Increasing Understanding of Technology and Communication

Tech-Savvy Algonquin Students Help Senior Citizens


Northborough, Massachusetts – Senior citizens who have questions about their iPhones, iPads, Macs and PCs can find answers at Technology Afternoons, held from 2:15 to 4 p.m., two Thursdays a month at the Northborough Senior Center. Eileen Parker, Algonquin Regional High School math teacher, leads the school’s Community Action Program (CAP), which provides student volunteers for a variety of activities, including Technology Afternoons.

According to Palmer, “[CAP] consists of 35 [Algonquin] teens who are dedicated to giving back in the community. These students currently support the Northborough and Southborough senior centers, the Southborough Youth & Family Services, the Coleman House (in Northborough), and other community organizations.”

Palmer said that she recruits students, and advises them how to behave respectfully when volunteering. In her classroom, she keeps a large calendar listing upcoming service opportunities.

Currently there are 10 students who participate in Technology Afternoons. About their qualifications, Palmer said, “… Let’s face it. Teenagers are super savvy when it comes to technology. They have been using computers since elementary school and cell phones are really important to them!”

On a recent Thursday, Algonquin senior Danielle DellaPenna, 18, counseled Lisa, who was struggling to decide whether to replace her “Windows” cellphone with an iPhone, given to her by her son’s girlfriend.

“Windows allows me to do very safe text to speech while I am driving. With the iPhone, I’ll have to deal with Siri, and look at the phone while I’m driving,” Lisa said. “I’m going to tell my son that I’m not too old to learn about it, but I’m not changing phones.”

DellaPenna tried to sell Lisa on the benefit of apps with the iPhone, to no avail.

She said, “I’ve been doing [Technology Afternoons] since last year because community service is important to me.”

That sentiment was shared by Algonquin freshman Bradi Mullens. Both students said that they often help seniors set up email accounts on cellphones, and download music into iTunes.

Palmer added that the students deal with cellphone ring tones, cellphone pictures, texting, iPad usage, Kindle usage, and a lot of Word and Excel documents.

“One senior citizen had an [Algonquin] student help prepare all their labels for their Christmas cards this December,” she said. “Anything goes in this program!”

Kelly Burke, director of the Northborough Senior Center said, “It’s been phenomenal to work with all these students who are great experts, having grown up using technology. Our seniors sometimes need help, and we knew that we were going to the right place to find knowledgeable, willing helpers.”

Palmer echoed Burke’s sentiment, “The Algonquin students have a lot of energy, and good hearts. They embrace these CAP service projects.”

For more information and the schedule for Technology Afternoons, contact Kelly Burke at 508-393-5035 or Palmer can be reached at California Senior Care Financial Assistance Resources.

Read Article (Jane Keller Gordon | | 02/26/2016)

Internet availability and access is important without a doubt, but knowing how to fully utilize the constantly evolving devices that connect to it and the Internet itself, is an issue just as important if not more.

Despite technology not providing an adequate alternative for device user manuals, there are still many in society that see the need and do-the-right-thing. And no, apps don’t cut it, they obviously require a certain level of tech skill to use and understand.

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Older Workers Being Thrown Under the Bus


Uh-oh. American workers aged 50 or older think there’s nearly a 1 in 2 chance they’ll still be working at 70 but many employees who expect to work longer are exactly the ones who’ll likely be least able to do so.

That’s the upshot of the new, frightening (for employees and employers) 2015/2016 Global Benefits Attitudes Survey by Willis Towers Watson, a global benefits advisory consultant. The firm surveyed 5,083 U.S. employees at large companies, as well as roughly 25,000 employees in 18 other countries.

The workers expecting to keep plugging away until 70, the study discovered, are often “the most vulnerable” and “showing higher levels of stress, lower levels of health and lower levels of engagement with their current jobs,” says Shane Bartling, senior consultant at Willis Towers Watson.

“That’s an uncomfortable fact for employees facing a very difficult situation and it sends a warning sign to employers about what’s transpiring in the new retirement system in the United States that we’ve put in place,” Bartling adds.

The survey says …

According to the survey, of those planning to retire after 70:

  • Only 47% say they are in very good health
  • 40% feel they are stuck in their jobs (compared with 27% who plan to retire before 65)
  • 40% have high or above average stress (compared with 30% of those expecting to retire at 65)
  • 48% of workers earning below $35,000 expect to work to 70 or later (vs. 20% of those making $75,000 or more)

And if these vulnerable workers find themselves out of work, but wanting to be employed, the psychological effects — not to mention the financial ones — could be devastating.

As New School economist Teresa Ghilarducci just wrote, according to the government’s Health and Retirement Study of older Americans, “unemployed respondents were more likely than both workers and retirees to report a general feeling of helplessness. Among 55- to 64-year-olds, 40% of the unemployed agreed with the statement, ‘I often feel helpless in dealing with the problems of life.’” By contrast, only 8% of retirees and 16% of older workers felt that way.

Bartling worries (as do I) that many of the older, vulnerable workers have meager retirement savings and “don’t have options.” The question, says Bartling, “is how are they going to be able to continue working?”

Painful decisions ahead

And how will this play out for them? “These employees may be confronted with very painful decisions around having to adjust their lifestyle expectations in retirement and fall back on family and the social safety net in a bigger way than they had hoped,” says Bartling.

I’d like to see more employers taking more action to prevent this coming train wreck. It’s true that growing numbers of firms — especially large ones — are offering financial wellness and physical wellness programs, which is reason for some optimism.

Last year, a survey of 250 employers by the Aon Hewitt benefits consulting firm, said 93% of those firms planned to focus more on financial wellness for employees in ways extending beyond retirement decisions. Aon Hewitt’s Director of Retirement Research, Rob Austin, called financial wellness ‘sort of The Next Big Trend’ in benefits. Says Bartling: “We’re certainly seeing an increase in the attractiveness of financial planning support.”

Exactly how much good financial wellness programs do, however, is an open question, since the programs vary dramatically in how they work and who participates in them. “Many of those programs struggle to fully engage employees and get desirable outcomes,” says Bartling. “Now, the emphasis is on how to amplify those interventions, akin to financial biometrics.”

The success of physical wellness programs at work has been a mixed bag, too. Although 81% of larger companies now offer physical wellness programs, according to a 2015 survey by the Kaiser Family Foundation, health writer Sharon Begley recently wrote on the excellent Stat website that “there is a startling lack of rigorous evidence that they achieve their stated goals.”

But Bartling says: “It’s incumbent for all employers to understand how extensive [financial stress] is in the workforce. That’s only just beginning to happen.”

The state of retirement unreadiness

I asked Bartling whether he thinks many workers really will need to hold down jobs until after 70, as one in four expect. “We’ve done retirement readiness analysis for nearly 100 employers in the United States and the statistics based on that are not dissimilar from the results in the employee’s survey,” he says.

However, Bartling adds, there’s a “wide distribution of retirement readiness within the workforce.” And no, it’s not that wealthier workers are necessarily better prepared financially than lower-income ones.

“Many employees at both ends are well-prepared and underprepared,” says Bartling. “There are many situations where higher-paid employees actually have a higher level of a lack of preparedness,” due to living beyond their means.

One other notable finding in the new Willis Towers Watson survey: The percentage of Americans who expect to retire after age 65 has fallen from 52% in 2013 to 46% now. That, Bartling says, is likely a reflection of the improving economy.

But the next recession will come sometime, so that falling percentage is likely to head right back up again when times get tougher.

Richard Eisenberg is the senior Web editor of the Money & Security and Work & Purpose channels of Next Avenue and Assistant Managing Editor for the site. He is the author of “How to Avoid a Mid-Life Financial Crisis” and has been a personal finance editor at Money, Yahoo, Good Housekeeping, and CBS Moneywatch. Follow him on Twitter @richeis315.

Read Article (Richard Eisenberg | | 06/18/2016)

As the digital era began, business support for employees was fading and the economic downturn just made thing worse as employees tried to provide benefits to their family.

Today businesses once again realize that to keep good employees they must provide family support or lose them to another company. (As if they didn’t know already?)

But, individuals must look-out for themselves, especially in the digital era, and hone their skills. Not only learning technical skills but life skills. Learn how to judge a company’s employee support program and how effective it is. Does the company have a high turnover rate? How much out of pocket for family benefits? How does their retirement program work? Is there a 401K and how does it work?

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Wanted: Senior-Savvy Technologies


All hail, the Internet of Things! 2015’s wild, wacky foray into the connectedness of everything was both inspiring and laughable, especially through the lens of the senior demographic. While most seniors don’t need a talking toaster or a refrigerator that knows when the ketchup is almost gone, they certainly do need reliable and transparent technologies that can help them stay connected in ways that matter.

Amid what is increasingly being called “Silvertech,” what’s needed most is to get past the shiny, whiz-bang aspects of the gadgets and reach deeper into understanding what kind of technology seniors really need—and how they need it to work.

Using a wearable to track a few vital signs or record a sleep pattern? That’s so 2015. Using portable, easy-to-use technology platforms to encourage seniors to engage with others? Been there, done that. Many seniors, including my 72-year-old mother, use tablets, social media applications and digital communications platforms (think Skype and FaceTime) more than I do.

Senior tech startups are now trying to harness cloud computing, wireless data transfer and the growing acceptance of wearable technology in a grand convergence of capability, accessibility and acceptability.  New apps for tablets and smart phones will increase the functionality of a device a person already owns. The possibilities are tantalizing.

In some cases, the most-craved senior technology is about figuring out how to bridge the gap between A and B. For example, we all know that remote monitoring technology needs to be an added dimension of resident safety and falls prevention—not a substitute for human monitoring. So, how best to bridge the communication gaps between a senior who has fallen, the emergency responders, the family and the primary care provider?

At LeadingAge’s Hackfest, a competition to develop senior care-related technology applications, nearly all of the entrant prototypes were designed to be wearable or at least portable. Developers also will be integrating anywhere, anytime personal emergency response systems (PERS) and proximity sensors into pervasive consumer devices like cell phones and iPads, predicts Laurie Orlov, founder of Aging in Place Technology Watch, in a recent blog.

She also thinks voice activation will be a big part of senior tech’s future—being able to “converse” with a device means no more squinting at a minuscule smartphone screen or trying to get a Parkinson’s–wracked hand to push tiny buttons.

As senior monitoring technology continues to climb out of the IT department servers and adorn the resident’s wrist (or pocket or shoe), what we’ll need next is a reputable organization that is willing to start reporting on features relating to senior tech wearables--a huge lacuna in today’s market. “What we need is a Consumer Reports for Silvertech,” writes Paula Span in a New York Times article.

Then we need the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services to realize that quality telehealth and remote health monitoring should be encouraged (i.e. reimbursed) everywhere, not just in rural regions and Accountable Care Organization contexts.

2016 will surely be an exciting year to see who comes up with the hottest app or bridge capability. Over the next few months, we’ll be taking a closer look at what’s happening in the senior technology field, so stay tuned for Long-Term Living’s new series on senior care startups!

Read Article (Pamela Tabar | | 02/02/2016)

Reading an article like this about seniors and how technology is benefiting their lifestyle just kind of gets many of us all warm and fuzzy inside. But the truth of the matter is that many seniors do not have a warm relationship with technology. In fact, unless it’s a medical requirement, they choose to distance themselves from them.

We believe our face-to-face instructional webinars can change this awkward relationship by helping older adults understand more fully, just how they work and what they do to benefit us. All we ask of you is to help provide us the opportunity, the chance to make a difference in so many lives.

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Connect Everyone to Internet & Gain $6.7 Trillion


Bringing internet access to the 4.1 billion people in the world who do not have it would increase global economic output by $6.7 trillion (£4.6tr), and raise 500 million people out of poverty, according to a study by PwC’s strategy consultants.

The report, titled Connecting the world: Ten mechanisms for global inclusion, was prepared for Facebook.

Getting everyone in the world online is not as tall an order as one might think, according to the company: affordability, rather than infrastructure, is the main barrier to internet adoption in most areas. More than nine-tenths of the world’s population live in places where the infrastructure exists to get them online, but the majority of them cannot afford to do so.

For 66% of the world, a 500MB data plan costs more than 5% of their monthly income, the level the report’s authors describe as “unaffordable”. But some people decide to get online despite the cost – in China, just 22% of people can have a high enough income by that measure to make internet access affordable for them, even though 46% of the population is online. Even if it’s expensive, if there’s enough of a reason for someone to get online, they may look past the cost.

By contrast, in most of the developing world, the necessary infrastructure is already in place to get internet to the whole population, if they could afford it. China, Brazil and Indonesia all have 100% of their populations covered by internet-capable infrastructure.

While cost reductions sound easier to achieve than total infrastructure creation, that can understate the magnitude of the reductions needed. To get 80% of their populations online, for instance, Ethiopia, Nigeria and the Philippines would all have to see a cut in the price of internet access by well over 90%.

Improvement of existing technology, or even simply installing existing technology in developing nations, will suffice to bring about much of this cost reduction. For instance, the vast majority of the world’s mobile spectrum is being used to deliver 2G internet: if it was upgraded to 3G or 4G, the cost of mobile data would plummet. But such an upgrade requires money spent upfront, not only by carriers, but also by users, who must buy (comparatively) more expensive phones.

The focus on cost reductions marries with Facebook’s own project, which is aimed at partnering carriers in developing nations to give low-cost internet access. It has come under criticism, however, from web luminaries such as Tim Berners-Lee, who dislike Facebook’s approach of limiting the low-cost access to a subsection of the web.

So-called zero rating, which lies at the heart of efforts by to expand web access, involves allowing internet users to access some websites, such as Wikipedia and Facebook, without paying for the data they use. But the approach is criticized by net neutrality advocates like Berners-Lee, who said: “I tend to say ‘Just say no.’ In the particular case of somebody who’s offering … something which is branded internet, it’s not internet, then you just say no.”

But Jonathan Tate, technology consulting leader at PwC, argues that Facebook’s approach is worth it in the long term. While zero rating provides access to a slimmer version of the internet than the full web, he says it’s a crucial stepping stone to full access. “The important thing here is to get things moving,” he added.

Facebook’s motivation for paying for is partially explained by PwC’s estimates of where the benefits of new access accrue. While most of the economic benefits of new internet access come to those freshly online, the consultancy estimates that content providers such as Facebook stand to gain a $200bn (£138bn) opportunity over the next five years.

But new technology will still be needed to achieve total connectivity. The reports’ authors estimate that the last 500 million people to get online won’t be able to rely on piecemeal improvements. Instead, they’ll need new “disruptive technologies” being created by companies like Google, with its Project Loon plan to mount internet access points on balloons, and Facebook, with its solar-powered, laser-armed 4G drone called Aquila.

Read Article (Alex Hern | | 05/17/2016)

Though self-serving Facebook does stand to gain monetarily over those five years, the access all those individuals will gain is worth it, I believe. And as they’ve already said, it’s an important stepping stone to full access. It’s also better than doing nothing at all.

But even though Internet access is without a doubt important, knowing how to fully utilize the constantly evolving devices that connect to it and the Internet itself is an issue just as important, it not more. Our instructional webinars are the long-term solution for addressing device usage, and we need your support.

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Health Tech Needs Improvement, Say Older Adults


The older population—persons 65 years or older—numbered 44.7 million in 2013 (the latest year for which data is available). They represented 14.1% of the U.S. population, about one in every seven Americans.

By 2060, there will be about 98 million older persons, more than twice their number in 2013. People 65+ represented 14.1% of the population in the year 2013 but are expected to grow to be 21.7% of the population by 2040.

This growing statistic is contrary to what some well-respected organizations are expressing in the media. If you happen to be a member of this growing statistic, you might want to pay attention to health trends on the horizon that may affect your wellbeing in the near future.

As telemedicine better enables care at home, it’s critical to understand what seniors think about emerging technology and how they use health and wellness capabilities from digital devices. From wearable monitors that track activity to sensors that can support a home health aide’s care plan, that health and wellness technology is complementing.

But are older adults actively participating in this trend?

Not really, according to a recent technology report by Link-age Connect, a research and consultancy firm that conducts market research on the aging population 65+, and Aging in Place Technology Watch, a market research business that focuses on technologies and services that enable seniors and baby boomers to remain longer in their homes. The findings oppose a 2015 survey that found nearly two-thirds of seniors prefer to use self-care technology to independently manage their health.

The problem with health and wellness technology is that it’s not useful enough for seniors to want to use them, says Laurie Orlov, an industry analyst and founder of Aging in Place Technology Watch.

“[The findings] imply that trackers are not useful enough for seniors to use,” Orlov told Home Health Care News. “The wearables market is in the early stage, and hopefully it will get better. The most important thing about the tracker as seniors age is that there is some way to urge them to get up and move. Most trackers aren’t urging seniors to get up and move.”

Compared to just a few years ago, older adults are more connected. Most seniors in the survey were online and had access to the Internet, compared to 33% in 2011. However, for home health agencies to rely on some telemedicine capabilities, seniors actually need to use new technology as part of their lifestyle.

While many seniors realized the benefits of health and wellness technology, they noted several issues with using new devices and programs in the survey. Just over 40% of seniors said they owned a smartphone, though more than 65% did own a cellphone of some kind. Respondents who were older than 80 were the least likely to own a smartphone compared to younger baby boomers.

“I am quite old and new technological gadgets seem to be programmed by young people who grew up with computers and, consequently, assume that the user will know what to do in a confusing situation,” a respondent older than 85 said. “My friends often mention how frustrating this is.”

Compared to a previous survey in 2011, most responders were still unwilling to pay for health and wellness technologies, even if they recognized the benefits of their utilization. More than 60% of respondents said they weren’t willing pay any amount for these technologies on a monthly basis. However, more than 10% said they already do. The results reveal that if seniors are going to own health trackers, they will choose free applications that can track their data over paid services.

Health care has an opportunity to engage seniors in these technologies by providing training for older adults, either online or in-person, to teach them how to use wearable technology, smartphones, laptops and tablets. Orlov says the industry should also encourage the technology industry to embrace senior care.

(In light of the above, is it too much to ask for your support for our campaign?)

“The senior care industry is not working hard enough to engage the tech industry, and the tech industry is fast to ignore the senior care industry,” Orlov said. “That’s a bad combination. You have to bring those two together.”

Read Article (Amy Baxter | | 04/18/2016)

More needs to be done to increase awareness of just how to use these devices for all adults, including those 65+.  Our instructional webinars are the long-term solution for addressing device usage, and we need your support.

All we need is for 5,000 of you to donate $5.00 in support of our campaign and we can begin assisting those in need. Do it today!

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