Yes, Facebook, Seniors Use Technology!

A belated happy birthday to Anna Stoehr, who turned 114 on October 15th. She’s been in the news lately because she had a slight glitch when she tried to get on Facebook–its age verification form stopped five years short of her birth year.

This story is our all-time favorite reminder that technology has no upper age limit! For comparison’s sake, Guglielmo Marconi sent the first wireless transmission the year after Ms. Stoehr was born.

If you haven’t yet seen the news report, it’s well worth watching. The video below lacks the Minneapolis KARE 11 news anchors, if you’re interested in the full, unedited report, it can be found here. You might get the ad from the Minnesota roofing company with its amusingly double entendre slogan.


Not all techies are ageists!

Silicon Valley may not appreciate anyone over 22, but in Nashville this weekend they’re holding the second annual LeadingAge Hackfest. At this two-day event, intergenerational teams will compete to create “a technology-driven tool aimed at improving the lives of older adults and their families.”

While there’s a slight whiff of condescension in the sense that seniors are seen as the target consumers rather than the creators, at least the organizers are asking–and they’re respecting seniors as valuable contributors to team efforts.

Next year, we’d love to see an entire team of seniors kicking tech butt!



Silicon Valley is Shamelessly Ageist

Last week, 52-year-old entrepreneur Jeff Pulver addressed the American Enterprise Institute and confirmed (see 43:00 on the video) what we’ve all suspected: Silicon Valley is blatantly, shamelessly ageist.

The money quote, according to the Washington Post:

I was in Silicon Valley two years ago meeting a partner of one of the most famous VCs in the world and when he told me to my face, told me: “Jeff, look, you’re not 25 years old having just left Facebook as a product manager, because if you were I have $5 million for you.” He looked at me and said I was worthless.



Windows on a Watch–ulp!

We often argue that seniors know far more about computers than the popular media gives credit for, so we know that many of you are familiar with Windows 95, which was considered so revolutionary only twenty years ago that Microsoft was able to get The Rolling Stones to shill for it.

Still, we experienced our own sense of future shock today, when we discovered that someone demonstrated that with the right emulator, you can get the entire Windows 95 operating system to run on a smartwatch. Granted, it can’t launch any applications without crashing, so maybe things haven’t changed that much after all.


National Employ Older Workers Week

According to the US Department of Labor, this week (September 21-28) is “National Employ Older Workers Week. ” Granted, a more helpful name would be “National Don’t Lay Off People Over 45 Week,” but we’ll stay optimistic and discuss some career websites that can assist seniors in their searches for paid employment, whether full or part-time.

From our favorite motivational website:

From our favorite motivational website:



The current leader in online networking. If you’re not on it, you should be. Of the job sites we’ve had personal experience with, it’s the only one that’s produced cold calls from potential employers. Here are three incredibly simple suggestions from our colleague Alfred Poor of Health Tech Insider about how to use the “title” field on a LinkedIn profile that will up your chances of being found in searches:

  • If you’re employable in more than one role, for example, florist/wedding planner, use “and” instead of a slash.
  • Or you can be more creative and use a full sentence: “Florist and wedding planner seeks new clients in the Chicago area.”
  • Remember that whenever you change your title, LinkedIn notifies your entire network, so you can use that title field as an automated announcement: “Florist and wedding planner has openings for June.” Don’t abuse it, however, or they might catch on.


This is the simplest, one-stop-shop site for finding jobs. brings in search results from thousands of help wanted postings. You can get very granular in your searches, specifying right down to zip code.


This site functions in part as a review site for employers, with good insider information about salaries and management attitudes. After you read some of the postings, you may feel better about not getting hired.


Most of the listings offer bottom feeder salaries, but sometimes surprisingly good opportunities will turn up. One overwhelmed employer warns that you have to be fast on the reply button because dozens of resumes may be sent within minutes of a posting.

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AARP’s RealPad–Yes? No? Maybe?

This afternoon at AARP’s Ideas@50+ conference in San Diego, we were able to test AARP’s just announced “RealPad” tablet, a low-cost tablet customized for technophobic seniors. By the time we got home, it was already being denounced by Internet commentators.

aarp-tablet-front-croppedHere’s the bad news they all pounced on: While it is cheaply priced at $189, if you shop around you can find a tablet with similar specs for the same or even less money.

Here’s the good news they all ignored: It comes with free 24/7 live operator tech support, which AARP promises us is provided by an American customer service company.

It has three other features that make it worth considering:

  • A clean and comprehensible interface with large icons.
  • Built-in video tutorials and easy-to-follow documentation. We did not see either, so we can’t verify this, but their claim is that they can get nearly anyone up and running just by watching the videos, which offer step-by-step instructions.
  • The “RealQuickFix” button that can diagnose and fix most tablet problems with just one fix. The tablet will also automatically scan and alert if untrusted software is present.

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AARP Ideas @50+ in San Diego THIS WEEK

Thursday through Sunday (Sept 4,5,6) AARP brings its Ideas @50+ conference to the San Diego Convention Center, infamous home of Comic-Con. It will feature tracks on Health and Wellness; Money and Work; Technology and Innovation; Travel and Lifestyle, as well as an overall theme of “Life Reimagined.” For those who can’t attend this week, you can make plans for the spring version, which will take place next year in Miami from May 14th through 16th. Yeah, you can show those spring-break kids how it’s done!

In the meantime, here’s how gospel great Mavis Staples, one of the performers AARP has lined up for the San Diego Conference, celebrated her 75th birthday:



And if you really want to overturn senior stereotypes, we recommend La Jolla’s Surf Diva surfing school. When we asked if there were a recommended upper age limit on people starting surfing lessons, they replied: “Absolutely not, it’s a great idea! If you are able to swim and are physically in a shape where you are still active and enjoying being in the ocean, everybody can get on a board.”

Senior Tech Insider will be attending this week’s conference.  If you’d like to meet, please leave word in the Comments.

A Senior Tech Hero

In an era when the Star Trek medical tricorder is well on its way to becoming a reality, we celebrate George Takei, the original Lt. Sulu. As shown in To Be Takei, a documentary on his life currently available in theaters and online, he has dedicated his life to activism. The 77-year-old’s causes include LGBT rights, preserving the memory of the internment of Japanese-Americans during WWII, and showing the world that seniors can kick tech butt.

Along with having an active Twitter feed and Facebook page, Takei has been recording a series of videos for AARP on technology innovations called Takei’s Take. They play like brief news reports (most are between 2 to 6 minutes),  and are both informative and great fun. The next time a young salesperson in a computer store condescends to you, just say two words: George Takei!


Note: If you’re considering viewing To Be Takei with children, please be aware it includes illustrations drawn by some of Star Trek‘s, er, more imaginative fans, as well as Takei’s unfiltered reactions to his old captain, William Shatner.


Senior Living Facilities Realize Seniors LIKE Technology

One of our frequent themes at Senior Tech Insider is the image vs. reality of the relationship of seniors and technology. Apple’s famous “1984” commercial came out in the eponymous year, which means that even some of today’s oldest seniors would have been young enough to be introduced to Macs and other personal computers on the job.

Yes, even the Apple ad's star, Anya Major, is nearing fifty.

Yes, even the Apple ad’s star, Anya Major, is nearing fifty.

Thirty years later of personal and professional computer use later, they are not terribly happy to find themselves in senior residencies that think all they require is an antiquated computer lab. As trade publication Senior Housing News reports, the access demands of new residents are driving providers to install wi-fi throughout their facilities in order to stay competitive.

In a reflection of how computers are now seen as social access devices, instead of merely business machines, many of the old computer lab spaces are being re-done as Internet cafes, where residences can talk to each other as well as contact their families online.

Nevertheless, while the executives who administer these facilities are trying, they’re still not quite getting it. One source cheerfully reassured SHN, “It’s no longer grandma’s nursing home.”

But that’s the whole point: It’s not the nursing home that’s changed. It’s the grandmas (and grandpas) within it.



Unintended Insights from the documentary Cyber-Seniors

Cyber-Seniors, currently making the rounds of indie cinemas, is a well-meaning documentary by filmmaker Saffron Cassaday that chronicles the efforts of her siblings and their high school classmates to introduce Toronto seniors to the Internet.

It’s a grandchild’s valentine to the grandparent generation, which is both its charm and its flaw. There’s too much condescension to the “cuteness” of seniors; it would have been far better to see more of what the participants felt from their own point-of-view. Still, it ought to be required viewing by anyone designing technology or offering tech tutorials for older seniors.

Some of the awkward unfamiliarity is a bit surprising, when you consider that if you subtract twenty years, all but the very oldest would likely have encountered computers in their workplaces. Nevertheless, aging itself makes even the most basic of computer tasks difficult; for example, we see a 77-year-old flummoxed by double-clicking.

In truth, we take clicking so for granted, we forget that it’s actually a proprioceptive challenge: The brain must determine and signal how much pressure is required to differentiate clicks, further complicated in the old by compensating for arthritic fingers. Unfortunately, proprioception, like other senses, declines with age, so the “simple” act of clicking becomes akin to mastering chords on a guitar. Similarly, reading on a monitor becomes like trying to find a grey cat in a fog.

Watching Cyber-Seniors, you see clearly that navigating the Internet is a double-whammy for the advanced elderly: It requires both understanding new intellectual concepts and mastering novel movements. The cognitive challenges cannot be underestimated: Many of the participants forget not only their passwords, but their security prompts. When asked, “What is your pet’s name?” one nonagenarian replies, “I don’t have a pet anymore.”

As much as it intends to celebrate the efforts of the young volunteers, the documentary also unintentionally demonstrates that generosity and kindness don’t quite make up for lack of preparation. Some of the cognitive load would have been lightened if the volunteers had a practiced script with well-tested procedures. It would have been extremely helpful for the seniors to have a printout with reminders of the basics, from steps to get on the Web to a box to write down passwords.

Yet in one respect, the seniors caught on fast. The filmmakers encouraged them to produce YouTube videos for a clickbait contest (the videos are still online). When one woman’s video is thumbed down, she asks—with just the right tone of shaming–“Who could dislike something so innocuous?”