Technology is not a dirty word!

30 Nov Technology is not a dirty word!

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Over the course of my career, I have spent a great deal of time working with older adults. Much of that time has been spent assisting them with technologies, both old and new. Many seniors, whether they personally own or use a computer themselves, are interested in learning and knowing more about technology. Let’s face it, you can’t even watch the news without being implored to “follow” someone on Twitter or “like” something on Facebook and it makes people curious. So, knowing that the interest is there, I decided to demonstrate items being used in our mobile makerspace, Spark Labs, at my visits to senior living facilities in November.

Getting started, I was a bit surprised when I received some push back from activity directors. People that were normally enthusiastic about my presentations were skeptical about my choice in topic – somewhere along the way technology had become a dirty word. The items I brought with me – littleBits, Squishy Circuits, and a Makey Makey – are all extremely simple to use and easy to manipulate, something that is key for older adults with mobility issues.

At each location, my audiences were interested but unsure. I started slowly – showing pictures of makerspaces at other libraries, explaining why libraries have makerspaces, and passing around samples of items that had been 3D printed and soldered at past classes. Since 3D printing has been in the news a lot lately, this topic really got the questions flowing. After that, they were hooked. Everyone loved the Makey Makey! What is a Makey Makey you ask? Simply put, the Makey Makey pairs with a computer to turn almost anything into a touchpad. For this series of presentations, I used the Makey Makey to create a Play-Doh piano for residents to play. The most touching moment moment occurred when a woman with severe arthritis said to me, “I can play the piano again!”

It was exciting to watch each audience evolve from detached, yet interested spectators to enthusiastic, hands-on participants! Residents that I had never quite been able to engage were suddenly wide awake and participating. These presentations also gave me the opportunity to discuss everyday technologies like cell phones, smartphones, iPads, and email with attendees and learn that almost everyone wanted additional trainings and assistance. According to AARP, “in a 2014 Pew Research Center survey on older adults and their use of technology, 60 percent of older adults go online regularly, and nearly 80 percent have cell phones”. Seems as though technology may not be such a dirty word afterall!

If you, or a loved one, need assistance with technology the library can help! You can contact our computer lab to schedule a one-on-one help session, check our online calendar of events for upcoming classes, or just stop by to use the wifi. The library also offers free eBooks, eAudiobooks, and eMagazines you can download from home using your library card.