When personal computers first appeared on the mass market somewhere around 1977 B.I. (Before Internet) I was skeptical. “What would you do with one?” I said snarkily to my husband, “store recipes? How silly is that?” A better question is how wrong can one woman be?
Now the Internet has brought the entire world to our desktops and Google has become a verb. Here are just some of the things you can do online besides store recipes:
- Pay bills. Deposit checks
- File your tax return
- Organize and store important data
- Send and receive greeting cards
- Stay connected to friends and family—even video chat with them. Not quite as good as face-to-face but close
- Shop. I live in a small town and while I like to do business with local merchants there are some things I just can’t find here. (Amazon probably has a corner of a warehouse somewhere with my name on it)
- Plan a trip
- Stay informed. You can read newspapers and blogs from all over the world
- Find information on just about any subject you can think of
- Take classes. Study under professors from prestigious universities
- Stream music and movies or watch your favorite TV shows
- Write a book. Or a blog
- Sell your unwanted stuff
- Operate a business. The internet has leveled the playing field so that small shops can compete with the big box stores
- Make movies
- Edit and organize your photos
- Meet new people who share your interests. Maybe even the love of your life
- Get directions
- Build a digital library of your favorite books
- Find peer reviews on everything from products to books to movies
- Research your genealogy
- Archive your memories. Legacy Stories lets you share narrated photos and personal stories that can be shared with family members all over the world
- Find information about your community. It won’t be long before phone books and Yellow Pages join Rolodexes, fax machines and VCRs in the dust bin of obsolescence
- Play games
- Learn to play an instrument
- Compose music
I could go on but you get the idea. Still, many of us resist learning to use this marvelous technology because it’s just too unfamiliar and intimidating. And it keeps changing all the time. Remember when we used to make fun of our parents when they couldn’t program the VCR? Yeah, it’s our turn now. We can rant about the “good old days” and how things aren’t the same but we have to face the fact that we haven’t kept up.
Relax. You don’t have to know it all to use technology effectively just as you don’t have to know how an engine is assembled to operate a car. But you do have to learn to drive! Here are some ideas to help you become tech savvy:
- Take a class. Often they are offered at the local community college or even your local library. Ask what’s offered at your local computer store. See if Oasis operates in your city. This is a non-profit educational organization especially for adults over 50 that promotes lifelong learning.
- Join a computer club and learn from your peers.
- Learn online. Here are 3 resources to get you started:
- Tech Boomers is educational website dedicated to bringing technology and baby boomers together. Tech Boomers offers free tutorials on how to use popular websites and Internet resources. The young founder got the idea for the site when he was teaching his parents how to use Facebook.
- GCF Learn Free is a program of the Goodwill Community Foundation. This site offers a variety of self-paced online tutorials including technology. Here you will find everything from computer basics to how to use your smartphone to living in the Cloud and just like their name says, all courses are free.
- My PC School is a private company that bills itself as “a self-paced online computer school specifically created for boomers and seniors.” The site offers nearly 700 lessons and you can have unlimited access to all of them for an entire year for $79. They’ll even let you try it out for a 3-month trial for $39. And no, I’m not receiving any compensation from them but I am impressed. I’m going to sign my husband up!
- Hire a computer coach. I’ll admit I’ve not had a lot of luck with this one. If anyone finds a great resource online please share it with the rest of us.
Just focus on learning one thing at a time and be patient with yourself. Many times we hold back assuming others already know everything or that our question is “dumb.” Ask questions—lots and lots of them. That’s the only way to learn.
Technology is amazing and learning new things is good exercise for your brain. Cast those fears aside and step out of your comfort zone. There’s a whole world waiting for you!
And when you figure out how to use Facebook, please share your comments on my page!
Next: The darker side of the techno jungle.