New technology helps keep seniors informed, in touch


Lorna Marquardt, Leader Columnist

Mark Twain enjoyed and made use of new inventions. He was the first author to submit a “typewritten” manuscript to his publisher. It makes me smile to think of the many times I wrote on a manual typewriter, not unlike Twain. Computers would’ve made life much easier! The phrase “We’ve come a long way baby” is quite true when it comes to modern-day technology.

I wonder how many of you, like me, struggled to learn how to program the VCR. Times are changing, and seniors’ use of current technology, including the internet and cellphones, is increasing. While many of us are far from being fully techy savvy, we are learning.

Today’s technology can help keep us engaged, connected, mentally active and physically safe. Surveys show that 59 percent of seniors 65 and older use the internet. In addition, 77 percent have cellphones and 47 percent have broadband. Surveys also show among older adults who use the internet, 71 percent of them go online daily.

Tablets and iPads are being used by seniors to view photos, listen to music, play games, communicate with others, etc. These devices are lightweight, the touch screen is easy to use, and font sizes can be adjusted for easier reading. I love my iPad and actually use it more than I use my laptop computer.

Skype is a wonderful piece of software that provides a means to communicate with family and friends who live out of the area. Viewing loved ones in real time is available for smartphones, tablets and regular computers.

Many technologies aren’t available without wireless internet. For those of you who are assisting your senior parent or loved one, make sure their home is internet ready. Many businesses provide wireless access to their customers; even some nursing and assisted living homes provide access.

I have personally never taken a computer class. I was first introduced to computers while working at Citizens Bank. However, it wasn’t something I needed to use often in my work. The bank did provide some very limited on-site training.

When I was elected mayor, I used the computer more often. Much of what I learned was by trial and error. The city does have technology personnel who helped me, and the City Hall staff was wonderful, too. Lesley Nemetz, Lisa Bruette and Judy Judd helped me with email, setting up files, copying and pasting, accessing the internet, etc.

Now that I am retired, I have found modern technology critical in helping me to communicate with others. I do enjoy Facebook, although it has its downside, too. Like most of you, I have relatives and friends in other states and even in other countries. To be able to have a dialogue with them is so amazing. Facebook also gives notice when one of my friends is having a birthday. I enjoy the recipes friends share. One of my friends, Julie Bartz, often posts her wonderful pictures allowing others to see some of the awesome places she and her travelers visit. I also enjoy the city of Shawano and Shawano County sites.

Unfortunately, some things appear on social media that are not appropriate. It troubles me when someone witnesses an accident and immediately reports it on Facebook describing the vehicles involved. Recently a few more disgusting videos appeared on social media, referring to Shawano as “Satan City” and describing our residents as evil Christians. Fortunately, the number of people viewing or believing this malicious propaganda is minimal and not worthy of more comment.

I personally enjoy Shawano Classified. I have purchased some wonderful items from local residents including a beautiful, like-new red couch, a bird’s eye maple armoire, Raggedy dolls and some awesome old jewelry. I have also sold items through the site.

Cellphones are becoming more senior friendly, with models that have larger buttons and readouts, as well as photo speed dialing and voice recognition to make usage easier. Phones can provide medication reminders and GPS locations. My cellphone is very basic, nothing too smart about it, but it serves its purpose.

Although I believe cellphones can be very useful, it does trouble me when I observe the younger generation glued to their phones. Sometimes too much of a good thing can be harmful.

Although we can get along without most modern technology, learning new things is challenging and enjoyable, and it can keep those of us in the “older generation” current and informed.

This quote sums it up and made me chuckle: “When I was young, we had to open all doors by ourselves. None of them knew we were coming.” — Neil Tyson

Answer to last week’s question: On Feb. 3, 1940, Shawano hosted 10,000 visitors for the Lumberjack Carnival.

This week’s question: Who were the founders of the Shawano United Fund Inc.?

Lorna Marquardt is a former mayor of Shawano.