Help Elders Understand More: A History of the Way the Web Works

After breakfast three seniors work on three different digital devices.

After breakfast three seniors work on three different digital devices.

My parents and other elders often ask me questions about the Web — the way it works, how it really got started, how it’s evolved, and how why it changes so much.

I have the answers to many of these questions and willingly take the time to explain, but often wish I could hand the questioners something to read. Each of my  answers teaches an individual one time. By providing an article or other resource that can be consulted again and again and is eminently readable, I offer a person the opportunity to learn or relearn over and over.

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Cyber Seniors Documentary: Well Done!

This afternoon at the Family Online Safety Institute (FOSI) conference in Washington, DC, I saw clips from a documentary, Cyber-Seniors, about teenage volunteers in Toronto who work with elders — people in their mid to late 80s and older — and the rich clarity of their interactions. Many of these people retired before computers appeared in any significant way into the workplace.

The movie, which travelled around film festivals, has already screened in more than 80 viewings around Canada and the United States — with more to come. It shares special moments, difficult moments, looks of wonder, moderate shock (usually at what grandparents see on their grandchildren’s pages), and the excitement we all feel when we learn something new. And yes, sometimes it’s funny. Cyber-Seniors has garnered lots of good press. (I do wish, however, that people in the media would stop calling elders “cute.” You media folks will grow older some day andhttp://www.mercurynews.com/business/ci_26931356/magid-exclusive-amazon-fire-phones-fight-ebola-west-africa you WILL NOT appreciate being labeled as cute.)

Here’s a clip of a teenage mentor teaching a woman to take a selfie.

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Is There a Digital Divide Among Seniors?

seniors and tech border

Adult children who want to help their aging parents learn to use more technology may want to read the April 2014 Pew Internet organization report, Older Adults and Technology Use.

This fascinating document, freely available online, describes various groups of technology-using seniors and explains how they use or do not use computers and devices. It also offers some reasons why older seniors, especially, slow down in their use of computers and digital devices as they age.

What’s interesting to me is that less of a digital divide exists between seniors and the rest of the younger adult population, and more of a digital divide exists between higher and lower-income seniors. Also the researchers found that after age 75 technology use tends to drop off significantly for many elders.

Most Interesting Findings                Continue reading

Whose Eyes Are Checking Out That Digital Content?

In his recent post over at the Changing Aging blog, Kavan Peterson describes a short video, Forwarders. Intended as a parody of people who continuously forward e-mail, the video reinforces stereotypes about elders and aging. It’s sad that this short film focuses solely on one older adult, especially since so many people of all ages are extreme (and irritating) forwarders.

While it’s intended to be funny, the video’s other message is that old people with wrinkles are silly and inept — at least that’s my interpretation. I’ll bet that the video producer — I am guessing an adolescent or young adult — probably cherishes a fair number of lifelong relationships with elders. This parody promotes a stereotype that could have been alleviated simply by adding in a few younger characters who also need reforming. (I posit a guess about the creator/producer’s age after looking over other published web content.)

The video and others like it also raise a question. How do we help individuals who are Internet content “whizzes” to understand that everything uploaded is subject to interpretation?

generational tutorialsAs a teacher who concentrates on educational technology, I frequently hear the refrain, “But I did not mean to hurt that person,” usually after a student has created and uploaded what he or she considered to be amusing content. Sometimes it is, sometimes it isn’t, and sometimes various readers or viewers interpret the message differently. What my students slowly learn is that digital content may be funny to one person, not funny to another, and for some individuals downright insulting.

In today’s connected society digital natives — born into a world of computers, cell phones, and various other gadgets — find it easy to create content, but sometimes they forget that what they do and say (and upload) circulates far and wide. Different people will watch and may reach different conclusions about the work. One person’s joke can unintentionally malign others. Humor that is appropriate for a person at one age is not so funny when it’s uploaded into the world at large for everyone to see. Digital natives need to learn and respect the ways that different people view the world through slightly different lenses. Most professional writers of parody think long and hard about every detail of a project, interchanging those lenses as they create.

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Increasing Numbers of Seniors in Social Networking World

Pew Internet Aging Social networking

Those of us with seniors and elders in our lives should continually be aware that a growing number of people over 65 are enthusiastically latching on to social networking sites and using them on a fairly regular basis.

This amazing graph depicts the percentage of adults at various ages who use social media sites, and  it demonstrates how fast the use of these sites is increasing for all age groups.

Published in the Pew Internet’s  July 2012 report on Older Adults and Internet Use, the information in the image comes from a Pew survey that collected data between March 2005 and February 2012.

Note the growth for the 50-64 age group and the over 65 age group (data that could hardly be tracked back in 2005) over the years of the survey. Moreover, the social networking adoption percentage numbers for people 50 and older picked up a lot of steam, between July and November 2008.

Bottom line? Many more older adults are signing up and using social media sites, and their numbers are continuing to increase. What’s important, however, is the need to be on the lookout for seniors and elders who can use support with privacy settings and other aspects of lives lived more openly in the digital world.

FTC Looking for Ideas to Stop the Likes of Rachel from Credit Services

Do you have a good ideas that might help to block these abusive telephone calls? Visit the website to learn more.

Are you tired of receiving calls from Rachel at credit card services?

Older seniors, your parents perhaps, feel helpless when they receive these manipulative, and illegal telephone calls. During the last few years of her life, my husband’s mother sometimes became quite distressed when she answered the phone and heard Rachel or one of her automated cohorts on the other end of the line.

Now the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is doing something about it.  The agency just announced that it is soliciting innovative ideas on how to prevent these calls. Anyone can submit an idea and the FTC is offering a $50,000 prize for the best idea.

Below are two paragraphs from the agency’s website announcement. Continue reading