Micki Sullivan of Atlanta sat wide-eyed and with excited anticipation, awaiting a presentation she hoped would bring her closer to her children and grandchildren, some of whom live more than 2,000 miles – and a continent away - in California.
But Sullivan, and the 25 other Atlanta-area senior citizens who gathered with her, were not in attendance to listen to a travel seminar. Instead, they were about to officially begin their journey on the information highway. Throughout the course of the day, they would practically learn a new language, consisting of words like “Skype,” “blog,” “app,” “downloading,” and even something called a “YouTube.”
Sullivan and the other participants took part Wednesday in one of many national AT&T “Reconnect Tour” workshops, which began in Minneapolis this past September and concluded in Atlanta.
Each AT&T Reconnect Tour workshop has taken place over a full day and educates attendees about the benefits of using mobile technology to stay connected with family and friends. Participants are taught about text messaging, apps, video calling, e-books, photo sharing and more. Specially trained instructors lead the sessions and answer questions while walking attendees through the basic functions of a smartphone and tablet provided by Pantech.
Sullivan had already acclimated herself to the small smartphone with tiny keys in order text with her kids and grandchildren across the country. But she was interested in learning about new and exciting ways she could stay in touch, and may even make it easier to do so without need for such small keys.
“Texting is about the only way I hear from some of them these days,” Sullivan said with a laugh. “Even the grandkids are texting. It’s nice that we can keep in touch so often, but it gets really hard to see and push these keys,” she explained while demonstrating her device. “I want to learn about email and Internet, and some of the new machines they have available.” And almost on cue, the instructor stationed at Sullivan’s table set a tablet down in front of her with a large screen and life-sized, easy to read keyboard.
“Wow!,” she said. “I can text on this?”
And with that, her trip on the information highway had begun – even before the program officially kicked off.
Sullivan represents a steadily increasing percentage of seniors is now embracing high-tech gadgets and joining the digital revolution. And for the first time ever, over half of Americans age 65 and older are online, according to a study released in June by the Pew Internet & American Life Project.
According to the survey, seven in 10 seniors now own a cellphone, and one in three online seniors use social networking sites such as Facebook. More and more seniors are getting their news online – tablets, laptops, smart phones … in place of their daily newspaper, radio, or televised newscast.
In short, technology is no longer something seniors fear and avoid …. but rather is now something they are embracing in growing numbers.
“Mobile technology can make your life a lot easier -- that is if you know how to use it,” said Shante Turner, senior program coordinator with Senior TechRally, which coordinates and manages the workshops across the country. “That’s the point of the AT&T Reconnect Tour, which is a national series of interactive workshops created for seniors, who are typically mobile tech newcomers. We’re really excited about their eagerness to learn new ways to communicate with the world around them, and the program we have developed to help do that.”
Retiree Joe Arrington, also of Atlanta and in attendance at the event, has had some experience with computers and smart phones. Although he was still using a basic flip cell phone, he was examining the multitude of features on his assigned smart phone.
“I came out to the event yesterday, and it was so exciting I wanted to come back and brush up on some of the things I may have missed yesterday,” he said. “Not only is it a lot of fun, and exciting to see all of the ways I can stay connected, but I would also like to take what I learn and maybe help others by teaching them, as well.”
For more information about AT&T Reconnect Tour workshops, please visit: http://www.seniortechrally.com/