Seniors’ tools for keeping in touch will receive a technical upgrade

Jacqueline Watkins’ cell phone rarely leaves her page.

“I hear better on the cell than the landline, and because I have it near me, I can answer it right away,” said the 78-year-old Amityville resident, who has two children and four grandchildren. “I’m telling my daughter it’s like my warning button.”

As a cell phone user for the past 10 years, Watkins has increasingly added texts to his communications for many reasons, including to talk to his daughter during the day and share news as well as birthday and funny emojis with his church members. She also texts with her grandchildren as it is generally their preferred way of keeping in touch.

Since the pandemic, Watkins, who retired four years ago as a mental health facility’s clinical caseworker, has also embraced Zoom to practically attend worship services, meetings, and Bible study groups.

“I was determined not to do Zoom at first, but it’s convenient and useful,” she said.

Whether it’s a consequence of the pandemic or an evolving realization that the digital age comes with countless useful opportunities to keep in touch with friends and family, many Long Island senior citizens have incorporated a wealth of 21st Century technologies into their arsenal. of daily communication.

And when they look forward to a post-pandemic time, they expect to stay connected with family, friends, their community and business associates with the communication technology they have been using or using with increasing frequency since March 2020.

A hybrid future

Rabbi Irwin Huberman, 68, of the Tifereth Israel Congregation in Glen Cove, cannot imagine a future without Zoom. He predicts that a hybrid form of gatherings – involving on-site and remote participants – will become the norm.

Even before COVID-19 appeared, the rabbi said he had observed the value of Zoom in serving not only as an alternative to on-site participation in synagogue gatherings, but as a tool to make Judaism and congregation programs more accessible to people. In all ages .

“To get to a synagogue-based worship service, people would have had to get dressed and get in their cars to join us, but video was more convenient and an acceptable way to attract more people,” said Huberman.

To that end, in November 2019, he introduced Zoom to his congregations to celebrate Crystal Night, or the Night of the Broken Glass, reminiscent of the Nazi-organized pogroms that vandalized Jewish businesses and homes in 1938, leading to the murder of Jews in Germany and Poland.

The following month, on the eighth day of Hanukkah, Zoom paved the way for synagogue members to come together at a distance to light their menorahs.

Since then, Huberman and his congregation have expanded the reach of video chat technology to offer remote access to various programs, including holy days, Friday night and Saturday morning services, which have also drawn worshipers from eight states and three Canadian provinces. as members who have moved beyond the community and want to stay connected with the congregation.

And within the last 18 months, cemetery funerals have not only replaced indoor ceremonies, but have become almost limitless services where the relatives and friends of deceased people, including those living as far away as England and Israel, remotely join burial participants “in real time” , “said Huberman.

“Zoom has opened up our imagination, services and programs to greater possibilities,” said the rabbi, a native of Montreal.

Plus, this summer, a video chat gave him the personal joy of catching up – over lunch – with two long-remaining friends who are brothers and live in Canada. “Zoom allows for face-to-face intimacy,” Huberman said. “We will not return.”

Caused by pandemic

Although baby boomer Dan Oppenheimer has continued his pre-pandemic practice of occasionally sending handwritten notes on postcards showing his photography, to convey feelings such as holiday wishes or condolences, the pandemic has driven Cathedral Garden residents to increase their digital communication, especially texting. is.

No longer using the app just to confirm an appointment, “I’m texting for full conversations, which are quite detailed,” said Oppenheimer, who is half-retired and serves on boards in the village and town of Hempstead. “I also do multiple Facebook posts, emails in my personal life and zoom for business.”

In many ways, the adoption and increased use of digital communications by Long Island seniors reflects a national trend among older adults.

Based on AARP’s 2021 tech trend surrey, 45% of seniors joined the video chat fold during the pandemic and use it more now than before, and 66% expect to continue video chat at their current level in the post-pandemic period. In addition to the pandemic, 24% expect to log on to video chat less, but 9% expect to use them more than they currently do.

The survey also noted that in the same period, 37% were newbies to SMS and 26% were new to email, but 85% expect to maintain their frequency of text messages and emails beyond the pandemic, compared to 7% who expect to reduce their text messaging frequency and 8% who expect to email less than they do now.

According to Gayle Berg, a Roslyn psychologist in private practice, the isolation that many seniors experienced during the pandemic has served as the “mother of invention” by driving them to acquire and use technological communication.

Based on research focusing on older adults, Berg said seniors can reap countless benefits from using video technology, including having a “lower risk of depression and experiencing decreased loneliness, a strong sense of connection and the ability to maintain existing relationships.” “

In that direction, a study by the Pew Research Center, conducted in April, found that since February 2020, 45% of seniors between the ages of 50 and 64 and 40% of those 65 and older have said that text or group messaging apps helped them. ” a lot to keep in touch with family and friends. “

Voice dialing provided the same benefit for 37% of 50- to 64-year-olds and 44% of people aged 65 and older, while 29% of people aged 50 to 64 and aged 65 and over felt that video calling helped them in same way.

Still, digital communication is no substitute for personal gatherings with family and friends, Berg said. “We are social beings and attached to human touch.”

Avoid overload

Oppenheimer’s wife, Patty, considers herself a victim of digital congestion. When the pandemic hit, Patty, then employed as a marketing manager at a publishing house, not only began working from home, but her immersion in technology, including zoom, emails and texts, grew “exponentially” to keep pace with an escalating workload .

“My typical day in 2020 was 10 to 12 hours long, with back-to-back zooms,” she said. Her personal use of technology exacerbated screen time burnout.

Determined to take a “big step back” from technological communications, particularly from Zoom, she left the publishing business in December 2020 and became a research consultant while enrolling in a distance course in digital marketing from Northwestern University.

In July, Patty took up her current full-time position as associate manager for content marketing at Henry Schein, where she has no qualms about returning to the screen to gain professional responsibility.

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

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

Still, Patty bows to the wishes of an elderly relative and continues to send her an email, and she still sends text messages to a small circle of close friends and relatives, including her husband and 20-year-old son, Benjamin.

“I love texting,” Patty said. “It’s very intimate and super helpful,” especially when her husband, Dan, stops shopping and “I want him to pick up coffee.”

About 30 elderly Long Islanders were eager to stay in touch with family, friends and their communities during the pandemic, and turned to TechTime for help navigating the digital age. The 3-year-old Syosset company offers group and private tuition on technology to businesses and individuals, said Wendy Weiss, the company’s owner.

Irene Dicker, a Great Neck senior and retired principal since June 2019, originally approached Weiss for guidance on using Microsoft Word to edit her upcoming self-published book, “Happy Grandparenting,” which draws on her personal and professional experience with children.

Since then, Dicker has also tapped on to Weiss for help with a number of technological issues, such as navigating the multiple chats that pop up simultaneously on her screen and using Zoom on different devices.

While the video chat app has extended Dickers’ life socially during the pandemic, enabling her to virtually participate in synagogue functions and remotely connect with her family and friends, COVID-19 is not the only development that motivates her to log on video chat.

The “impossible traffic” on the Cross Bronx Expressway, which she crosses to visit relatives in New Jersey, has also driven her to video chat.

The drive should take 23 minutes, but because it can take as much as three hours, Dicker said, “I try not to drive there, and in addition to rides I get from my daughter, I use Zoom as an alternative.”

Take care of your Ps and Qs

With today’s diverse forms of communication, everything from video chat to text messaging is packed with the ability to transcend the boundaries of courtesy, according to Daniel Post Senning, the great-grandson of Emily Post and co-host of the Awesome Etiquette Podcast, from the Emily Post Institute in Waterbury, Vermont.

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

Phone calls, emails, text messages

  • Be aware of the recipients’ communication styles and connect with them in the way they are most comfortable.
  • In the company of others, apologize briefly for answering a call or answering a text message – prioritize the people in your presence.
  • Limit texts to short messages containing “who, what and where” and follow-up with a phone call for further details.
  • Use phone calls to convey emotions and emotional support.
  • Subject lines in emails should communicate the essence of the message.
  • Send an “ups” with a brief apology after sending an email or text message to an unintentional recipient.

FaceTime, Zoom

  • Acknowledge the arrival of the participants with “hello” or “hello” and their departure with a “goodbye”.
  • Before using FaceTime, call the intended recipient to request permission for a video chat.
  • Before starting a Zoom session, make an effort to ensure a good connection so as not to delay the start.
  • Position the screen camera to give the impression that you have eye contact.
  • When you notice people showing signs of fatigue, quit the video chat.
– Cara S. Trager


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