika Onggrid
      January 9, 2013 at 9:54 am

      Yeah. I love MUO's feature article, although it doesn't come up as often. If you're reading this, Yaara, we;re waiting for you to write more.

  64. Anonymous
    January 7, 2013 at 2:25 am

    Such touching stories. I really enjoyed reading this article. I do agree with Sonia that technology takes away from the face to face conversation and the way we communicate. I know of an older lady not quite as old as these but we talk a bit especially when it comes to electronics which she loves. She buys her books and read them on the original kindle and uses her iphone and ipad because she finds it easier to talk to her children and move around.

  65. Junil Maharjan
    January 6, 2013 at 4:39 am

    really a great article. It shows the generation gap among families created by technology but also bringing them closer through the same technology. It is rather true that some old people really hard to learn newer technology and some of them get really confused but even though they learn.

    • dragonmouth
      January 8, 2013 at 9:34 pm

      How are you at learning "new" things? Would you get confused by a telegraph key, or a crystal radio, or a butter churn, a telephone with a crank? Most of the old people you disparage would have no problems with those items. It all depends on what you grew up with.

  66. Truong
    January 6, 2013 at 4:22 am

    I'm barely 23 and I already fear the technology, it is making me lazier, weaker and cockier. Am I getting old from the inside? :(

    BTW, this is an amazing story.

    • dragonmouth
      January 8, 2013 at 9:23 pm

      "I’m barely 23 and I already fear the technology, it is making me lazier, weaker and cockier."
      It is not technology that making you lazier, weaker or cockier, it is yourself. Technology does not control us, we control technology.

      "Am I getting old from the inside? :("
      You are only as old as you feel. If you let yourself feel 60, you will act like you're 60.

      • janzer
        January 12, 2013 at 4:51 am

        "You are only as old as you feel. If you let yourself feel 60, you will act like you’re 60." In that case I've been old since as far back as I can remember! It's totally true :D

  67. Obed Cutaran
    January 5, 2013 at 3:59 pm

    Nice article, it's amazing to know that there are oldies out there who knows the technology. I am afraid that this might happen to our generation when we'll became old.

  68. bben
    January 5, 2013 at 11:40 am

    As a 66 year old lifetime geek I approve. I have my 88 year old mother and her 90 year old sister using Facebook to communicate - they don't use it like the kiddies though. The culture is just different. They may post something once or twice a week, read through the family news from some of the other family members on FB. But they complain there is too much garbage and not enough real info from many of the younger people. They really don't want to see a lot of stuff copied from elsewhere - just info on family. FB is just not their idea of a social life. For music, I set them up with Pandora and showed them how to add an artist to their list - they both love 40s swing and big band. My aunt likes LOLcats. My mother doesn't. They both have cell phones. One a older type feature phone and the other a smart phone - they use them very rarely and only as phones. - Again different culture.

    If you are going to teach computers to an old person, find one thing they are interested in doing and teach that exclusively. FB is a good place to start with the women especially. Their era used one thing for one use ( radio for music, TV for Video, Telephone for phone calls) and the concept that a single object - such as a smart phone can do all of these - and more, is hard for them to grasp at first.

    As for the kiddies that don't think an old man can possibly know anything about a computer. Who did you think invented the internet? Some 14 year old middle school kid? - I was pushing bits for a living when your daddy was in diapers.

    • Yaara Lancet
      January 6, 2013 at 7:48 am

      Thanks so much for the comment, bben. Very interesting. I think you're absolutely right about finding something they're interested in or want to do and starting from there. For my grandmother, it was typing, after typewriters became a thing of the past, and to my immense pleasure, it turned out to be much more than that, and I could keep in touch with her when I went away for two years for my studies.

      It's a different generation, and while it's clear they CAN use computers and phones just like anyone, I believe many just don't want to do it. Can't see the point in it. And I can understand that too.

    • C. Joseph Theodore
      January 8, 2013 at 5:30 pm

      How true, most folks just want ‘nuggets of knowledge’ – they want to learn ‘just what they want to learn’ and not much more! If you think about it, that is the core of learning – one thing leads to another and we need additional information if we want to tie it all together. Seniors are not different except they realize they don’t really care about ‘bits’ and ‘bytes’. All they want to do is get on FB or download some pictures of the grandchildren. When others try to teach them those tasks, they complicate the process with words and concepts the senior learner do not need (or want) to know.

      I have been a Technical Computer Instructor for many years and throughout those years I formed a solid understanding of the adult learner and the way they absorbed the information. However, once I retired and started helping those who were seniors to me I realized just how much of a paradigm shift there was here. Any material I use to use had to be ‘thinned down’ to the point of making it easier to read, use different fonts and make use of a lot more graphics. Also, the way the material was delivered took a huge turn. What would take a few hours to deliver now had to be ‘cut down’ to 30 minutes or so for the senior or you would lose them or they would just ‘turn you off’!

      My point is that seniors now make up a very large portion of our population and for the most part been left out (or behind) of the in technical sector. They have been left to ‘fend for them selves’ and as our society turns more and more to technology use to solve problems we are shutting off some very valuable insight we could gain from seniors just because they are voices are being muffled by the lack of knowledge of today technology. Seems we have abandoned the lesions learned from the past just because some cannot understand how to use the Internet!

      • janzer
        January 12, 2013 at 4:48 am

        Now what's really interesting about your comment is this: in my observations I would say that everything you've said about how you have to teach seniors ( they don't care about the technical parts just the portions that get them what they want, material has to be watered down to make it easier to read with more pictures, and cutting down lessons in order to keep their attention) sounds just like what I see for quite a lot of young people as well. There are multiple reasons behind this "dumbing down" of teaching in order to reach the audience, and I think marketing has affected much more than we've come to realize.

  69. Gerwell Taroma
    January 5, 2013 at 10:36 am

    i love this feature's really amazing how our grannies cope with technology!!!very nice story

  70. ReadandShare
    January 5, 2013 at 2:51 am

    True story... For the longest time, my 84 year old dad refused to touch the computer. My brothers tried to interest him about all the stuff he could do with a computer - read the news, check bank and brokerage accounts, etc. Not at all interested.

    On a visit one morning, I sat my dad down in front of the monitor -- and downloaded a naked blonde -- full frontal. Dad disappeared... and reappeared with his glasses. He had no idea a computer could "do" that!!

    In just one day, my dad mastered keyboard and mouse, as well as browsing, googling, navigating to and bookmarking all sorts of naughty sites.

    Folks just need to teach seniors the 'right' way. :)

    • Yaara Lancet
      January 6, 2013 at 7:44 am

      That's brilliant! :))) Thanks so much for sharing that one. :)

    • Jeanne
      January 8, 2013 at 4:12 pm

      As a long time instructor I can tell you that people use all kinds of technology in different ways. Uh, isn't that the point? Also, no matter what the adult population of learners, the key to mastering a subject (tech or not) is to show them relevance. Who cares about stock trading if you can see porn? Or porn, if you can communicate with your grandchildren? It's all about personal relevance - and that should resonate with all generations.

    • Effie Mae
      January 8, 2013 at 4:48 pm

      What a great article! I work in the senior housing industry and have 79 year old parents so interact with folks 65-100 on a fairly regular basis. Many of them exibit the same level of expertise that the ladies you interviewed do. My (totally subjective) observation is that women seem to take to computers more easily than men. I love ReadandShare's comment. Right now my Dad only plays solitaire...but I bet your idea would work for him too, lol.

  71. someone
    January 5, 2013 at 2:29 am

    And yet they're using Internet Explorer.....

    • OldGeek
      January 5, 2013 at 12:52 pm

      Because IE comes with Windows, they've always used it, and they don't have to install anything or learn how to use something new like Chrome of Firefox.

      • Jonen
        January 5, 2013 at 3:49 pm

        well, one used Chrome (i think). probably the one who downloaded Youtube to MP3.

        • Yaara Lancet
          January 6, 2013 at 7:44 am

          You're right, she used Chrome. :)

      • Yuri de Groot
        January 13, 2013 at 9:28 am

        Switching browsers requires one to learn something new? Really? I've had visitors with very little computer experience stay with me. When they ask to check their email or facebook, they get to use a guest login on a Linux box with the Chrome browser installed. I usually leave them to it and they're into their hotmail or facebook account within minutes of starting up the computer, with no help. These are often people who have used nothing but IE on Windows.

        • Richard Fenton
          February 18, 2013 at 8:42 pm

          Forget the browser. What about changing OS, like like from XP to Windows 8?

    • Lisa Santika Onggrid
      January 9, 2013 at 9:50 am

      While I understand what you mean, at least if they're using the latest Internet Explorer it shouldn't be too much a problem. It comes by default with Windows and if they're like Sarah, who had been on the internet for 10+ years, it's logical that they're more familiar with IE.

  72. Bruce
    January 5, 2013 at 2:24 am

    I sort of like your article. Its generally good when older people get some positive attention, actually, any kind of attention. At 66 I'm starting to see people look past me. Old often brings stereotype stuff from young. You write. Articles that point out how multi- faceted people of all ages can be are good. Keep telling that once in a while will ya? I don't think this is an amazing story. It just is what it is. These women do what they do despite the fact that some young people think its miraculous. That's quirky (but understandable) thinking from the young, not a miracle from the old. Why wouldn't an old man build a beautifully functioning hackintosh and write this comment on it? Generation gaps are a figment of the imagination.

    • Yaara Lancet
      January 6, 2013 at 7:43 am

      Thanks for the comment, Bruce. The point is not that its miraculous in any way that these women CAN do what they do. Naturally they can do it, and that's the point of the article. The amazing thing is that they actually do it, and when you look at the community they live in, you see that a very small minority of the residents even owns a computer, much less watches videos on YouTube, chats on ICQ, uses Skype or types up whole stories.

      These women are 90, so they are 25 years older than you are. My parents are your age, and, naturally, they use computers and own smartphones, and I don't find it amazing. It's just what it is. But when a 90-year-old woman does this, I don't take it for granted, and I hope no one takes it for granted when I'm still using technology when I'm 90. :)

      • Bruce
        January 7, 2013 at 8:17 pm

        Have to laugh at myself a bit. Guess I'm just feeling very old these days. Thanks for the perspective and for taking time to respond.

        • Yaara Lancet
          January 8, 2013 at 9:58 am

          No worries. :) I'm only 30 and I feel old sometimes too! :)

      • AlexP
        January 11, 2013 at 8:05 am

        Interesting observations I guess I'm about to join the oldtimers club - going on 82 years.

        However I still run my own one-man computer service business, which I started in 1986, and I get two or three crashed or infected desktops/laptops brought to my shop weekly by people half my age who most often haven't a clue about how they function. Most of these folks are repeat customers from 1 to 20 years ago, or are referrals. People ask me why I still do it - answer: I just enjoy the work.

        Of course I admit I'm cheating because I did study engineering at MIT (class of '53), spent 4 years in the US Air Force teaching electronics to radar techs, then went to work for GE Computer Division in Phoenix. After that I worked at SDS (later Xerox Data Systems) on Sigma7 and other equipment used at JPL to track space shots, etc. etc.

        I have found through the years that working in depth on advanced technology keeps your brain tuned up, and if you also diligently keep your body in shape you can function as well as people 2/3 your age.

        • Yaara Lancet
          January 13, 2013 at 6:09 am

          Thanks for the comment, I think having a job you still enjoy at 82 is amazing, and I hope to have one too when I reach that age. Hope you keep it up for many years to come!

  73. Kiran
    January 5, 2013 at 1:02 am

    loved the story, it was amazing to see my grandmother upgrade from a fifteen year old tape player that she thought was high-tech, to a Nexus 7 tablet, where I downlowad her music from America to India with over the air Google Music, I hope that our generation will see such advances in our life time, but we will never know until that day comes.

    Also, one minor correction on an image of Einstein, as he did not actually say that quote, but was merely created by someone on the internet

    • Yaara Lancet
      January 6, 2013 at 7:39 am

      A Nexus 7 truly is an advancement!

      About Einstein, yeah, I know he didn't actually say it. I included it because both women I interviewed saw it online and mentioned it when they talked about communication, smartphones, etc. It's fitting, regardless of whether he actually said it or not. :)

      • dragonmouth
        January 8, 2013 at 10:02 pm

        Your article reminds me of a joke I read some time ago.

        A young snot is making fun of an old timer because he is not up to speed on using the latest gadgets.
        The old timer just smiles and says "Where would you be if the old timers did not event all of that?"

  74. Francisco de Gusmão
    January 5, 2013 at 12:32 am

    really loved the story!

  75. Igor Rizvi?
    January 4, 2013 at 11:56 pm

    well...einstein was right :S

    • Andre
      January 8, 2013 at 4:30 pm

      Nope, he was wrong. More people read and write now than ever before otherwise how do you use the Internet? Kindle is doing well and Einstein did not take into account the amazing adaptability mankind possesses. In Africa cell phones are making a huge impact and soon almost every African will have access to at least sms.

      • Anonymous
        January 8, 2013 at 6:45 pm

        That may be true and, in some respects, it is a good thing but this society, where most of us live our lives, is going to Hell in a handbasket due to dependency on technology. Why do we need a law with which to threaten teens (and, sadly, a lot of adults) about the dangers of texting while driving? Why can the average high school senior text 90 wpm but cannot solve simple math problems without a calculator, create a resume, fill out a job application or even correctly construct a sentence with all the words spelled correctly? If you think our obsession with technology (and celebrity, BTW) has no correlation with the pathetic educational levels in the US, with all due respect, you're being naive. I worked exclusively with 16-30 year-olds in my 30+ year career in customer service. From 1995 on, I witnessed a marked decline in literacy as that age group became more and more dependent on technology. Technology should be a means to an end, not the end itself.

        • Lisa Santika Onggrid
          January 9, 2013 at 9:47 am

          I agree with you, especially that last sentence. As a teenager myself I'd say it's over generalization, and I do know a lot of teenagers capable of using proper language, but it's in the minority compared to the rest. It's sad how some aspects are actually going backwards as technlogy moves forward.

        • Bushy
          January 11, 2013 at 9:48 pm

          Hi Lisa,
          You may agree with the last sentence, although I must correct you on your use of 'proper' words.
          Surely you mean 'teenagers capable of using correct language'
          Unfortunately, I too, have noticed a huge decline in the younger generations ability to communicate face to face, develop social skills and interaction between themselves, most of the time, when asked "why did you do this, say that or buy like that" inevitably the answer is "What do you mean, everyone does".
          Unfortunately individuality is a dying trait.

      • dragonmouth
        January 8, 2013 at 9:56 pm

        "More people read and write now than ever before otherwise how do you use the Internet?"
        That maybe so but they cannot construct a grammatically correct sentence or properly spell a word longer than two letters. Don't even think of asking them to write a simple letter. All they know is leet speak, text speak and emoticons.

        • Mark Alsisto
          January 10, 2013 at 11:36 am

          OMG, u r so rite. LOL...j/k :D

        • dragonmouth
          January 10, 2013 at 12:40 pm

          I rest my case. :-)

  76. Macwitty
    January 4, 2013 at 11:27 pm

    Thanks Yaara, lovely women!
    Have similar experience from some older women I use to give a hand.

    In Sweden, seniors have created an organization, SeniorNet, to teach other seniors to use computers. They have both workshops and individual meetings "computer cafe." The old friends I have who not been using computers when they worked says that the advantage of going there is that they know how old thinking and how long it takes. The downside to ask younger is that they say "it's just click there and there" which does not make them feel safer to test.

    Then to take notes by hand instead of copying and pasting. The advantage of it is - you remember better ;)

    • Yaara Lancet
      January 6, 2013 at 7:38 am

      SeniorNet sounds brilliant. After all, it's all a matter of explaining things and showing things right, like my interviewee Sarah said. When you start off with the right things and know from the start you're not going to break anything, it works out much better.

    • Scott Hedrick
      January 6, 2013 at 4:31 pm

      I just recently completed my bachelor's degree. My high school diploma is older than some of the instructors. Some of my fellow students were amazed and amused as how much I wrote by hand - and annoyed at my grades. I am glad I was raised at a time before the music video trained folks to have the attention span of a goldfish. Kids don't learn how to be bored anymore, and thus don't know how to handle a lack of stimulation.

      • Yaara Lancet
        January 7, 2013 at 7:12 am

        The sad thing is that it's not just kids. There are people in my generation (I was born in the early 80s) who have the same problem. You leave them alone for 2 minutes and they're already checking emails on their phone or playing a game. It's like there's something inherently wrong about just sitting there for 2 minutes doing nothing.

        • Don Funkhouser
          January 8, 2013 at 4:46 pm

          I hate to tell you this, but to most of us older folks you still are just a kid. Not trying to be insulting, but the majority of people born after 1979 are still kids. They haven't reached the maturity level of a 30 year old born in 1940 due to the amount of technology they have had to work with all of their lives. Technology has crippled their ability to think creatively and constructively, lowered their self esteem, and hindered their learning any form of common sense.

        • Peter Bryenton
          January 8, 2013 at 5:20 pm

          My students are aged 11 to 19 and are all registered blind. Some are also deaf. They are extremely creative and motivated to use their talking laptops, braille comouters and smartphones for study and social media. This new access technology opens up the world to them in ways their parents and grandparents could never have imagined.
          Peter Bryenton
          IT Teacher
          New College Worcester, UK

        • Peter Bryenton
          January 8, 2013 at 5:20 pm


        • Yaara Lancet
          January 9, 2013 at 8:11 am

          I have to disagree with your general statement, about younger people never being creative or constructive, but I do understand how you view me as a kid.

          It's funny, but I know I view people who were born in the 90s, or even the late 80s, as kids, so it's completely understandable that you see me as a kid. :)

      • Lisa Santika Onggrid
        January 9, 2013 at 9:43 am

        Maybe it's one of the advantage of living in developing country. We still take notes by hand, although reports and assignments are mostly done digitally. I agree that we retain information longer by handwriting. I admire your spirit to keep learning. Actually, I think people who go to college later in life know what they're going to do in contrast to youngsters who go just because of society pressure. You're there to actually learn and pay enough attention to the class.
        Hahaha, good thing my parents introduced me to books in my early years. It helps me developing attentiveness. Most of my friends don't have patience to read through any book longer than 50 pages and not comic.
        I like doing nothing just to explore my mind. Does it still count?
        This is a nice article not only because of the topic, but also the comment threads it spawned. Nice to see senior computer users chiming in.

      • Anonymous
        January 9, 2013 at 6:35 pm

        Note taking is a lost art--and one that is completely necessary for success. Case in point: One of my classes (network design) had a digital text of over 600 pages. The index was horrific, so doing a search was near impossible. On the open-book final exam, I was able to finish early, while my classmates took the full two hours. Not because I was any smarter or remembered better, but because my notes allowed me to quickly cross-reference lectures & labs with relevant portions of the text. Digital libraries are only as good as their search ability. Good note-taking, in essence, lets you write your own search index.

        • Ned
          February 23, 2013 at 7:57 am

          Not a lost art at all and has nothing to do with the media. Whether you have loads of digital text or paper text books or have got yourself writers cramp by trying to get it all down during lecture it is necessary to organize and condense the more relevant information afterwords with personal notations. It is called studying. You studied ;)

    • Blackall Range
      January 9, 2013 at 3:12 am

      In Australia the Federal Government funds a program call Broadband for Seniors. ( It provides lessons and cheap computers to seniors. I'm a volunteer tutor and most of my students are in their 80's and all manage email, YouTube, and some are Facebook fans. I'm 65 myself.
      Seniors are very capable, the only failure I've had is a lady with dementia, a common problem I strike is grandchildren interfering with Grandmother's computer. Seniors use computers differently, leave them alone.

  77. Jorge Andrade
    January 4, 2013 at 11:15 pm

    amazing story!