The common joke is if you need help with technology, find a kid. Well, David Peterka wants us older folk to be our own tech gurus with his book The Senior Sleuth’s Guide to Technology for Seniors. His book covers a spectrum of technology, not just computers, like robotic lawn mowers, cell phones, iPod, GPSes, remote controls, medical alert necklaces, home entertainment systems, pill reminders, medical monitoring and so on. Peterka also covers social networking, texting and all the trendy communication systems kids embrace. You don’t have to be a senior to find this book useful.
I help older people with their computers all the time and I know they often get stressed by technology. Some just flatly refused to embrace it. And that’s too bad because technology is enabling by its very nature. This book is a quick overview for people new to gadgets and computers.
Recently I help a woman about to retire who likes to do oral history interviews. For years she had been relying on a cassette recorder and just typing up transcripts, but she wanted to be able to give people MP3s and CDs of edited and cleaned up copies of the original recordings. For awhile she relied on the kindness of tech strangers to help her, but I’m the kind of person who likes to teach people to fish rather than just giving them away.
So I showed this lady how to install, configure and use Audacity. At first she was hesitant and afraid to try stuff, but since I wasn’t offering to do the job for her, she stuck with it. I’d come back every week to see how she was doing. At one point she explained her interviewee cough frequently. I showed her how to remove the coughs. She mentioned some of the tapes had hiss. I told her Audacity had a noise-reduction feature and sent her a link with instructions. She figured it out. She’s learned a lot, and now she’s confidently producing digital recordings of her interviews.
I’m in an online book club for audio books and one of the members is a guy who lives in a retirement home but he has become an Internet expert on MP3 players, helping hordes of online users to play digital audio books, collect music and old time radio, converting and watching movies, and other handy tasks for small players. He’s in several online groups, include some for the blind. His knowledge and willingness to help other people, many seniors, is a tremendous resource. He proves that if you gain a skill, pass it on, and he also proves you don’t need to be a youngster to be a tech whiz.
I’m not sure how big the market is for Mr. Peterka’s book because old people are jumping online fast. Ronni Bennett after she retired started Times Goes By, a web site for elder bloggers that is a wonderful resource for wise people wanting to share their experiences online. I wished David Peterka had a supporting website to help his readers once they get beyond the book. This 2009 book is still current, but technology books age fast, so Mr. Peterka will need to keep coming out with new editions until everyone is up to speed.
The advice in David Peterka book for seniors is quite broad and a good place to start if you’re nervous about gadgets and electronic doodads. He provides a wealth of URLs to find additional knowledge, plus he teaches about how to find your own solutions online. The print in the book is nice and large, easy to read.
At work people are amazed I know so much about technology, but often when I meet a new tech problem, I just search on Google. So this Senior Sleuth volume will be best for complete newbie’s who haven’t learn that trick. It nicely distills lots of information in one handbook, and is a good volume for older children helping their aging parents.
It’s a Catch-22 situation. If you had more knowledge, you’d use it to find the same information online. So David Peterka book is a stepping stone. Like I said, I wished he had an web site devoted to the same subject because having all of this information in one convenient location would make a very useful web site.
I’m hoping, as I get older there will be more and more technology solutions for aging. In fact, I hope by the time I get frail there will be robotic caretakers.
JWH – 4/22/10