"Technologically savvy" can mean many different things to varied age groups. A middle school student who doesn't fully comprehend all of the various uses of gadgets doesn't hold the same meaning as a senior adult who has never used a computer, tablet, smart phone, or gaming device. Today's young adult is raised on a steady diet of technology. It's something most come in contact with at a very early age. Many of our children's early childhood toys are digital educational devices, where most seniors didn't have a toy that took batteries.
Today's senior isn't sitting back and letting the digital world move along without them. Instead, they are stepping up and looking for a solution to the challenge at hand. An increasing number of older adults are adopting new technology for things like social media, email, and other ways of connecting with their families and friends. According to Pew research surveys, Americans ages 65 and older are one of the strongest patterns they see regarding internet use. It's a way for them to stay up to date in this digital age. Yet at the same time, they find 44% of Americans ages 65 and older do not use the internet.
What keeps senior adults from utilizing technology such as smart phones, tablets, and computers? These devices can be cost prohibitive for some older adults. Other barriers could include limited educational opportunities and social supports, lack of interest or motivation or even fear of failure. Through all of these possible hindrances, we find seniors continue to hold positive attitudes toward technology and accept it as a new way of life.
A quick look around shows the shift in society. Tax returns can be filed online, benefit enrollments direct you to a website, and the list continues to grow. Effective Feb. 1, those who need a Social Security number printout or benefit verification are being instructed not to contact their local Social Security field office. Instead, they are being directed to more convenient, cost-effective and secure options which include phoning a toll-free number - or visiting Social Security online. This is just one of the many ways our society is moving toward a more technologically advanced culture.
Seniors who are interested in becoming more technologically savvy can visit the O'Neill Center, where they can utilize the computer lab and receive assistance from college volunteers, get involved in a game of Wii, or attend education programming that offers insight on things like internet banking and more. For those who aren't quite ready to tackle the internet era, staff members are available to help them access needed information.
The O'Neill Center is a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit corporation located at 333 Fourth St., Marietta. It serves as both a multipurpose senior center and a community focal point for accessing information and services for the elderly of Washington County. O'Neill Center is accredited by the National Council on Aging (NCOA). Funding support is received from the Older Americans Act administered by ODA through Buckeye Hills-Hocking Valley Regional Development District Area Agency on Aging; United Way; Washington County Senior Services Levy, and others.
Connie Huntsman is executive director of the O'Neill Center, 333 Fourth St., Marietta.