Digital Divide: Among seniors, there are those who embrace technology and those who detest it

Gen-Connect owner Michael Potteiger, center, chats via FaceTime with his grandmother during a free workshop designed to give an overview of the iPad at York College Wednesday, August 14, 2013.  DAILY RECORD/SUNDAY NEWS - KATE PENN

Gen-Connect owner Michael Potteiger, center, chats via FaceTime with his grandmother during a free workshop designed to give an overview of the iPad at York College Wednesday, August 14, 2013. DAILY RECORD/SUNDAY NEWS – KATE PENN

My grandmother understood progress.

Back in the day, she and my grandfather were among the first on the block to buy a microwave or purchase a color TV.

She bought my family our first Gateway 2000 desktop computer.

When I went to college, she paid for my laptop.

Grandma even attended a computer workshop at her local senior center.

And here’s where things digress.

The mouse didn’t quite work with her arthritic hands.

The workshop leader made assumptions regarding his audience’s level of knowledge. He kicked off his presentation introducing the entire Microsoft Office suite, including Excel.

Grandma had no use for a spreadsheet.

She wanted to send an email and search online. That was it.

A woman who had embraced technology so fervently suddenly felt lost.

And that was that. She put down the computer forever.

She died a few years ago never having sent an email, posted to a Facebook page, searched the Google, or browsed Amazon.com for books. Grandma loved to read.

Some, in a story I wrote two Sundays ago, might say she was better off having avoided that world altogether.

For that piece, I spoke with those in York County who refuse to own computers.

Many of them were seniors who, like my grandma, just don’t fancy those cotton-picking machines.

“I have better things to do,” they said.

Then, on the other side of the coin,

there’s a story I wrote last week.

A group of seniors gathered at York College to listen to Michael Potteiger of Gen-Connect teach them about the iPad.

A world away from their anti-computer counterparts, they seemed eager to learn.

But that can change in an instant, Potteiger told me.

That’s why he treads lightly when it comes to the elderly, using the iPad and its universal operating system that anyone can understand.

He avoids jargon, using simple terms that anyone can understand.

And, most of all, he doesn’t make assumptions.

One bad experience can spoil the bunch.

About Lauren Boyer

I'm a Business Reporter for the York Daily Record/Sunday News. I cover banking, investing and all sorts of manufacturing, from companies like Harley-Davidson to mom-and-pop operations. I don't go anywhere without my iPad or a large cup of coffee. Contact me with story ideas at 717-771-2062 or lboyer@ydr.com.
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