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PAINTER: Older Americans can still learn new things

• Oct 22, 2018 at 3:00 PM

Is technology leaving older Americans behind?

According to the Pew Research Center, Washington, D.C., think tank, 11 percent of Americans still don’t use the internet. More than a third of the non-users are Americans age 65 and older.

But there is hope for us who aren’t as adept at using computers and smartphones as our younger generations.

A recent story in the Detroit Free Press caught my attention about how older Americans are being encouraged to become more technologically savvy. The paper wrote about how some older Detroiters were given free laptops and low-cost, high-speed internet service in an effort to encourage them to become more comfortable using the world wide web.

At first, not everyone was on board with the idea of using computers. An 80-year-old man told the Free Press he almost gave away his free laptop because he felt he was computer illiterate. He was talked into taking an introductory computer class through a local community center. Now, he has become proficient enough to Google information and to use social media outlets such as Facebook.

It is a story that could be told throughout the United States. More and more older Americans are becoming adept at using computers and smartphones. “Now, if you don’t know anything about computers, you are living in the stone age,” Michael Kilgore, who teaches a computer class for older Americans, told the Free Press.

Most computer and smartphone users take for granted as to how their devices can help them with their day-to-day lives. However, if you are older, it’s not so easy.

We spent most of our lives without those fancy gadgets, so we became overwhelmed with all the technological advances.

I don’t consider myself computer illiterate, as I worked on newspapers that relied heavily on computers. Still, like many older Americans, I have trouble keeping up with all the technological advances. I’m sure my family and friends get annoyed when I accidentally hit the wrong button on my smartphone and call them for no reason. And I sometimes still need help with my laptop.

But I’ve become adept enough on my laptop to look up information on the internet, pay bills online and chat with my friends. The internet is a terrific source of information for everyone.

There are a lot of good reasons for older Americana to become more comfortable with technology. They can chat with their children and grandchildren on Skype, they can explore options for entertainment, and they can look up health information online. Learning technology can help us keep our minds sharp.

We’ve all heard the phrase that you can’t teach an old dog new tricks. Yes, you can if you make the effort. Fortunately, efforts, such as the one in Detroit, are being made to help us become for technologically savvy. We can keep our minds sharp

Aging in Place, the National Council for Aging Care, recommends a number of suggestions for older Americans to improve their computer skills. They can visit local libraries where you can find a variety of books to help you. You can also take computer classes, attend workshops or even go online for instructions on how to become more adept at using computers.

Our age shouldn’t stop us from learning, as author Robert Chen recently wrote in a blog: “All the old people I know who are vibrant and energetic are always striving to learn new things, and it is because they continue to learn that their brains stay sharp.”

We older Americans might be frustrated by technological advances, but we should keep in mind that we can still learn new things. It might be more difficult, but we can still do it.

— By Len Painter, Tribune community columnist

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