Thinking of getting grandma or grandpa a Kindle, iPad, iPhone or laptop so they can Skype or Facetime with the grandkids? Think again. Almost 70% of over 1,600 respondents 70+ years old said they had “no interest” in those devices in a survey conducted by Link•Age, a senior living think tank and trade association. Those percentages extrapolate to over 19 million Americans who are saying “meh” to tech.
So many of us today can’t live without emailing, texting, chatting, instant messaging, Instagram-ing, Facebook-ing and mobile phoning 24/7. So why have the vast majority our grandparents, and even many parents opted out? Are they Luddites or technophobes? Are these members of society “afraid” of today’s techie world?
Is it them?
Remember, those who decided to say “no thanks” to today’s tech were the same ones who built America’s telephony and electric grid infrastructure. They successfully transitioned from a horse on the farm to an automobile on the interstate. In fact, they built the interstate. They were the ones who transitioned from sailing on ships to go abroad, to flying on planes around the globe. Oh, and by the way, they won two world wars while they were at it, building 2,700 Liberty Ships, 12,000 B17s, and 49,000 Sherman tanks along the way. Today we tend to think of microprocessors as representing the peak of technology in all of our fancy, pocketable gadgets. But don’t forget, our grandparents developed nuclear power and the atomic bomb, preserving our nation’s freedom in the process.
Is it us?
Could it be that the value of today’s tech-infused lifestyle hasn’t merely been overlooked by the GI Generation, but consciously passed over? Could it be that the modern tech learning curve is just too steep for those who retired before personal computers became de rigueur? Or is it that the cost and hassle to learn today’s technology has not proven to be important enough to those who were brought up with a different set of values?
What to do?
Should people force the issue by giving a computer, tablet or smartphone to a parent or grandparent who doesn’t want it, thereby wasting money and creating the need to provide “tech support.” Would it be better to have a method where extended family members could use the communication technologies of their choosing, while their parents or grandparents use the technology of their own choice? Is there a technology available that could manage the translation between these two different users?
Specially designed solution provides best of both worlds
What if you could tap out an email from your Android phone, or transmit a digital photo from an iPad, and have it arrive at your grandparent’s house in a few hours—even though your grandparents don’t have a computer or Internet service? How could this even be possible? Would octocopters pick up photos from an Amazon.com distribution center and drop them on your grandparent’s doorstep?
In 2006 (well before commercial drones) Hewlett-Packard developed a special printer that didn’t need a computer or Internet connection. It connects to a virtual computer in the “cloud” via the user’s existing telephone line. This cloud service provides an email address to subscribers and allows only approved senders to deliver messages and photos to the machine. It is almost like a high-resolution, full-color “fax machine,” except it doesn’t ring and instead autonomously dials out to retrieve mail five times a day.
The best kept secret
HP never promoted the printer or service themselves, possibly their focus was on other products. The cloud service company that invented the concept is Presto, which has been located in Silicon Valley since 2004 and has provided almost 500,000 family members with the ability to connect digitally with their offline loved ones.
Sexy secret technology
These days, most people consider thumbprint-activated smartphones or paper-thin tablets to be “sexy.” But the sexiest technology is one that provides the highest value with a stellar user experience for everyone involved. HP and Presto’s solution is still the only one available that allows communicators to send how they wish—by email—and recipients to receive how they wish—by letter—without any incoming ringing, or need to touch any buttons or screens. An even more unique and “sexy” user-experience was discovered by HP and Presto during early field testing: users wanted to reply by telephone, not digitally. This allowed the machine to be much less complicated and less expensive than it would have been otherwise.
The need for this technology is great. The nearly 20 million Americans who’ve decided they have “no interest” in electronic communications gadgets don’t know they can connect digitally to family any other way.