Overcoming frustrations to keep in touch with friends, family and the world
By Vejay Steede
Technology evolves fast. By the time a human being reaches their seventies, they’ve lived through countless technological advances. We speak to seniors about technology and how it enhances, or complicates, their everyday lives.
One thing is clear: Septuagenarians know WhatsApp, and staying connected through technology is more important in these twilight years than ever before.
Retired Educator extraordinaire, Ms Ellen-Kate Horton, 75, is a whiz when it comes to technology.
“I use technology daily. Apart from the fact that we have telephones, televisions, ring security devices, computers, and other forms of technology at home, I own a cellphone, an iPad and a laptop computer. I use the phone and iPad many times per day.”
On the topic of staying connected, Ms Horton disclosed:
“The most important component of technology is that it provides almost immediate contact with family members and friends, near and far. Also, anything going on in Bermuda, or even around the world for that matter is always at one’s fingertips because of the diverse uses of the cellphone.”
Ms Horton concluded by naming some of her favourite apps and how they enhance the daily lives of her fellow seniors:
“There are a few apps that have made my life easier in the past few years. As an educator, I have used Zoom to tutor students, especially after the shutdown due to Covid-19; I have attended many meetings from the comfort of my own home via Zoom; I have been responsible for a preschool for the past couple of years; I have hosted Zoom parent interviews and parent meetings and made use of Microsoft word to write letters, to create documents, and to write policy. I correspond using email. I stay in touch using Facebook.
“Most importantly, I use WhatsApp – probably my most used and favourite app. Current conversations can be had with a single person or groups of persons at any one time. Documents can be shared. There is immediate feedback as my telephone is always on my person. Video calls and voice calls can be made and, at the moment, all of this without cost to the consumer.
“Many members of the senior community depend on technology more now than ever before. As we are one of the most vulnerable groups, we would rather send a message or make a telephone call to stay in touch, as it is not safe to visit our friends and families. We also can, and do, read eBooks, and play educational games to keep us occupied and to keep our minds active. Many of the games require serious thought and strategy.”
Former Chief Magistrate, Archibald Warner, 73, confessed to not keeping up with technology as well as he could have due to all the technological concerns being handled by the court clerk over his 20 years on the bench, leaving him free to make his hand-written notes and make vital judgements based on his own knowledge of the law.
Now retired, Mr Warner handles himself quite well on WhatsApp, and stays connected to former colleagues, friends, and loved ones with relative ease. He does, however, describe himself as technologically challenged, but is grateful for communications applications.
“I appreciate the speed and accessibility of various communication-based applications, like WhatsApp, in helping me stay in touch with loved ones; especially in my native Barbados.
“I am particularly impressed with the speed and access to all sorts of information via the Internet. This is a huge contrast to the way we used to have to dig in the archives for certain information.”
The relationship between seniors and technology can be problematic at times though, and Mr Warner expressed some frustration in his final thoughts:
“Obviously, the senior community has been forced to embrace a lot of this new technology, but my complaint is that it is not often user-friendly, and this presents serious hurdles for the senior community, due to difficulty adapting. I believe that more should be invested in making technology more user-friendly for seniors, who do need to use it.”
Avid Historian and proud mother to Jamahl, Mrs Cecille Simmons, 78, credits her husband, Lionel, with encouraging her to embrace technology.
“Several years ago, my husband insisted I do an introductory course in computers at the Bermuda College. I was reluctant and not always comfortable with the technology, but once I realised that I did not have to know everything, and others were willing to assist, I was able to relax and enjoy all the knowledge and benefits that came along with its use.”
Mrs Simmons makes wide use of communications applications to stay in touch with loved ones during this global pandemic as well. “I’ve stayed in contact with friends and relatives both here and abroad by the use of emails, FaceTime, WhatsApp, Zoom meetings and e-cards.”
She also uses technology to enhance her lived experience every single day.
“I begin my day by reading the Royal Gazette and Bernews online. Of course, I’m able to correspond via email instead of writing letters by hand. I also carry out the paying of bills and personal banking without leaving home. I can even research for my writing on old Bermuda culture and traditions often using information found on the Bermuda Library website and Google.
“I use Pages, Facebook and Ancestry.com more commonly that other apps.”
While her experiences with technology seem to have been quite positive, Mrs Simmons maintains that the relationship between seniors and technology can be problematic at times:
“I feel that in many incidences seniors are made to feel inadequate and backward because they are not well versed in the world of technology. Often people are impatient with us and lack the tact to simply take the time to explain problems we encounter.
“On the other hand, as seniors we need to be more open to the reality that technology now surrounds us and we must, at least try, to become technologically informed. In my case, I’m fortunate to have a patient, tech savvy husband and grandchildren who are excited to bring me into the world they now function in so brilliantly.”