PointerWare Makes Regular PCs Simple for Seniors

PointerWareCanadian computer guys Raul Rupsingh and Stephen Beath volunteered in senior centers and tested their simple 5-button interface with genuine grandmas. Now, their web-based subscription software is used in many Canadian retirement and nursing-home chains. The home version costs $8 per month or $149 for a year of access, support, and upgrades. It is available in eight languages including Hindi and simplified or traditional Chinese. PointerWare works on Windows-based PCs and tablets. It is not compatible with Apple products.



“Boomers” vs. “Silvers”

Silver SummitIn Canada, there is a group called “Seniors for Seniors” (http://seniors4seniors.ca) in which “junior seniors” age 60-65 can volunteer to assist “senior seniors” aged 85-90 as personal caregivers and drivers. That brings up the question of:
what exactly is a senior?

“Baby boomers” is the name for that abundance of children born between 1946 and 1964. The oldest of these are now over 65 (and the youngest are developing problems reading small type.)

Tony Vagneur, boomer and actual cowboy in Aspen, Colorado declares, “I don’t understand why there’s a dichotomy, separating ‘older people’ from the rest of the world? If it weren’t for older people (over 50, the largest marketing demographic), there wouldn’t be profitable demand for those products that claim to be youth-oriented.”

Of course, he’s a sharp, fit Colorado outdoorsman. It is ridiculous to put him in the same marketing category as a people old enough to be his parents. Yet, young engineers have a hard time imagining the needs of either baby boomers or the older silver generation who now live to be age 90 and beyond.

A Silver Field of Dreams
Susan Estrada reports from the Silvers Summit, the senior tech segment of the 2012 CES (Computer Electronics Show) in Las Vegas (http://silverssummit.com). She quotes Marty Cooper, the engineer credited with inventing mobile phones, as saying that, although young designers long to tap into the senior market, “they can’t ‘think’ like an older adult.”

Skype Connects Generations

SkypeThe video phone of the future has arrived and it’s free. What a blessing for seniors who are separated from their families. “My 91-year-old grandmother in Tokyo uses Skype to keep in touch with my mother in Los Angeles,” writes special librarian Takako Nagumo. But Skype has practical implications beyond family cohesion.

“My 95-year-old grandfather is lucky enough to have found doctors who will make house calls, but my grandmother is always concerned that she may not understand all of the doctor’s instructions, so when the doctor comes, she and my mother both log on to Skype, so my mother can take notes and confer with the doctor, too.” Install Skype on any web-enabled device that is equipped with a camera and a microphone, including smart phones. Computers designed for seniors feature easy access to this generation-spanning technology. Skype was recently purchased by Microsoft.


The Wow! Computer Helps Elderly Newbies

Wow ComputerAunt Bert, age 88, embraces technology to keep in touch with her children and grandchildren. “I just bought a Wow! computer. Will you come over to help me set it up?” she asked recently.

The Wow! computer turned out to be an all-in-one touch screen with a locked desktop that only allows specific functions: touch this button for email, this for video chat through the built-in camera, and that one for news. I linked her fresh Gmail account to the email button and set her up on Skype for video chat.

FirstStreet markets the Wow! computer for Seniors (http://www.mywowcomputer.com), a 20-inch touch screen designed to get seniors online and to keep them out of trouble. The locked desktop and Linux operating system prevents users from accidentally downloading programs and viruses. The touch screen is handy for users who lack the dexterity to type or use a mouse. The $1000 price tag and lack of productivity software means that this is not the machine for everyone. Still, it may be just the thing for newbies who just want a computer to keep in touch with the modern world.

It turns out that the Wow! computer is really the rebranded Telikin (http://www.telikin.com) produced by Venture 3 Systems in Chalfont, Pennsylvania. This company imports the all-in-one PCs and then loads them up with the Linux operating system and its proprietary software. Venture 3 provides patient, responsive phone support for their tentative customers. Also, each Telikin comes equipped with a remote assistance feature called “Tech Buddy” which allows another user to port in and demonstrate which buttons to push.

Tick, tick, boom! When hard drives go bad.

DrivesaversWhen my notebook computer refused to boot and made a rhythmic clicking sound every time I tried, I had to face the fact that the hard drive was dead, and as Action Front Recovery Labs writes in its “Data Emergency Guide” (http://www.actionfront.com/afdrl_emergency_guide.pdf) “There is no software in the world that can fix storage media with physical defects.”

“The most important thing about a dying hard drive is that it usually gives warning signs,” says Steve Lewis, owner of SLK Net (http://slk.us) and our library’s systems consultant extraordinaire. When a computer makes ticking, buzzing, or scraping sounds, or emits repetitive noise patterns like “pllllr, tick, pllllr, tick”, it is time to take emergency data recovery and hard drive replacement action.

“Back up your data immediately (if you are already booted up)”, advises DriveSavers (http://www.drivesavers.com/recovery_tips). Then, “shut down the computer to avoid further damage to the drive and its data.”

Why? “This symptom typically indicates a head crash that can destroy your data,” DriveSavers explains. “Hard drives spin with extreme speed – from 7,200 to 15,000 revolutions per minute – therefore extensive damage can occur in a short period of time.”

Is Twitter like a stock ticker?

StunlawOn his Stunlaw blog, David M. Berry compares Twitter-followers to fans of the 19th century stock ticker, “The similarity of ticker users becoming entranced by the information on the stock tickers to contemporary users of Twitter and Facebook, who also stop and stare at their screens and seemingly fall into a trance, is striking.”

Starfall.com is a safe landing spot for kids

starfall.comYou’ve got kids from age 4 to 7 who want to play games on the computer. Point them to Starfall.com, a web site packed with educational games without commercial content. Build computer but not consumer literacy in the young ‘uns.