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Adam’s Apples – Senior citizen tech savvy

By James Mack Adams

One of my Facebook friends posts some very clever and funny stuff. I have no idea where she finds it. Some of it is LOL (laughing out loud) comical and usually right on point. 

A recent favorite of mine depicts a young boy, whom I judge to be about six years of age, on the telephone with his grandmother. He is trying to explain to her how to access WIFI on her electronic device. His frustration is obvious by the expression on his face and the hand to his forehead. Evidently, grandma is just not getting it. “Just go into settings and select WIFI,” he tells her.  “Select it.” (pause) “Tap it.” (pause) “With your finger.” (pause) “Any finger…..GRRR!”

Another favorite posting reads that a person cannot get help with his iPad right now because the resident expert is sleeping. He is five years old and it is past his bedtime.

The rapid advancement in electronics in recent years has led some to conclude that we senior citizens are functionally illiterate when it comes to technology. They are wrong. I am a senior citizen who has an iPhone 7, iPad Air, and MacBook Air laptop. I am still able to manipulate three remotes to stream movies and other programs to my television. So, I don’t think I am too technologically challenged. I must admit though I am still learning about all the electronic gadgetry on my car.

This past summer, Marilyn and I did some traveling with a bus load, followed by a train load, of mostly senior citizens. I was surprised how many of them pulled out their smart phones and iPads to take photos or check their email.

Here is some advice to older folks who use modern electronic devices. Sooner or later the time will come when you will need to call tech service. Make sure you have taken all your medications, especially those for hypertension. You may also need to follow the call with a period of soft music and quiet meditation to soothe the jangled nerves. A yoga session might be in order.

When I call, I sometimes get a technician in Bangladesh or some other fractured-English-speaking location. It makes me want to hang up and search the neighborhood for a six-year-old child to help me.

To lighten the mood, I sometimes like to have a little fun with the tech rep on the other end.  “Before we begin,” I say, “I would like you to know you are talking to someone who once listened to vacuum-tube-powered radios and has used non-portable telephones that could do only two things, make and receive calls.”

I well remember the first home telephone to which I was introduced as a child. It was mounted on the wall and had a crank that was turned to alert the telephone company’s switchboard operator. Opening conversations with the operator sometimes went like this:

“Mabel, this is Sally. Please ring Gertrude for me.”

“Hi Sally. I don’t think Gertrude is at home. I believe she went to Richmond to visit her sister.  She will be gone about a week.”

“Thanks Mabel. Say hello to George and the kids.”

I suppose the fact I once worked with computers as a state employee and taught computer technology and programing in a tech school for a number of years gives me some advantage, but not much. I now consider those days to be the “dark ages” of electronic data processing. I can do many things on my smart phone that I was unable to do on the room-size IBM mainframe computer system on which I once worked.

And now back to the subject of television. I was a teenager when the miracle of television started to become an entertainment and information media in the Southwest Virginia and East Tennessee areas. In those early days, having a television set in your home was somewhat of a status symbol. It was not unusual for only one or two homes on a street to own a set.

Reception of a good TV signal was a real problem in our mountainous region. An auto dealer in my town bought a television set and decided to place it in a small mountain cabin he owned. He recruited me and some of my teenage buddies to go to the cabin with him one weekend to help him install the antenna on the mountain. After several tries at orienting the installed antenna, we were finally able to get a snowy picture and some static sound on the tiny screen. I remember how excited we all were about our success.

With the passage of time, and some tight budgeting, my parents were able to buy a TV of our own. That was a red-letter day in the Adams household. It was a floor model console with a tiny screen. We had to turn knobs to control the on-off, the volume and to switch between the three available channels. That was my job. I was the remote. 

Yes, this senior citizen has seen a lot of advances in technology over the years. I am hoping that I will be around to see many more during the next few years. As long as I can manipulate my fingers and my brain still functions I say, “Bring it on!”