My 75-year-old in-laws came to visit for Thanksgiving and by the end of the weekend, I was feeling, both guilty for not helping them immigrate into the foreign land of technology earlier, and inspired to learn even more about technology trends and new tech tools as I…. get older.

Technology Social Media Expert, Gina Schreck, Technology Trends

Seniors and Technology

My mother-in-law was complaining about the fact her bank was starting to charge her $8 a month for not using their online banking features.  Online banking was both scary for her to consider doing and sad for her to think of not being able to go in and visit Kim and Diane, her favorite tellers.  She doesn’t like talking to the tellers through the drive through window and would never consider trusting the ATM to deposit checks or withdraw money.  How would she be sure it posted to her account correctly?  Who would answer her questions she might have on her statement?

She said the other day the clerk at the department store where she regularly shops, asked her if she downloaded the coupon that was offered on their Facebook Page.  I can just imagine the blank stare my mother-in-law gave that 16-year-old, who probably could not fathom anyone NOT being on Facebook.  My father-in-law chimed in with his disdain for the word “apps.”  “I’m tired of hearing about this app and that app.  Everyone acts like we understand what that means!”

Imagine waking up one morning in a foreign country.  You do not speak the language and cannot read the signs posted around town.  You have currency that no one accepts and you own tools that don’t seem to work any longer.  This is the feeling many seniors have today.  They are digital immigrants.  They may have immigrated voluntarily or perhaps they were sent over kicking and screaming, but they are foreigners in a foreign land.  Although a Nielson study showed that those 65 years and older pick Facebook as one of their top internet destinations, I believe it is because they are trying desperately to access their family that left them in this foreign land so they can slap them!

With one boomer turning 65 every 8 seconds starting this January 2011, there are some things we can do to ensure we are not leaving anyone behind feeling isolated and lost.  As a business owner, I also want to make sure I am not throwing around lingo and techno-jargon that makes digital-immigrants more confused and isolated.

Here are 4 steps we can all take to help others and stay relevant ourselves so we are not LEFT BEHIND:

1. Commit to learning one new technology tool this month.  Whether it is sending text messages to your family or taking a class (even via YouTube) on a new video editing software or starting your own blog.

2. Commit to teaching someone one new technology tool this month.  Show your parents how to download a photo from an email or better yet how to sign onto FLICKR and browse your family albums.  Download a sudoku or crossword puzzle app on their phone or iPad (you might not want to call it an app!)

3. Browse through the TECHNOLOGY category in the iTunes library or on YouTube to find a podcast you enjoy that discusses technology trends, and subscribe to it.  Commit to listening to one podcast per week to stay up on the latest lingo and tech terms…like APP or CLOUD COMPUTING!  (Some of my favorites are from the TWIT Network-This Week In Technology- just search for TWIT in iTunes Podcasts)

4. Find and subscribe to one technology blog.  Go to Technorati and browse a category that interests you and then send that particular blog to your eReader or receive it as an email (if you wouldn’t get overwhelmed by one more email).  I like getting them sent to my Google Reader which ends up being a customized newspaper for me.  If you own an iPad, download the free and OH-SO-AMAZING app, FLIPBOARD and “flip” through the pages of your favorite blog posts and magazine sources each day.

Share some of your tips to stay relevant and keep that GREY MATTER  from getting too GRAY!

If you are working with seniors or want more resources, info, and products with senior-friendly features, check out this great site: ElderGadget

If your organization needs help bringing folks across that digital divide, give me a hollar, I am your Digital Immigration Officer! @GinaSchreck