Technology in the Home

By Boshan (Bob) Zhao, linkAges Advocate

As LinkAges Advocates, our efforts to build community include various home visits to seniors’ residences, during which we offer companionship and conversation. These home visits can serve as opportunities to fill specific needs to which seniors and their caretakers alert us, and occur as one-off engagements or ongoing, weekly visitations. In addition, they serve as opportunities to get to know individuals in an environment that makes them comfortable. Looking at the plants in their garden, the family photos on their mantle, or interesting keepsakes around the house makes for ample ways to learn about these seniors’ lives and passions.

Such was the case with my home visit to Larry a few days ago. Larry had requested tech assistance with migrating files to a new computer, setting up an appointment after one of the computer help events staffed by LinkAges team members (like one that Nhi recounted in her blog post). Before, he’d sent in the laptop to clear off damage from a virus, but had to pester the store for weeks before he saw any resulting progress. At the tech help event, he’d gotten one-on-one attention, which was helpful enough for him to want additional help in the form of a home visit.

Upon arriving to his home, Larry greeted me and Nhi at the door with a big grin. “Are you guys the college students who’re going to help us with the computer stuff?” I nodded and he beckoned us in, tossing us slippers to wear inside the house. We sat down in the living room in front of an old-looking laptop. A Windows XP interface informed me of the difficulties he’d been having: the computer was at least seven or eight years old.

When I realized that the old computer was unresponsive, and the help Larry wanted was on the new computer anyways, we walked from the living room to the study. On the way there, I saw photos hanging on the walls: a wedding portrait, family photos when the kids were young, and more recent photos of his children. “One in Hong Kong, and one in Texas.” His wife called to us as we passed by, letting us know that there were things she’d like help with as well. “Perfect,” I thought, “there are two of us Advocates here anyways.” Nhi soon began helping her as I helped Larry.

Larry and I quickly got to work. Changing his default search engine back to Google? Check. Setting up automatic disk backups through Windows? Check. Transferring over his copy of Excel from the XP machine? Not so easy. Turned out that it can’t be done just by copying files: something I recalled from a recent experience I had with restoring a backup on a my new computer.

One of my greatest strengths in helping seniors with technology (and one of my colleagues) is the fact that we grew up with computers. Thus, many functions and shortcuts come to us as second nature, since we’ve quickly picked them up in using them so frequently, and that we have a general intuition as to what computers can and can’t do. I look forward to using my experience to benefit seniors in the future, teaching them how computers can help them do what they love.

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