On Retirement: Navigating advanced technology in advanced age

By By Evadna Bartlett
For the Gazette-Mail
Evadna Bartlett

Being elderly doesn’t have to mean we are electronically challenged. But truth to tell, many of us are, and it often seems that just when we have succeeded, systems change.

Last week, our grandchildren, or their parents, likely would have quickly adjusted to our relatively minor difficulties while en route to our son’s home, about four hours north of us.

Our frustrations started with our GPS. We acquired it last year after using directions from an online program that led us astray. We have used the GPS for several trips — with a few hiccups.

Our first hour of so this trip went well. But then we were confused, well shocked, when it led us to the turnpike, more bewildered when the roads were increasingly narrower, and completely baffled when the pavement turned to a winding, rough, gravel rural road. “You have arrived” the GPS then intoned. We faced a “No Trespassing” sign.

Beyond the sign appeared to be a small lake with campers and boats. Not for us, of course.

Somehow we had altered the destination instruction on our GPS partway through the drive.

We re-programed the device. And frustrated, stopped at the first restaurant we saw as we were returning to the route we needed. As it turned out, that was a fortunate result of the detour. The meal was reasonable and excellent.

But it was time to let our son know we would be later than originally anticipated. Out came the cellphone and I hit our son’s name to ring his phone. Another electronic voice informed us the call couldn’t be completed at that number. Tried again. Same result.

I dug in my fanny pack for my old-fashioned, pen-and-ink date book with both his land line and cellphone numbers. I put the second number in manually and, cheered when it connected.

It turns out, that like many, he no longer uses a land-line. Something he long had announced he was considering but had procrastinated.

He finally has done it.

Now the challenge remaining was to reprogram the cellphone directory. The instruction book was in a drawer at home, of course.

I ignored the challenge. Truthfully, I probably would have waited to seek the advice of, probably, my granddaughter. But my husband was braver. When I moved to the driver’s seat, he went to work.

How to erase. How to enter. All on that small keyboard.

And yes, we have one of the phones designed for seniors, with the slightly larger keyboard. I listened to his frustration, the comments not to be repeated.

He succeeded. Eventually.

Truthfully, I marvel at the modern electronic advances. That I can write this column from home and, with a click, it’s miles away for an editor to access.

Equally honestly, when I was younger and still working, Charleston Newspapers made the changes to allow me to send news from home. I was in tears trying to make the system work. Later I cheered when I managed on my own to adjust to sending from the Putnam County Courthouse, a process that required accessing an outgoing phone line. That’s been years, of course. I’ve not become more electronically adventurous.

I admire my friends in their 80s who text, email from their phones, access a variety of sites from tablets or take photos with cellphones and transfer them online to social media sites.

My accomplishments are minor: checking out e-books from libraries, ordering purchases, checking our fiscal accounts and my medical records and reading newspapers.

Just last week I accessed a weekly newspaper that helps keep us informed on the activities in an Oregon community where we once lived. It didn’t look familiar. The lead story informed readers of the publishers had “updated our digital presence.”

In response to a reader’s complaint, the publisher wrote:

“A large and growing portion of our users are accessing our website through tablets or phones, and we had to move away from the previous design in order to accommodate those readers.”

Like it or not, we are continually forced to adjust.

Obviously there are benefits.

We’ll be traveling again soon. We’ll use the GPS, of course. While we hope there will be no unplanned side adventures, we look forward to one that is planned. En route home we will meet a cousin we haven’t seen in years. We reconnected through the internet and electronic mail.

Contact writer Evadna Bartlett at evadna@wvgazettemail.com.

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