They may be late adopters, but a new report says six in 10 seniors now go online. Still, for someone who doesn’t know a hash tag from a hard drive, mastering tech devices can be daunting. Tech Tuesday explains why you should give grandma a new iPad and not a hand-me-down, and how older adults are using tablets and the Internet to connect with family and friends and even to get out of the house more.


  • Terry Bradwell Chief Information Officer, AARP
  • Judith Klavans Recently retired from the federal Office of the Director of National Intelligence; Researcher at the University of Maryland Institute for Advanced Computer Studies
  • Tom Kamber Founder and Executive Director, Older Adults Technology Services


  • 12:06:42

    MR. KOJO NNAMDIFrom WAMU 88.5 at American University in Washington, welcome to "The Kojo Nnamdi Show," connecting your neighborhood with the world on Tech Tuesday.

  • 12:07:08

    MR. KOJO NNAMDIIf 60 is the new 40, then it's no surprise that older adults are flocking to the internet in record numbers. A new study says that, for the first time, more than half of adults over 65 are online. But for people who didn't grow up with internet technology, getting and staying up to speed can be a challenge. If you don't know a hashtag from a hard drive, there's a lot to learn. For a generation whose motto is if it's not broken, don't fix it, updating anti-virus software or replacing an old tablet may seem unnecessary.

  • 12:07:39

    MR. KOJO NNAMDIAnd for eyes and fingers no longer in their prime, small screens and keyboards can be hard to maneuver. Here to explore both the frustration and the satisfaction of using technology later in life is Terry Bradwell. He is chief information officer with AARP. He joins us in studio. Terry Bradwell, thank you for joining us.

  • 12:07:58

    MR. TERRY BRADWELLWelcome. I'm glad to be here.

  • 12:07:59

    NNAMDIAlso in studio with us is Judith Klavans, researcher at the University of Maryland Institute for Advanced Computer Studies. She has recently retired from the federal office of the director of national intelligence. She also joins us in studio. Judith Klavans, thank you for joining us.

  • 12:08:15

    MS. JUDITH KLAVANSPleasure to be here.

  • 12:08:16

    NNAMDIAnd joining us from NPR's Bryant Park studios in New York is Tom Kamber, founder and executive director of Older Adults Technology Services. Tom Kamber, thank you for joining us.

  • 12:08:31

    MR. TOM KAMBERI'm happy to be here, thanks.

  • 12:08:31

    NNAMDIFor those of you who'd like to join the conversation, you can call us at 800-433-8850. If you're an older adult, what's your favorite tech device and why? 800-433-8850. You can send email to or shoot us a tweet @kojoshow using the #techtuesday. Terry Bradwell, a new study from the Pew Research Internet Project says that, for the first time, more than half of adults 65 and over are internet users.

  • 12:08:59

    NNAMDIBut 41 percent still do not use the internet at all. What are you seeking or what are you seeing in terms of how quickly older adults are taking up internet technology? And what's their motivation?

  • 12:09:11

    BRADWELLWell, you're absolutely right, Kojo. There is -- when you're looking at the individual or the demographics that are going online, primarily, the 50 plus community is the fastest growing segment of online users. However, there is still a gap. There's still a gap. I mean, if you look at the latest Pew Research findings, you can summarize it this way. You know, about one-fifth of the folks who are not online, they say they are not interested.

  • 12:09:40

    BRADWELLAnother one-fifth say price is a factor. And then you get into a smaller percentage that says that lack of availability or access is a factor. But the most common reason that we're finding, over two-thirds of non-users are saying they need someone else's help. They need assistance to help them with the technology.

  • 12:10:01

    NNAMDIAnd that's precisely what AARP is doing. But, Tom Kamber, even older adults who use technology at work and at home may not be as comfortable, may not be as adventurous with it as younger people. How is that generation gap related to fear of risk?

  • 12:10:20

    KAMBERWell, that's a really great question, Kojo. It's -- you know, what we're experiencing with people is when you start working with a new technology, it's kind of like an investment of a certain period of time in order to master it and get good at it. And, you know, for somebody that's, say, 25 years old, it's easy to try a lot of new things. And if some of them don't work out for you, you know, you kind of recycle and start again with a different platform or a different device.

  • 12:10:45

    KAMBERBut when you're 70 or 80 and you're learning a new thing, there's a higher risk of failure because it's harder to start again. And it takes more time and effort and sometimes more money. So people have anxiety about learning. And one of the things they really need help with is guidance in making their initial decisions and in really just getting started with a piece of technology so that they can have, like, a successful beginner experience with it in the first place.

  • 12:11:11

    NNAMDIJudith Klavans, as a professional technologist, you were an early internet adapter, 1979?

  • 12:11:18

    KLAVANSThat's right.

  • 12:11:19

    NNAMDIOh, see, we hate you already. And you've designed systems for things like speech recognition. What have you observed about how older adults use technology in the workplace and in general?

  • 12:11:31

    KLAVANSIn general, there seem to be three factors that really hurt seniors in terms of jumping in. The first is that younger people tend to happy with trial and error. They try something, they don't worry if it breaks. If it doesn't work, they try something else. So seniors tend not to want to do this kind of trial and errors. They like to read manuals. They'd like to see how things work. So that's where the training issues come in.

  • 12:11:58

    KLAVANSThe second part is that there's really no technology standards that are dictated for tools to be really senior friendly. So eyesight begins to go, your touch begins to go, feeling things. And as a senior myself, I certainly know that the eyesight issue begins to impact you. Speech recognition has really made a difference in the way that people are able to interact with their phones. They can talk to their phones and get directions.

  • 12:12:30

    KLAVANSSo increasing the use of these technologies for seniors really is the second point. And then the third is one that we're all working on on the show and that is increasing the training facilities for seniors. We're not dumb, we're very smart. We're very active. We really want to be connected. So making sure that this happens in a way that's tailored to our needs is very important.

  • 12:12:57

    NNAMDIJust between you and me, how were you accessing the internet in 1979?

  • 12:13:01

    KLAVANSWell, I completed my dissertation at IBM Research and then I went to MIT. And all the work that I did at IBM Research was FTP, that's file transfer protocoled, FTPs up to MIT. At that point, it was a miracle. Everything arrived. And then I was in touch by email with my colleagues in New York when I moved to Boston. Continued to be on email with my colleagues with the most crude interfaces and mechanisms and protocols that you can possibly imagine.

  • 12:13:39

    NNAMDII just wondered.

  • 12:13:39

    KLAVANSIt was clunky. It was clunky.

  • 12:13:42

    NNAMDITom Kamber, eventually all of you I'd like to answer this question. The Pew study identified two groups of seniors. Those who are younger and more highly educated are plugged into tech, while those who are older and less affluent are largely disconnected both physically and psychologically. What have you seen and why did you choose lower income adults for your pilot technology training courses here in Washington?

  • 12:14:08

    KAMBERWell, that project actually was something that we collaborated with AARP and Comcast on, it's called Connecting to Community. And we focused on the lower income, socially isolated older folks because one of the real areas where we can move the needle in terms of getting people online is reconnecting and helping them kind of reweave their social networks. And you're right, there really is an age split there.

  • 12:14:30

    KAMBERSo the younger people in their 50s and 60s and up to about 80, 70 tend to be adopting the internet and broadband and some of the basic things like email. But they're facing challenges around using the more advanced tools or more sort of second stage tools like Facebook or Pinterest or even some of the blogging tools like Tumblr. And so, when we worked with AARP on that project, we were able to train people to use those applications and had a great success in keeping them involved and getting to use them to connect to friends and family.

  • 12:15:02

    KAMBERWhen you get to the older population, you definitely need to go slower. Many of them have really a lot of anxiety around the first steps with technology and the numbers are showing that that group is best brought online when they really can have face to face interaction with people in their general age group who are already using or learning successfully. So that project that we did AARP and Comcast and actually in Washington our local partner there was a group called Family Matters.

  • 12:15:31

    KAMBERAnd that projects was -- we were able to bring people together in groups of 12 with volunteer trainers who were typically seniors themselves. And they were able to kind of set the standard and engage the older population. And the average age of that group was 70. And those people learned very well, but they needed the face to face interaction and some of that peer support that really helped them feel more comfortable.

  • 12:15:51

    NNAMDITerry Bradwell, anything you'd like to add?

  • 12:15:53

    BRADWELLYeah. Oh, absolutely. Yeah, we did a very, very wonderful collaborative effort with Tom Kamber and his organization. But let's get to the bottom line, the social reasons as to why we did this. It wasn't about technology and technology for itself. We know that isolation is a huge issue, you know, as we become older. We become less mobile. A lot of connections, these sort of what I call brick and mortar connections.

  • 12:16:20

    BRADWELLFolks that you've had relationships with who may have been right around the corner or right at harm's reach. Those things go away over time. And so, the way in which it has hit the mainstream is how folks are being connected. Of course, it's through social media. This has -- our research has taught us that this technology plays a huge, huge fundamental role at combating isolation. Isolation can lead to other things such as health issues, mental health issues.

  • 12:16:49

    BRADWELLThere's a lot of things that just being isolated from your environment can have an impact on the way that you live your life. And so, from my perspective, that's the most -- that's the proudest thing about this program.

  • 12:17:00


  • 12:17:01

    KLAVANSYes. I believe that that's so true that early on what was observed and what's reported in the Pew report, and AARP has reported in their publications, is that connecting with other people is a primary motivation. So the silliest thing is to ask somebody who doesn't use the internet what would you use the internet for? Well, I couldn't answer that because I have no idea. But if I say, you could see videos of your grandchildren.

  • 12:17:27

    KLAVANSYou can find out about a support group for a disease you might have been diagnosed for. You could have a reading group online. Any of those social activities that really help you stay connected and stay vibrant intellectually, that's what you want.

  • 12:17:46

    NNAMDIIt's a Tech Tuesday conversation on seniors and technology with Judith Klavans. She's a researcher at the University of Maryland Institute for Advanced Computer Studies who recently retired from the Federal Office of the Director of National Intelligence. Terry Bradwell is chief information officer with AARP. And Tom Kamber is founder and executive director of Older Adults Technology Services.

  • 12:18:07

    NNAMDIWe're inviting you to participate in this conversation by calling 800-433-8850. And that's exactly what Clay in Silver Spring, MD has done. Clay, you're on the air, go ahead please.

  • 12:18:21

    CLAYHi, Kojo and everybody. Kojo, you mentioned if it ain't broke, don't fix it.

  • 12:18:26


  • 12:18:28

    CLAYI believe that the most important feature on an automobile is the brakes.

  • 12:18:32


  • 12:18:32

    CLAYAnd I believe the most important feature on computers, at least ones that are connected to the internet, is security, especially now. And I am pretty careful. I keep my Norton running in the background and I often do a lot of the diagnostics and I still get hacked emails that look like they're from my buddies and they're saying something like, hi, how are you and then there's a link. And if I click on it, if I highlighted, it certainly looks different and where it's going to go.

  • 12:19:06

    CLAYGod knows where it's going to go, you know. But I don't know if they're even dangerous anymore. But I think there's a lot of scamming going on with people who are not elderly, which makes it a challenge enough. But how about the elderly? Are we doing anything to educate these folks on how important it is t update their security software and to take the necessary steps to keep from getting in trouble?

  • 12:19:34

    NNAMDII can tell you, I can safely say that that one that you mentioned is not only happening to older people. I got one such from my nephew the other way when he was hacked with this. Judith Klavans?

  • 12:19:45

    KLAVANSPrivacy and protection is one of the most serious issues. And in fact, I've with cybersecurity and I'm really glad, Clay, that you mentioned that point. One of the really serious issues that the OATS program and AARP is addressing in their training is how to make sure that you set your privacy settings, that you know where the privacy settings are and you know how to do those as part of your training. But a lot of people don't take the time to do it. So I'm really glad you brought this up.

  • 12:20:16

    KLAVANSNot only seniors are really vulnerable to the same kind of scams you used to get by telephone, now it's a little more sophisticated, all of us are vulnerable. But seniors are particularly vulnerable because the complexity of the privacy settings really makes it difficult to defend yourself. So that's something that needs to change.

  • 12:20:37

    NNAMDIAnd I guess, Clay, once that happens to you and you get hacked, you're generally advised to change your password. But go ahead.

  • 12:20:43

    BRADWELLNo, absolutely. But there's always means that we can take. But the way I describe sort of the world of security that we're living in, imagine parking your car at the mall or any parking lot and knowing that everyone who passes by your car, they're going to be checking your door handles to see if they can get in. That is the world that we live in within the Internet. You know, we have -- this is not coming domestically as much as it's coming from international waters. There are tons and tons of individuals that are out there that are looking at ways to break through, you know, privacy settings that have just been -- that has just been rendered useful.

  • 12:21:22

    BRADWELLThis is one of the reasons why, you know, a lot of change does happen in technology is because we're always trying to stay ahead of what we call the bad guy, the bad actor that's out there. And so that's one part of this technology realm that will not change from a standpoint of the changes and advancements in technologies that you can expect.

  • 12:21:42

    NNAMDIClay, thank you very much for your call. We're going to take a short break. But when we come back, we'll continue this conversation on seniors and technology. So you can still go to our website,, ask a question or make a comment there. Or call 800-433-8850. I'm Kojo Nnamdi.

  • 12:23:44

    NNAMDIWelcome back. It's a Tech Tuesday conversation on "Seniors and Technology" with Tom Kamber, founder and executive director of Older Adults Technology Services. He joins us from NPR's Bryant Park studios in New York City. Joining us in our Washington studio is Terry Bradwell, chief information officer with AARP, and Judith Klavans, she's a researcher at the University of Maryland Institute for Advanced Computer Studies.

  • 12:24:08

    NNAMDIYou can call us at 800-433-8850. What tech device or program intimidates you? What do you see as being the biggest challenges for seniors in using computers or tablets or smartphones? You can also send us a tweet @kojoshow. Or email to Tom Kamber, tablets are popular with older adults, especially beginners. Why are tablets easier to learn than computers?

  • 12:24:34

    KAMBERWell, it builds a little bit off a conversation we were having earlier on the show. You know, I can tell you that I spent part of my morning taking a virus off of my computer. And I had to go online and do a little searching and figure out what it was and figure out how to take the program off and scour it with my virus protection software. And tablets typically don't run into some of the same -- the level of complexity and often confusion and dysfunctionality that some of the more traditional PC and laptop computers do.

  • 12:25:07

    KAMBERAnd so, you know, for older adults, you know, when you pick up a tablet you turn it on. There's no boot-up time. What you see is pretty basically what you get. You put your finger right on the screen and touch things and the buttons work and things happen. You don't have to worry as much about some of the, you know, file management and software protection in the same way that you do on a PC. And, you know, tablets are very quickly becoming, I think, you know, sort of they're -- I think they're the fastest growing piece of hardware now for older adults.

  • 12:25:36

    KAMBERThe numbers for people in the senior population are lagging a little bit on smartphones, but tablets are up around a third in terms of adoption. And the reason is that they are easy to use, they're dependable. They're great for consuming information, you know, whether it's news or video or reading, you know, on Facebook or emails. And they typically are not as good for things like office applications. But many seniors are retired, and so the tablets are becoming more and more popular.

  • 12:26:05

    KAMBERWe're finding, here in our location in New York, we have a center in Manhattan called the Senior Planet Exploration Center, which is as far as we know the country's only fully senior-focused technology center for older adults. And we have -- when we have tablet classes and we advertise the enrollment for them, and we have lines down the block when we start the enrollment periods, because people are really, really excited to learn those specific devices.

  • 12:26:31

    NNAMDIBut, Tom, why is it important to buy grandma a new iPad rather than giving her a hand-me-down?

  • 12:26:38

    KAMBEROh, Kojo, this is my favorite question. People so often think that when they're done with their technology device and they're not going to use it anymore because they're upgrading, they don't want to just throw it in the trash and recycle it. So they want to give it to mom, who's not using a tablet or a PC. And so one of the things that we often find is people show up at the Senior Planet Exploration Center with, you know, a 1990s vintage laptop or, you know, a first generation tablet. And the thing has, you know, literally got smoke coming out the back of it.

  • 12:27:09

    KAMBERAnd they say, you know, "What's wrong with me that I can't operate this device?" It'd be kind of like handing your relative a Model-T Ford and saying, you know, drive it around Manhattan. And they think it's driver error. The problem, of course, is that a lot of these older devices don't work very well and the software needs updating. And the older it is, the more complicated it is to keep that -- keep managing the system.

  • 12:27:32

    KAMBERSo we really recommend that, if you're really a beginner and you're over the age of 60 or just think of yourself who's a little precarious on the learning curve, really you should start out with a new, mainstream, state-of-the-art device and get the proper support for it. But using the refurbished and hand-me-down computers and technology devices is really one of the ways to set people up to fail. And it causes more fights between generations within the same family than I want to tell you about. But we get that question all the time.

  • 12:28:02

    NNAMDIJudith, Terry, the Pew Report found that more seniors owned tablets than own smartphones. Why do you think that is, Judith, first?

  • 12:28:10

    KLAVANSWell, smartphones are small. You can't see the font. If you do make the characters larger, you get about three words on your screen. So they're not so easy to use as tablets, which are larger. Furthermore, most tablets come with just a few icons on it -- a few pieces of software loaded up that are very easy to use. So you can find YouTube really quickly. You can find maps so quickly. The video and the camera are actually two separate on most pads and that makes it very easy. You don't even have to tap twice. So that's my take on that.

  • 12:28:48

    NNAMDIWe got a caller who can stay on the line. Linda, in Washington, who doesn't understand why Apple doesn't make it easier to change the font on the iPhone. That's the problem you were complaining about. You, Terry Bradwell.

  • 12:28:59

    BRADWELLYou know, I -- you know, from my perspective, you know, I agree with everything that Tom and Judith just said, you know, definitely the ease of use for tablets. But looking at it just a little bit deeper and looking at how tablets are architected -- smaller device, smaller footprint. So you have to make a lot happen with a limited amount of space, unlike laptops. Laptops have a lot of space, lot of hard drive, a lot of memory and things of that nature. So typically applications are designed and built sometimes for the purpose of the hardware that they run on.

  • 12:29:32

    BRADWELLTablets, you have to have efficiency. You just to have applications, if they're going to work, they have to be efficient. You can go to a program that is on the Internet, use that same program on the tablet, and I guarantee if it was geared for the tablet, it's going to be much more efficient, much more easier to use. And I think, going back to why a lot of older Americans are going -- older adults are going towards the tablets, that's the biggest draw, ease of use. Absolutely, bar none.

  • 12:29:57

    NNAMDIOn to the phones again. Here, now, is John in Fairfax, Va. John, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.

  • 12:30:03

    JOHNWell, thank you very much, Kojo. I very much appreciate your show today. It mirrors a program that I've been teaching, Senior Computer Basic, for, I don't know, four or five years at the local, you know, James Lee Community Center. And I've found my own interests and those of my students diverging in the very ways that you've been describing. That is, my needs as a working person require the capability of a desktop or a laptop, and my clients, or my students, have a much simpler need usually.

  • 12:30:42

    JOHNA few of them are quite interested in setting up, you know, projects for their clubs or their churches and things that do require a desktop. But most of them would prefer the dumber operating system of a tablet or a notepad. And that's a problem I think that should be solved throughout the country, not just in little spots like mine and those of your guests.

  • 12:31:10

    NNAMDIWhen you say -- what do you see as the problem?

  • 12:31:13

    JOHNWell, that Microsoft, in particular, is dumbing-down their operating system so they can have basically one kind of support for everything from desktops to cell phones. They're trying, you know, they're making the desktop operating system much less transparent for the user. And there are a lot of shortcomings in the application -- the way the applications work. The security has improved somewhat, but one of the reasons why less -- well, I guess, I won't -- less than two-thirds of the PC population has moved from XP is just that, that the XP is easy to use. It's much more transparent than the newer...

  • 12:32:00

    NNAMDIAnd you're saying that is particularly difficult for seniors?

  • 12:32:03

    JOHNI think so, in that, you know, even something as simple as the title bar of a window -- it used to be that the information of what was being displayed and the program that was displaying it was always showing in the title bar.

  • 12:32:15


  • 12:32:15

    JOHNAnd now the title bars are often just blank.

  • 12:32:18

    NNAMDITom Kamber, care to comment?

  • 12:32:20

    KAMBERYeah, this is a really -- he's raising two really important points here. One is that there, you know, we talked a little bit earlier about the divide between younger and older seniors. But there's also a divide between seniors that are in the workforce or engaged in some way, trying to get into the workforce, or even volunteering in offices, and those who are not. If you're in the workforce, you're working in offices, you're working with documents and document management, you kind of need to be able to use a PC or Mac to do that.

  • 12:32:45

    KAMBERAnd what John is saying is absolutely right. You know, they are sort of trying to dumb-down some of these applications. But what we're working on nationally with a bunch of partners is trying to smarten up the population that's using them. What older adults are finding is, you know, you get kicked out of the workforce or you're, you know, changing jobs, and you're trying to get back in, and not only are you facing all the, you know, ageism and, you know, resume challenges where people ask you, you know, how old you are or when you graduated college to kind of get a sense of whether they think that you're still in a learning mode as an older adult.

  • 12:33:16

    KAMBERBut you're also facing the real barriers around technology, you know, and having to update your skills. And as a country, we don't have a really great system for helping older adults do that. Most of the workforce development programs for older adults are targeted at a fairly small sliver of folks at the very, very low income end of the income scale. And we're finding that our, you know, here in New York we've been working with AT&T and with Verizon, Time Warner Cable, they've been supporting programs where we're able to train seniors to kind of retool their workforce skills.

  • 12:33:49

    KAMBERWe have a 10-week course on Microsoft programs and then another 5-week course on how to search for a job in the Internet age. But we're finding that that's something that we really need nationally. And we're trying to work with our partners in the private sector to bring that to other states. And I know that AARP has been really active on the workforce issues as well. It's really a shame that we haven't been able to do more on a larger scale yet.

  • 12:34:08

    NNAMDIJohn, thank you very much for your call. He mentioned AARP, Terry Bradwell, would you like to comment?

  • 12:34:12

    BRADWELLYeah, Tom is absolutely right. It is an initiative that we're taking very, very seriously at AARP and it's the jobs and work initiative. We know that, I mean, jobs are not only being lost, but in many cases they are going away. Meaning that certain industries are replacing certain brick-and-mortar jobs, certain jobs that when you get outside of sort of, you know, larger cities where you have a lot of office workers, get into more rural areas where you have mill towns, other type of wonderful jobs, wonderful opportunities for folks, but they don't require technologies.

  • 12:34:46

    BRADWELLAnd when they go away and they still want to remain in the workforce, they're finding that being competitive against a younger individual -- and it has nothing to do with a life-long of learning, it has nothing to do with a competency of what they can bring to the job -- but a lot of times what discounts them is that they don't have the technology skills just to gain entryway into that job. Try to apply for a job now by writing a resume, printing it out and sending it in via mail. It probably won't get looked at.

  • 12:35:16

    BRADWELLYou would have to leverage online resources such as CareerBuilder, LinkedIn, and things of that nature to have a decent chance of attracting a job that is suitable for you. But if you don't have the technology back -- well, the technology competency, a technology education to be able to do that, just even searching for a job, not getting a job but searching for a job becomes very, very difficult. And we're doing a lot of work around that area, making sure that we can connect folks to the right resources.

  • 12:35:44

    NNAMDIJudith Klavans, Terry also mentioned earlier about the biggest growth in the social media realm is from people over the age of 55. You're studying seniors' entry into social media. How are concerns about privacy affecting their use of sites like Facebook and Yelp?

  • 12:36:01

    KLAVANSWell, what I've heard from a lot of seniors is, "I'm not going on those things. They shouldn't know where I am. I know where I am. Nobody else needs to know where I am. To heck with it, I'm not doing it."

  • 12:36:11


  • 12:36:11

    KLAVANSSo we get to the privacy issue. And it really is a serious problem. We joke about it. Your caller before who mentioned the viruses that are coming in and the spam email that you mentioned, Kojo. The fact that privacy -- setting your own privacy and really understanding how these settings work is a mystery to most people, young and old. What's really critical here is that the notion of privacy, and this is what the studies are showing -- the notion of what it means to be private doesn't exist for younger people.

  • 12:36:48

    KLAVANSThey don't care if they're on Instagram and everybody knows where they are at this very moment. They're snapchatting every second of where they are. So, and seniors do care. So there is a difference in how we perceive the notion of privacy.

  • 12:37:04

    NNAMDIGo ahead.

  • 12:37:05

    KLAVANSThat's it. For now.

  • 12:37:07

    NNAMDITom, did you care to comment on that, or you, Terry?

  • 12:37:11

    KAMBERYeah, sure. I think we're definitely, we see this quite a bit here at our locations in New York and also the other six we do in Washington D.C. and South Dakota. People come in with a very -- definitely the older adults, especially in the 70-plus range, tend to be more sensitive to privacy issues. And we end up having these very intense conversations with people because they're, you know, you can set the privacy settings on your Facebook page or make sure that you have appropriate virus protection on your computer and even really, you know, manage your cell phone and smartphone settings as well.

  • 12:37:49

    KAMBERBut ultimately there are some tradeoffs. And engaging in eCommerce and online banking and even using something -- a piece of technology as simple as an E-ZPass as you drive down the highway, you're creating a digital trail. And we end up really having some powerful conversations with people where we say, you know, do you want to remain on the digital sidelines entirely in order to have 100 percent protection of your privacy, or what kind of tradeoffs are appropriate for you and how can you make smart, informed choices?

  • 12:38:19

    KAMBERWe find that when people start to edge in and get a sense of what the value proposition is for going online in the first place, they become much more willing to make some of those tradeoffs. But from our prospective, the critical thing is that people really understand that -- what the options are and, frankly, what some of the negative dynamics are from staying offline. And just one last point, we just finished a study with the Advanced Communications Law Policy Institute here at New York Law School with a researcher named John Horrigan.

  • 12:38:52

    KAMBERAnd we did an inter -- we interviewed 1,200 seniors on the phone about their use of technology and found very similar dynamics in terms of, people who were not online, had a really hard time understanding why they should go online. And that's been one of the real barriers we have to get over. That first point of value proposition has to be made and then people start to make smarter choices.

  • 12:39:14

    NNAMDIThat brings me back to you, Terry Bradwell, and the initial points you were making about avoiding isolation and things like that.

  • 12:39:19

    BRADWELLAbsolutely. And even outside of -- isolation is a big problem. But even a bigger problem, and this goes to what Tom was just speaking of, is fear. You know, there is a just a basic fear of the technology. And the fear can be generated from a lack of understanding. So I tried to use this and I have 70 years of learning, life learning and I've been able to master everything. And now all of a sudden, I can't master something that a three-year-old can master. That drives a lot of fear in you. And the result of that sometimes is, well this is just not relevant to me.

  • 12:39:52

    BRADWELLAnd, of course when that relevancy question comes up -- that relevant statement comes up -- from their perspective, no, it's not relevant. But from a societal perspective, it's very, very relevant, because they're missing out on a lot of opportunities, a lot of access to things that are going away from a brick-and-mortar perspective. So I think the fear aspect and that's one of the things we are tackling most of all is the fear. Get it -- going from fear to empowerment and how do you do that and I think that one of the things that all three of us on this panel today have in common. Really driving people from fear to empowerment.

  • 12:40:23

    NNAMDIHere is Mae in Fairfax, VA. Mae, your turn.

  • 12:40:28

    MAEYes, my question is, why aren't more seniors aware of using the computer? Is it something about education in America? And the reason why I ask this, I was born Caribbean, I went to college in 1972. This is what -- the process is, and that is where the old time punch card, see, you had to even learn what the punch card was saying, when the print didn't come out on top and when I came to America 30 years ago. I was shocked to see somebody handwriting an invoice. I thought everything was computerized. Everything was on that machine, and other one is like a shop I had come into a break, I said what is this?

  • 12:41:10

    NNAMDIWell, you know what happens...

  • 12:41:12

    MAEThat's why so many people I would come to and I wonder, how could this be in America (unintelligible) country?

  • 12:41:18

    NNAMDIWell it's a very large country, for one thing. One of the things that you're talking about when you talked about punch cards in the early 1970s, is that you were in a way introduced to the very early stage to the vocabulary of technology and Terry for some older adults the vocabulary of technology may sound like a foreign language. How difficult is it learn the terminology?

  • 12:41:40

    BRADWELLOnce you immerse yourself in it, it's not difficult. But for someone who is new to learning a different language and they're not living in the environment where this language is spoken day in and day out, it can be a very, very cumbersome and, quite frankly, a very frustrating adventure for them.

  • 12:42:00

    NNAMDIIt's my understanding that you sat through on a training session when someone was asked to go to the app store.

  • 12:42:06

    BRADWELLYes, yes and this is, you know, a real story. You know, we were giving training on just basic introduction to tablets and how to download an app and where to get that app from, from the app store and how to shop the app store. And so at the end of the training we had this wonderful individual that came up and said, you know I really, really got a lot out of this training. But two things that I didn't understand, you know one is, is that where is the app store? Is there one around the corner from me that I can go through, do you have address to that?

  • 12:42:37

    BRADWELLAnd then the other most important conversation was, and what is an app? And now, so -- so those are some -- when you're not in that particular realm, you're not immersed in that technology, these may sound, like, kind of juvenile questions, funny questions that -- but for someone who is 70, 75, 80 years old and beginning to intro -- get introduced into this digital realm it's not a funny question that those are not funny statements for them.

  • 12:43:02

    NNAMDIApp stores right in your hand.

  • 12:43:03


  • 12:43:05

    NNAMDIWe are going to take a short break. When we come back we'll continue our conversation on seniors and technology. If the phone lines are busy send us an email at or tweet @kojoshow or simply go to our website and join the conversation there, I'm Kojo Nnamdi.

  • 12:45:08

    NNAMDIWelcome back to our tech Tuesday conversation on seniors and technology with Judith Klavans, researcher at the University of Maryland Institute for Advance Computer Studies, who recently retired from the federal office of the Director of National Intelligence.

  • 12:45:22

    NNAMDIShe joins us in studio along with Terry Bradwell, chief information officer for AARP. And Tom Kamber joins us from studios in New York, he's founder and executive director of older adults technology services. You can call us at 800-433-8850, you can send email to Judith, it's hard for all of us to keep up with the latest software update or the newest models of tablets or phones, how does the fast pace of change effect seniors comfort with technology?

  • 12:45:57

    KLAVANSThat's part the training question. So when you get your training, the kind of work that Tom is doing and AARP are doing as well and that really helps to explain to you that these updates are actually welcome. Many of them patch errors and holes and problems that didn't show up until these machines got out. You buy new cars, you update your television, you take care of updating things all the time. So this is part of what you just need to do to keep up and stay current.

  • 12:46:35


  • 12:46:35


  • 12:46:36

    BRADWELLYeah, and I would agree 100 percent with what Judith just said. I'm CIO and I -- my world and my life is technology and I can't keep up with pace of change. So I can imagine what -- what others are dealing with, but, but yes, I mean it would be great, in looking more into the future. Judith is right, we can't get around the change aspects of technology. We always are going to have to upgrade because, you know, life is changing, society is changing, we are trying to keep ahead of the bad guys and things of that nature.

  • 12:47:10

    BRADWELLBut if I had a magic wand that I could wave it would be to -- be able to manage change especially for individuals that are not on that sort of steep slope of change like the millennials are and be able to manage change in such a way that is digestible for that consumer. So if you have a 65, 70 plus year old that is not ready for the latest changes that you have, it doesn't make their technology irrelevant because they're not ready for that. But you can assist them with other aspect that are going to be more beneficial for them.

  • 12:47:40

    NNAMDIHere is Arni in Fall Church, VA. Arni you're on the air, go ahead please.

  • 12:47:46

    ARNIThank you, thank you Kojo. This is really an excellent show and I just wanted to tell a quick story. I am a volunteer at a bingo club at a local assistance living facility and one thing I want to say about the seniors and my seniors are all in their 90s.

  • 12:48:05

    ARNIIn fact, I have one that is 104, they are very afraid of -- of new technology and computers and so forth. And I said, well there is no reason to be afraid I --what I did was I took my iPhone in last night and I showed them how to use Siri and how easy it was and their eyes were just lit up like you wouldn't believe and using -- and it so easy to Siri. And then I had them try it themselves and they all were able to do it and then I told them about being able to Skype.

  • 12:48:42

    ARNISo next week I'm going to during the bingo hour I'm going to Skype my daughter in New Zealand and they just, they can't believe it that is possible, And I'm -- I'm going to prove it to you. But I think after they were shown how easy it was, they were very, very interested, and one -- in fact, one of my people said that he's thinking of buying iPhone himself. Which would be, I think, a major victory and he -- he himself is 98 years old. So, you can imagine how what a change and how amazed these people were at seeing that -- that slice of technology.

  • 12:49:20

    NNAMDIArni, Thank you very much for your call. Tom Kamber, what are the functionalities that tend to appeal to seniors most, he mentioned Skype and obviously that means people can get in touch not only get in touch but actually see their grandchildren while they talking to them.

  • 12:49:36

    KAMBERWell Kojo, there -- there actually pretty much, they mirror the functionalities that younger people but they often come on -- on to them in a different order. So, you know, what we find for people is, obviously, the first functionality that people really want is they want to go online, they want to see the internet, they want to use Google to do some searching.

  • 12:49:54

    KAMBERAnd you and I may think of that is just sort of almost a natural process but for somebody who's never used a mouse or never touched a tablet, it can take a couple weeks to get the point where you're comfortable looking at a web page and understanding how to navigate it and -- and what to click on and -- you know, what's irrelevant and -- and how to move around on in just a web browser.

  • 12:50:13

    KAMBERSo people typically start there. What we find when we're able to introduce people on to the tablets is we actually go pretty quickly to things like digital photography. Because when you're using an iPad or a Nexus which is the Droid system that were working with now. You, you know, you can really -- you get a real immediate bang for your buck when you -- you pick up the tablet, take a picture and you have the picture right there and then we can teach somebody fairly quickly to send that picture someone else and there's the sense of excitement around that.

  • 12:50:43

    KAMBERThen we sort of graduate from there, we people really want email, the study that we just did with New York Law School found that, that is the number one communication tool using the technology still. So people really, seniors are sort of traditionalist, even when they go online, they love to send email. But when -- but the other really popular program for us, Pinterest turns out to be very popular, that's a program that we -- we found great success with our -- in Washington D.C. program working with family matters.

  • 12:51:07

    KAMBERWe've had a lot of success with Tumblr as a blogging platform for people. And then gaming applications are extremely popular, when people commonly saying how much they love the gaming and then you're absolutely right, the video chat programming is very popular for people, not just Skype but even the Google Hangouts now and FaceTime, using the...

  • 12:51:26


  • 12:51:26

    BRADWELL...Apple products. They're very, very popular and very intuitive and -- and they connect people.

  • 12:51:31

    NNAMDIJudith, what do we still need know about to train seniors and technology, given physical issues like eye sight and dexterity?

  • 12:51:41

    KLAVANSThere's a fair amount of research going on -- in adapting new technologies for seniors. So testing going on with what size machine is best for seniors, what size tablet, the three-inch, four-inch phone is too small, five inches seems to work. What -- they're really different -- different strokes for different folks.

  • 12:52:05

    KLAVANSBecause it depends on what's deteriorating and what you need. So if your eyesight is going, but your hearing is great, then you're going to have different needs then somebody who's has hearing issues, but no eye sight issues. Tactile issues those are particularly important and if you were to see me in the studio, I am demonstrating holding an iPhone or holding an iPad. The smaller iPad's you can hold, the larger ones get to be a little awkward.

  • 12:52:33

    NNAMDIArni, Thank you very much for your call. Speaking of eye sight issues. We move to Carl in Silver Spring, Md. Who wants to address that. Carl, your turn.

  • 12:52:42

    CARLHi Kojo, I haven't spoken to you since one of the computer shows a few years ago.

  • 12:52:48

    NNAMDIWell, Thank you for waiting.

  • 12:52:49

    CARLMy eye sight has gone from low vision to totally blind. So I just have light perception, but I am an avid user of Jaws, which is the most popular screen reader for the blind. I also want to compliment Microsoft and Verizon for doing things for us blind people and for people that need larger screens. Microsoft has a program with project Reboot, which is a non-profit out of the capital PC users group, that provides Windows 7 computer with SEVENPRO on it for $25 that are completely refurbish by professionals and the -- you can even get a $20 version of Office 2010. So those people that want to do things in the computer field still can.

  • 12:53:53

    CARLI also found that the Martin Luther King Library allows you to go down and with any kind of a disability your welcome to play with the other computers systems that they have that are -- that are easier to use but I wanted to have one -- one suggestion here for those people that are worried about emails, they can always set their email reader to be in text mode as opposed to HTML. Then they don't have to worry about accidentally clicking on something or being susceptible to -- to viruses that might come in through the email area.

  • 12:54:32

    NNAMDIOkay, Carl, good suggestion. All of our panelists seem to agree.

  • 12:54:35

    CARLI would like to have any on the -- the you're going around the area of how to set your settings. I know there lot of settings for eliminating things for kids, but has anybody found anything that’s good for seniors in terms of setting up your anti-virus or setting up Facebook.

  • 12:54:59

    NNAMDITom Kamber?

  • 12:55:01

    KAMBERThere isn't the same kind of package for seniors available right now that -- that is existed for kids in terms of the, sort of, you know, the parent run protection softwares that -- and sort of settings that people are using. And we tend to try separate out the conversations around older adults and technology from thinking about them like their kids cause they really do have very -- even thou there beginners they really come at it from a very different perspective.

  • 12:55:26

    KAMBERSo in general, we've done is -- at OATS we really engage people face to face because privacy settings and you know, settings like that are very personal for people. Everybody is on a different device and needs some coaching.

  • 12:55:38

    KAMBERSo at the exploration center here in Manhattan, we have volunteers who just meet one-on-one with seniors all day long and so often what they're doing is sitting down and saying, you know, how can I set my phone or my iPad or my device to the right settings for me and it's not just about virus protection and security but it's also commonly, how do you wanna organize the apps on your main screen on an iPad or, you know, how do you wanna set up your Gmail interface so that you can -- so that it's got the right scale.

  • 12:56:07

    KAMBERSome people want much larger fonts and some people don't. And so we help them organize their information that way. I know AARP has amazing resources on their website, you know, which is where I often go to (unintelligible) ...

  • 12:56:18

    NNAMDIAllow me to interrupt 'cause we're running out of time and...

  • 12:56:21

    KAMBERSorry, go ahead.

  • 12:56:21 raised an issue that one of our emailer's would like to address. Terry Bradwell, Susan in Arlington, VA writes "Where in the area can I find, of course, free or inexpensive preferably?"

  • 12:56:33

    BRADWELLGreat, great question and this is an area that were spending actually a lot of time in and were rolling out, more to come in the next few weeks. But were rolling out something and that's going to be more national. In the area, I would have to get back because we don't have an offering in this area today. We will have an offering in this area at some point.

  • 12:56:53

    NNAMDIYou can go to our website, you will see video's that can offer you some assistance and you may find a hint there about where in the area you may be able to find something and we got an email from Galen who said "I work at a non-profit that interacts primarily with the senior community. What is some resources we can use to make our on-line presence more accessible to seniors?" Tom Kamber, you only have about a minute.

  • 12:57:16

    KAMBERFor non-profits doing that typically there's options for things like purchasing Google AdWords which gets your profile a little bit higher. There's a term called Search Engine Optimization, which is really about helping to make sure your website is more visible to people out there, so you can set it, so that people are able to see it. And I'd also want just put in a quick plug for a web property that OATS sponsors called Seniorplanet-O-R-G, is a digital site for older adults for where it's really a national site people go for any content they want. The slogan is "Aging with Attitude" so people can really can go online and get a lot kind of (word?) messaging.

  • 12:57:53

    NNAMDIAnd I'm afraid that's about all the time we have I apologize for those of you who are not able to get through. Go to our website, you might find some important links there. Judith Klavans, Terry Bradwell, Tom Kamber, thank you all for joining us.

  • 12:58:05

    KLAVANSThank you, thank you.

  • 12:58:06

    BRADWELLThank You.

  • 12:58:06

    KAMBERThank You.

  • 12:58:06

    NNAMDIAnd thank you all for listening, I'm Kojo Nnamdi.

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