May 21, 2011
More seniors are becoming intrigued with internet technology and social networking tools such as Facebook. However, some older adults struggle with basic computer skills. Most communities have a variety of resources that can help seniors get connected and ensure they have the assistance they need to stay safe and independent at home.
Q. My children bought me a computer for Christmas so they can "talk" to me every day by e-mail and Facebook. They also suggested I start doing some of my shopping online. In my 78 years, I've never used anything like this before, and I don't have a clue what to do. Where can I go for help?
You shouldn't feel alone. According to a survey by the Pew Internet and American Life Project, as of December 2009, 38 percent of U.S. adults ages 65 and older go online, a significantly lower rate of internet adoption than the general population (74 percent) and even the next-oldest group (70 percent of adults ages 50-64 years old go online).
In addition, just 26 percent of U.S. adults ages 65 and older have home broadband access, compared with 56 percent of adults ages 50-64 years old (and 60 percent of all adults).
At the same time, more and more seniors are discovering the benefits of staying connected through technology. Social networking among internet users ages 50 and older nearly doubled – from 22 percent in April 2009 to 42 percent in May 2010, according to Pew.
Various places in your community should be able to help you learn how to use a computer and go online. First, ask someone who knows how to use the computer – perhaps the family member who gave you the computer – to log on to www.seniornet.com.
SeniorNet, a non-profit organization of computer-using adults over 50, offers about 200 Learning Centers managed primarily by senior volunteers at senior centers, community centers, public libraries, schools and colleges, and clinics and hospitals. For more information about the centers or to find the nearest one to you, ask your family to log on to www.seniornet.com.
Here's another resource: Experience Senior Power at www.50plusprime.com teaches older adults basic and intermediate computer skills, using an easy step-by-step tutorial.
Does your area have a community college? If so, many offer computer classes geared toward seniors. If there's no community college in your area, why not try calling the local high school computer department and asking if they know of classes for seniors in your area. If nothing else, perhaps a high school student would be willing to tutor you.
Or consider calling a company like Home Instead Senior Care®, which hires CAREGiversSM to assist seniors in their homes with non-medical tasks. A CAREGiver could help you find someone to assist you with the computer as well as offering support with day-to-day activities such as meal preparation and light housekeeping.
For more information about the Pew Internet study, log on to http://www.pewinternet.org/Commentary/2010/January/38-of-adults-age-65-go-online.aspx
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