Over the last few years, I’ve written a few times about senior citizens and technology. There is no better time than right now to figure out how you can connect with those whom you love or care about (and not just seniors!) since there are a lot of lonely and isolated people during this pandemic time.

I’d expect that you certainly don’t want your parents, grandparents, elderly family members, or other seniors — who, without question, are our most vulnerable during this pandemic and will be the last to go out or connect with others in person — to be even lonelier or more isolated than ever before!

Many people have commented on those posts of mine, but even more have used my contact form to reach out to me directly and asked questions, provided solutions they had or knew about, or reinforced my belief that online communication with others can really help.

HMM…MAYBE I COULD HELP HER?

This past week a woman sent me a long message which started off with this:

Hi Steve, I found your blog after realizing I will probably need to purchase something for my father (and mother who has dementia) to do video calls. Like you talked about in your blog it has to be as easy as turning on a device, make sure wifi is connected, and just clicking 1 button (only) to call me. The device can’t be small because Dad has vision and hearing problems. No extra apps, etc.

She also mentioned these requirements:

  • My dilemma is that I myself am disabled, and cannot easily go to a store to buy a device, set it up, pack it up and then ship it to him.
  • I also don’t want to spend over, let’s say $300-350.
  • Also, the device can’t be fidgety like a small tablet.
  • Anyway, if you have any other ideas that could fall in or below my price range, I’d love to hear. Esp if it’s geared toward disabled/seniors (e.g. big buttons/keypad/screen). It literally has to be visually and aurally very usable, clear, and with no quirky gadgets.

I thought it might be helpful for you to read most of my response to her since the solution I recommended to her might help you too.

PLEASE NOTE: I know there are a lot of other tablets, devices, and cheaper solutions, so no need to pick apart my suggestion below. Make your own suggestions in the comments.

One other consideration is this: Unless you’ve done what I’ve done in the past — set up laptops, computer towers, tablets, IP-and-mobile phones and other devices for seniors, all while coaching them on their use — then please understand that I’m hypersensitive to the need for something that just works, is easy to set up and easy for seniors to use. That is what I’ve suggested below with my recommendation.

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Thought I’d be helpful since the holidays are approaching quickly. Enjoy this compilation of Saturday Night Live holiday skits with several I’d never seen before:

As you may know from reading this blog, I’ve been using Flickr for my photo albums for years. Once owned by Yahoo, it was sold last year to the family-owned — and very well run photo service website — SmugMug. As you can see from two posts I wrote about preserving digital media here and here, I’m very concerned that photos of family and friends taken today with smartphones will disappear in to the digital ether at some point. If so, they won’t be in some shoebox in the closet 50 years from now for guys like me to scan, digitally clean up, and preserve.

SmugMug will occasionally send me marketing emails, most of which I ignore like I do with most ads of this kind. But I happened to get a marketing email from them and had time to view it and again, SmugMug never spams me so I clicked on the link and ended up on a site called Chatbooks, one of SmugMug’s affiliate partners.

Immediately my thought was, “Oh…just another photo book printer” until I watched the marketing video you see below and found myself laughing and delighted with it. It is an amusing and well-produced video pitching their service called Chatbooks and I smiled just about the entire time the video ran.

The service that caught my eye (and is the subject of the video below) is their Ongoing Photo Book Series which you can set up to publish a new soft or hard cover small book for every 60 photos you take with your smartphone. It’s a no-muss, no-fuss way of preserving photos for future generations, especially if you lose your phone and have never done a backup!!

Of course, I’m not the target market (Moms are for this video) but it still tickled me and made what they’re offering stand out in my mind and seriously consider the book series option. Well done Chatbooks!

When my first-born daughter Liz was a toddler, I was hoping I’d be able to guide her towards becoming a techie. No pushing and no pressure was what I tried to achieve. Instead I tried to be a coach to her, gently showing her how stuff worked while striving to make it fun.

One of the ways I introduced her to technology was through games. There was a HyperCard ‘stack’ game — released at MacWorld in 1989, which I bought there, called Cosmic Osmo — and we played it often. She was always delighted to play it and asked to do so whenever I was on my Mac SE/30.

HyperCard was amazing and I learned how to build my own stacks. I built one with sounds I created in SoundEdit, and when any button on the stack was clicked, it would play that sound. I loaded as many funny sounds as I could find (along with the ones I recorded myself, including my daughter’s own voice) and she LOVED clicking on the buttons to trigger the sounds!

Fast forward to today and she definitely became very technically astute. She worked for the Apple Store for five years during college and just afterwards, at Best Buy (where she moved to corporate in to human resources), and every time I’m with her I learn some new tip or trick with my iPhone. The best part is that she grasps technology instantly and I hope I had some influence on her in this way.

Here is a video from 1989 where we are in my home office, she is sitting on my desk, and we talk about “Osmo” and I record her voice with SoundEdit:

Alex Begins His Technology Adventure

In 1994 our son Alex was born and he took technology like a duck to water. For him it was all about play, which fit perfectly in to my goal extending to him when it came to making the use of technology fun.

By this time Liz was well on her way toward her belief that technology was a seamless and integral part of our lives. She became a patient and encouraging tech-coach to her little brother. He wasn’t much interested in what Mom or Dad had to say about tech, but rather he watched, listened and allowed himself to be guided by his big sister. It was fun to watch!

In 1998 I was working at Apple in the business group after Steve Jobs came back, and had the chance to bring home the first iMac introduced and it had some built-in games, like the one they loved called Nanosaur.

Here’s a fun video of my kids using that first iMac at Thanksgiving, about three months after it was introduced:

We Have Come A LONG Way With Technology!

1) Holy buckets has technology advanced! When I watch these videos above (and the one below) and think about SoundEdit and a Mac SE/30, it’s just stunning how far we’ve come with computing technology, graphics, gameplay, sound, animation, and so much more.

Want to see what Liz and I experienced playing Cosmic Osmo on a Macintosh SE/30 with a 9″ screen? Here is a video of Cosmic Osmo’s click-to-trigger interface in HyperCard:

2) By the way, somehow I missed this Ars Technica article (30-plus years of HyperCard, the missing link to the Web) on May 25, 2019, but thought I’d add it to this post. In that article I learned about a way to goof around with HyperCard — this time by downloading Steam for your PC, Mac or Linux computer and actually introduced in 2010 — and, once you’ve installed it, you can load up an instance of HyperCard here.

Make Technology Fun

Whenever I’m asked about kids using technology too much, not enough, how to make it fun or educational, I always coach parents to limit screen time, always keep an eye on their kid’s use of tech, but most importantly make the use of it fun!

Having phones that are dozens of times more powerful than that previously mentioned Mac SE/30 and original iMac — along with Internet of Things devices that are inserting themselves in all parts of our lives — we all need to keep vigilant about how we use it. If you haven’t watched the Cosmic Osmo video above, view it now and see how laid-back, at-ease, and fun Cosmic Osmo is having with his out-of-this-world technology use. There’s a lesson there for all of us.  😉