GRAND Magazine - Spring 2020 - 18
thing." Everybody's trying to kind of sort out what to
do. But the thing that's really been gratifying for me is
to see the level of desire that people have to help each
other and to come together around this. It makes me
feel really uplifted and really optimistic about the world
in the long run. But, of course, then you get the crisis
and the consequences and real people are really dying
and it's really jarring and shocking to hear it.
GRAND: How have things changed since you started
the program originally?
Kamber: When I started in 2004, only 26% of people
over the age of 65 had ever been on the internet. Today,
15 years later, it's kind of reversed. About 75% of seniors
have actually been on the internet, but still 25% have
not, which is kind of staggering. In New York city, just as
an example, 42% of seniors are not on the internet at
home. They do not have internet activity in their homes.
Getting internet access
GRAND: What can people do about internet access,
since Senior Planet centers are closed for now?
Kamber: We're actually doing phone calls for
people to coach them through setting up the internet
at home. So for people that are trying to learn how
to do that, if you've got the patience, we've got the
patience--all of our trainers are calling hundreds of
people a week right now, and they are reaching out to
them and saying, how can we help you get set up at
home with the right system so that you can communicate with your family?
Senior Planet has a user-friendly article called "How
to Get Online" with many ways to access lower cost or
even free internet at home. https://seniorplanet.org/
We're working with Verizon now. Thousands of
Verizon staff want to volunteer. We were actually working with them to come to our centers and do volunteerism. We're trying to shift over that model now so people
can do it online. We're still on the first couple of weeks of
it. So we're figuring out who's coming and who's going.
Our own staff are doing this as well [as well as some
other companies that want to get involved], where
people are doing the calls and offering the companionship and engagement that way.
off. They want to get a new phone, but they don't want
to lose all the old pictures.
I don't think I could overestimate the value of people's memories. People are coming to us with this gift,
like it's the crown jewels, saying, "Please help me not
lose these." So our volunteers help people get this stuff
off their phones and put them on a thumb drive and
back them up on the web.
We have a lot of lectures and informational workshops. Right now, everybody's talking about Zoom. So
we have lectures on it to demystify and put it in human
terms. People need to take extra care of themselves by
doing things that they know feed their psychological
and physical health, such as a daily conversation with a
What programs do you offer?
friend or an exercise class on Zoom. And make your bed
Kamber: One is the very personalized version, which - that's a really important piece of advice!
are typically one-on-one coaching sessions. And we
typically use volunteers who are very carefully trained
and supervised. We're with you on anything that
you need to know. People show up all the time with
We're aging with attitude.
a device that's still wrapped in the shrink wrapping.
They'll come in and say, I got this for my birthday. I
Won't you join us?
don't even know what it is.
A very common question is that people have is pho-
Now more than ever, it's essential
for older adults to be online and
to understand how to use their
computers, phones, and other devices
to stay healthy and connected.
tographs that are stuck on their smartphones. They
can't figure out how to download them and get them
Become a Member
Wendy Schuman is a proud GRANDmom
and freelance writer who makes her home
in West Orange, NJ. She is a former editor of
Parents Magazine and Beliefnet.com. Wendy
and her husband launched Grad Life Choices
their pro bono coaching program to help new
generations of college grads. Wendy is also the
author of the book, Millennials in Wonderland.
GRAND Magazine - Spring 2020
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