The cultural reference is so common as to have become tiresome. It’s an image of an elderly person sitting at a computer screen, totally befuddled by the technology; it’s also a stereotype that’s dead wrong, according to Brian Harrison of Sidney’s Peninsula Computers.
“We shouldn’t discount seniors when it comes to the digital age,” said Harrison. “They are an amazing bunch; very smart and very good at using the technology.”
Harrison said the elderly are more inclined to look at their computers or android devices as a tool and tend to apply the use of that tool to solve real world situations.
Wayne Brander, a technology instructor at Peninsula Elder College, agrees.
“I have a student right now who is 96 years old and I have trouble keeping up with her,” said Brander. “She sees uses for the computer that I haven’t considered before. All she needed was a little help with the mechanics of getting started.”
Brander said most seniors are very fast learners and can be up and running in two to four hours.
“The most important thing we teach them is not to be intimidated by the tool. Their grandchildren are learning how to use a computer by trial and error, and to a certain extent they have to be willing to do the same thing.”
Perhaps the most common driving force behind an increasing interest by seniors in the wired technology of today is the connectivity that it allows.
“For seniors, today’s technology allows them to stay connected with family all around the world,” said Brander. “They can also do their shopping, write memoirs or books … the list is endless.”
Brock Clayards, a retired RCMP officer and local author is a case in point.
“My daughter is a professor at McGill and I don’t get out to see her as much as I’d like … but her two daughters and my grandchildren have grown up with me on Skype.”
Clayards said he’s also a fan of social media.
“The internet has also allowed me to become a writer and see my work published,” he said.
Clayards has two books on Amazon.com.
For Jeff Morris, the past Honorary Colonel of the 443 (MH) Squadron and founder of Angel Flight (a charitable organization that flies cancer victims to their medical appointments on the mainland), his computer has always been an indispensable tool.
“It’s allowed me to establish Angel Flight and to track every aspect of every flight,” said the 71-year-old Morris. “There’s nothing about it that’s intimidating. It’s just something I use.”
According to Brander, seniors are also quite adept at using their iPhones or android devices.
“They want to be able to talk to their families, order groceries, search for services or even write a new recipe book and they are doing it all. It’s a great thing to see.”
— Tim Collins/News staff