Over the last decade technology has developed in leaps and bounds, one day you buy a computer or TV, the next day a new one comes out, so you can never really have the latest technology for long. We all hear about iPads, iTunes, MP3 players, blackberrys, mobile phone applications and many, many more, but most of us seniors are not very au fait with how to use them to get the best out of them.
Going back even longer automatic washing machines became increasingly complicated with more and more programmes, with the user often sticking to one or two favourite programmes, along with TV’s, DVD recorders and players, music systems, and the list of new gadgets/domestic items/new technology goes on and on, making us oldies often increasingly stressed if we do not understand it, or choose to leave it alone altogether.
If you’ve become computer literate during your working lifetime this does stand you in good stead, plus the added advantage of picking things up quickly. A mobile phone is an ideal tool to keep in touch with friends,
grandchildren, your own adult children and family by texting or quick calls, especially if on pay as you go, considerably cheaper than a contract which ties you up for at least 12 months, and finding most people do not use up their full text and call time, however you can have longer conversations and do not have to worry about the cost of the call, and you usually get unlimited texts for the month. If you text more than call, pay as you go is definitely the best plan to have, if you are never off a mobile phone then a monthly contract is best for you.
Emailing and a VOIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) system such as skype are also good ways of keeping in touch on a computer all over the world. There are other VOIP systems but skype continues to be perhaps the most universal and best value. Skype is free if you communicate PC to PC, but they also offer very low-cost options for calling PC to landline, or PC to mobile. You can even take out a local skype telephone number, so that family and friends can contact you cheaply via skype on a local call anywhere in the world! If you have a webcam and microphone, you can video-chat and see the person as you talk to them.
They will also have to have installed skype on their computer. You can say more on an email (electronic mail) than you can say on a phone text so if you’re quite gregarious this is an ideal way of keeping in touch, as you can ramble on for as long as you wish, plus you can send photographs etc. “Funnies” have become very popular to be sent by email, some of them are entertaining, funny, heart provoking and thoughtful, but you often get chain letters ending with threats if you do not send them on, which I avoid like the plague and the banal kind which are rather distasteful.
Of course you will get the usual spam, which your computer should filter into a special spam folder, so you do not have to open it, which can cause viruses, and the usual scams of institutions purporting to be legitimate banks etc., asking for personal details, again these should never be opened. Any reputable company would never ask for your personal banking or any details from an email on line.
You can also buy goods on line with some sites being excellent, make sure it is a safe site for financial details, Paypal is excellent to send money on line, as are many other well known ones. Of course the odd payment can slip through the net like anything else in life. Just be very careful, as activity from scammers has increased intensely as the Internet as become more popular.
Researching on the Internet, can become an all consuming hobby, you can search any question you wish to ask and it will come up with an answer, you can check train and bus times, what’s on and where, directions to places, price comparisons, the world is your oyster. Many an hour can be spent online as you increase your knowledge and find the answer to many questions and much, much more. Google has become so omnipient as a search engine that we even use the phrase today “google it”!
If you do not own your own computer, most municipal libraries offer computer access free, you may just have to book a session in advance. Computer classes are often offered free to seniors, but in some areas there may be a charge. Do not be daunted and think you will feel a dummy, my 82yr old neighbour started classes a few weeks ago and is enjoying them enormously, has made new friends and developed a new skill to help him keep in touch with friends and family in his own home or in the local library.
New technology now means that you can access the Internet whilst away from home, many places offer free Wifi access, so if on holiday, or out for the day, if you feel the need staying in touch or checking a route to follow is easy. Laptops, notebooks and even ipads and mobile phones these days can all access wifi points and provide Internet access.
Although new technologies can help us to stay in touch with family and friends, both at home, and those that move away, I often think in this technological age, it is so nice to get a handwritten letter or notelet. And as good as progress is, we should not let the old courtesies go altogether speaking face to face with someone, will always be more personal and bring a lot of pleasure.