Seniors Tools to Stay Connected Get a Technology Upgrade

Jacqueline Watkins’ mobile phone rarely leaves her side.

“I hear in the cell better than the land line, and because I keep it close to me, I can respond to it right away,” said the Amityville resident, 78, who has two children and four grandchildren. “Tell my daughter it’s like my wake up button.”

Using the mobile phone for the past 10 years, Watkins has been increasingly adding text messages to her communications for many reasons, including talking to her daughter throughout the day and sharing news, as well as birthday and funny emojis with fellow church members. She also texts her grandchildren, as it’s generally their preferred way to keep in touch.

Since the pandemic, Watkins, who retired four years ago as a clinical case manager for a mental health facility, has adopted Zoom to virtually attend mass, meetings and Bible study groups.

“I was adamant about not wanting Zoom to work at first, but it’s convenient and useful,” she said.

Whether it’s a result of the pandemic or an evolving recognition that the digital age comes with a myriad of useful options for staying in touch with friends and family, many Long Island seniors have incorporated an array of 21st century technologies into their daily communications arsenal.

Looking ahead to the post-pandemic period, they expect to stay in touch with family, friends, community and business partners through the communication technology they have adopted or used with increasing frequency since March 2020.

Hybrid future

Rabbi Irwin Huberman, 68, of the Tefrith Israel Synagogue in Glen Cove, cannot envision the future without the Zoom feature. He expects a hybrid form of gathering – involving both on-site and remote attendees – to become the norm.

Even before COVID-19 surfaced, the rabbi said he noted the value of Zoom in not only as an alternative to on-site attendance at synagogue gatherings but as a tool to make Judaism and congregational programs more accessible to people of all ages.

“In order to come to a service at a synagogue, people had to get dressed and go to their cars to join us, but the video was a much more convenient and acceptable way to get more people in,” Huberman said.

To that end, in November 2019, Zoom was introduced to worshipers to celebrate Kristallnacht, or Night of the Broken Glass, which recalls the massacres organized by the Nazis that destroyed Jewish businesses and homes in 1938 and led to the killing of Jews. in Germany and Poland.

The following month—on the eighth day of Hanukkah, Zoom paved the way for synagogue members to meet remotely to light the menorah.

Since then, Huberman and his sponsor have expanded the deployment of video chat technology to provide remote access to various programs, including Holy Days, Friday night and Saturday morning, which have attracted devotees from eight states and three Canadian provinces, as well as members who have moved outside the community and want to stay In contact with devotees.

And in the past 18 months, not only have grave-side funerals replaced internal festivities, but services have become near-borderless, with family members and friends of the deceased, including those living as far away as England and Israel, joined remotely,” Huberman said.

“Zoom has opened our imaginations, our services, and our software to even greater possibilities,” said the rabbi, who is a native of Montreal.

Plus, this summer, a video chat gave him the personal joy of catching up – over lunch – with two longtime friends who are brothers and live in Canada. “Zoom provides an opportunity for face-to-face intimacy,” Huberman said. “We are not going back.”

The pandemic provokes

Although Dan Oppenheimer continued his pre-pandemic practice of sending handwritten notes on postcards, which feature photography, to convey sentiments such as holiday wishes or condolences, the pandemic prompted the resident of the cathedral gardens to increase his digital communications, particularly letters textual.

“I send out full conversations, very detailed,” said Oppenheimer, who is half-retired and works on councils in Hempstead Village and Town, no longer using the app just to confirm an appointment. “I also do more posting on Facebook, sending emails in my personal life, and zooming in for business.”

In various ways, the adoption of older adults on Long Island and their extensive use of digital communications reflect a national trend among older adults.

Based on the 2021 AARP Technology Trend, 45% of seniors have joined the video chat fold during the pandemic and are using it more now than before, and 66% expect to continue video chatting at their current levels in the post-pandemic period. Beyond the pandemic, 24% expect to log into video chats less, but 9% expect to use them more than they currently do.

The survey also indicated that during the same period, 37% of newcomers were to texting and 26% were new to email, but 85% expect to maintain the frequency of texting and email after the pandemic, compared to 7% who expect to reduce texting. . redundancy and 8% expect to send less email than they do now.

According to Gail Berg, a Roslin psychologist in private practice, the isolation many older adults have experienced during the pandemic has served as the “mother of invention” in pushing them to acquire and use technical connections.

Based on research focused on older adults, Berg said, seniors can reap myriad benefits from using video technology, including “a lower risk of depression, reduced loneliness, a stronger sense of connection and the ability to maintain existing relationships.”

Along those lines, a Pew Research Center survey, in April, found that since February 2020, 45% of seniors aged 50–64 and 40% of those 65 or older said texting or group messaging apps It helped them a lot to “keep in touch with family and friends”.

Voice calls gave the same benefit to 37% of people aged 50-64 and 44% of people aged 65 and over, while 29% of people aged 50-64 felt 65 a year or more that video calls helped them with the same behavior.

However, Berg said digital communications are not a substitute for in-person gatherings with family and friends. “We are social beings and we have a human touch.”

Avoid overload

Oppenheimer’s wife, Patty, sees herself as a victim of the digital communications overload. When the pandemic hit, Patti worked as a marketing executive for a publishing company, and not only did she start working from home, but her immersion in technology, including Zooms, emails and texts, grew “significantly” to keep up with the increasing workload.

“My typical day in 2020 was 10 to 12 hours, with cascading zoom,” she said. Her personal use of technology has exacerbated screen time fatigue.

Determined to take a “big step back” from tech communications, particularly from Zoom, she left the publishing company in December 2020 and became a research consultant while attending a remote digital marketing course at Northwestern University.

In July, Patty took over her current full-time job as Assistant Director of Content Marketing at Henry Schein, as she had no qualms about returning to the screen to take on professional responsibilities.

“I work in media/marketing, and I can’t go to cold turkey,” Patty said.

But in her personal life, she has largely replaced Zooms with voice calls, personal conversations with neighbors, and long walks in her neighborhood.

However, bowing to the wishes of an older relative, Patty continues to email her, and still emails a small circle of close friends and relatives, including her husband and 20-year-old son Benjamin.

“I love texting,” Patti said. “It’s so intimate and so helpful,” especially when her husband Dan stops by for groceries and “I want him to buy coffee.”

Eager to stay in touch with family, friends and their community during the pandemic, about 30 older Long Islanders have turned to TechTime to help explore the digital age. Wendy Weiss, the company’s owner, said 3-year-old Syosset offers group and private lessons about technology for companies and individuals.

Erin Decker, senior school principal and retired Great Neck since June 2019, initially turned to Weiss for guidance on using Microsoft Word to edit her upcoming self-published book, Happy Grandparenting, which is based on her personal and professional experience with children.

Since then, Decker has also enlisted Weiss for help with a range of technical issues, such as navigating multiple chats appearing simultaneously on her screen and using Zoom on different devices.

While the video chat app has expanded Decker’s social life during the pandemic, enabling her to attend synagogue functions virtually and meet remotely with her family and friends, COVID-19 isn’t the only development motivating her to log into video chats.

The “impossible traffic” on the Cross Bronx Expressway, which she commutes to visit relatives in New Jersey, also prompted her to video chats.

The road trip should take 23 minutes, but because it can take up to three hours, Decker said, “I try not to drive there, and in addition to the trips I get from my daughter, I use Zoom as an alternative.”

Consider P and Q’s

With today’s diverse communication media, everything from video chats to text messages is brimming with the potential to push the boundaries of literature, according to Daniel Post Senning, Emily Post’s great-grandson and co-host of Awesome Etiquette Podcast, from the Emily Post Institute in Waterbury, Vermont.

Here are some of Senning’s tips for demonstrating good manners in the digital age:

Phone calls, emails and texts

  • Be aware of your recipients’ communication patterns and communicate with them in the most comfortable way.
  • In the company of others, apologize briefly to yourself for answering a call or replying to a text message – prioritize the people in your presence.
  • Limit texts to short “who, what, where” messages and follow up with a phone call for additional details.
  • Use phone calls to express feelings and emotional support.
  • Subject lines in email messages should convey the essence of the message.
  • Send “oops” with a brief apology after sending an email or text message to an unintended recipient.

FaceTime, Zoom

  • Acknowledge the participants’ arrival with a ‘hello’ or ‘hello’, and their departure as ‘goodbye’.
  • Before using FaceTime, contact the intended recipient to request permission to video chat.
  • Before starting a Zoom session, make an effort to ensure good communication so you don’t delay its start.
  • Position the monitor camera to give the impression that you are making eye contact.
  • When you notice people showing signs of tiredness, end the video chat.
– Kara S. Trager


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