“We are stuck with technology when what we really want is just stuff that works.”
― Douglas Adams
First of all, I promise that this list of apps will have nothing to do with managing your health.
I get pretty fed up when I Google "Best apps for seniors" and all I get are apps for managing medication or blood pressure. In fact, it is a bit of a pet peeve for me that our society seems to think that once you enter your senior years you stop being a person. Suddenly all that society thinks you should be concerned about is preventing falls and choosing the best hearing aid. Sure, as we age our health concerns change and some physical aspects naturally decline, but we are still as we were before: interested, engaged members of society wanting to be entertained, educated and informed by the technology and apps that we use. So stop with the ads about estate planning and insurance and show me what is useful on the internet.
Having said all that, I do realize that some seniors are at a bit of a disadvantage when it comes to navigating technology. There are over 2 million apps in the App Store, and even if you are confident in navigating and evaluating apps who has the time or the wherewithal to search for that next great app? Many of my friends complain that they get lost or frustrated or simply overwhelmed when searching for something in the App Store, and they are not alone. Many seniors that are newbies to the world of tech don't even venture into the App Store, instead happily spending their iPad time with the pre-installed apps like Safari (web browser), Mail and FaceTime (video calling). But they are missing out! There truly is a world of fantastic apps just waiting to be discovered. So queue the list!
Here is my list of great iPad / iPhone apps for seniors. Check that, great apps for anyone:
Try out the apps and post your comments below and let me know how you like them.
Nope, not wanting to hear your birth stories ladies.
The cord I'm referring to here is not umbilical in nature (though come to think of it, some may disagree)... I'm talking about cutting the cable TV cord. Though many people heavily rely on television as their main source of news and entertainment, many more (myself included) are sick of paying $60, $80... or even more per month for cable TV service. When trying to reign in monthly expenses, or even just streamline life a bit, cutting the cable is a great place to start.
So, how to embark on this wonderful new cable-free life? Keep reading...
I'm sure a lot of you will have heard of services like Netflix, Crave TV or even Hulu. These are streaming services, meaning that they deliver video content (TV shows, movies, documentaries) via the internet, whereas cable delivers it via ... you got it... that cable that runs from your Rogers or Bell box to your TV (the one you are paying $60++ for each month). The idea of cutting the cable is simply that you cancel your subscription for your cable TV service, and rely instead on an internet based service like Netflix.
Netflix is a streaming video service. Streaming is a way of delivering content (say a TV show) to a digital device (say an iPad or even directly to your Smart TV). Streaming delivers the show a bit at a time. Think of it like an actual stream, the content (TV show) flowing scenes onto your iPad and then off of it. Streaming services require an active internet connection because the TV show you are 'streaming' is being delivered bit-by-bit from Netflix (and their computers) to you via your iPad, TV or computer (along the internet). And because the data from the TV show flows onto your device, then off again as you watch, there is no need to worry about the show taking up 'space' on your iPad. Nothing is stored on your iPad (or computer/ iPhone ... whatever device you happen to be using).
Compare this with another term you have likely heard: downloading. When you download a TV show, the data from that show is physically stored on the hard drive on your device, so it does take up space. The benefit of this is that you don't need an internet connection to watch the show. Great for if you are going to the cottage (assuming there is no wifi at the cottage.... please tell me you don't have wifi at your cottage!), or if you are on a plane.
Long winded explanation of streaming vs. downloading, but I hope it was helpful.
Back to Netflix and their streaming service. So Netflix allows you to watch unlimited TV shows or movies for one monthly price (at time of posting it is between $8 - $12/month depending on the package you choose).
As I mentioned at the top of this post, there are other streaming services around, they each have their own list of shows and trial offers, I encourage you to check them all out and see which one suits you best. You may have heard of Hulu as well. Hulu is a US-based subscription service that competes with Netflix, not yet available in Canada.
Speaking of Netflix, for those Suits lovers have a look at this picture... look familiar?
Yup, it is indeed the lobby of the building where Harvey Specter and wunderkind Mike Ross have their offices. Manhattan? Nope, our fair city of Toronto is where the show is actually filmed, none other than the lovely Bay Adelaide Centre. Many an evening I have strolled by and seen them shooting lobby scenes, with of course a big crowd of onlookers, especially when Harvey is in the scene. For the super Suits fan, click here to be redirected to a Torontoist article that details the many scenes shot in downtown TO.
Ok, back to Netflix. For those of you not familiar with the service, I'd say try it out. They offer a one month no-obligation trial. There is no contract and you can cancel any time. You do have to create an account and offer a method of payment, but they won't charge you until after your free month is over so it gives you lots of time to try it out and see if it's for you.
For those of you that are uncomfortable using your credit card online, you're certainly not alone! It took me a while before I found a comfortable balance between the convenience of online shopping and security. I'll share some of my solutions in a future post.
Just a word of caution. If you do end up loving Netflix (or Crave) and start binge watching be sure to check to make sure you don't go over your monthly data allowance from your Internet provider. To take a minute to explain: if you have internet in your home (either wired directly to your computer, or wireless in the form of wifi) then you pay a company like Bell or Rogers for that service. Monthly packages usually start at around $40/month and go up from there depending on the package you select (which ultimately depends on your internet usage). If you start to stream videos from Netflix your internet usage will go up, and if you go beyond the monthly allowance / package they will charge you an overage fee, which can get pricey. If you are new to Netflix, it's a good idea to call your internet service provider about a week in and ask them how much you have used to date, then you can adjust your package as needed. When people 'cut the cord' they often will need to increase the size of their internet package -- but upping your internet package by $10 or $20/month is almost always less expensive than what you were paying for cable.
Next time: part 2 of cutting the cord, What's old is new again (think rabbit ears).
That's all for now,
PS - Have a question about something in the blog? Have an idea for a future blog post? Post a comment in the comment section below.
Here are links to the different streaming services I mentioned. Click on the name below to be redirected to their website:
Here a couple of articles on the topic of Cutting the Cord. Click the link to be redirected to the article:
Happy New Year! Just a quick post to share a video I found online that humorously tries to address the email issue that many of us face... that being, there are just way too many!
Take a few minutes to watch the video below. Maybe if this is implemented at least we'd get some response from our kids when we email them (see Sept 19/16 post).
So if you use Yahoo for your email provider (ie. firstname.lastname@example.org) you should pay attention to this one. Last month Yahoo announced that 500+ million of their email accounts had been hacked (or illegally accessed) back in 2014 ... and yes, we are just learning about this now.
Full details of the hack are all over the internet (just do a Google search for Yahoo email hack), or look at the FAQs that Yahoo published, I have posted the link further below.
How do you know if you were hacked? Yahoo has emailed those affected, here is a copy of the email that was sent to those who they believe were hacked: https://s.yimg.com/sf/support/en-gb-security-notice-content.pdf. That file also outlines things you can do to protect yourself... the biggest of which is to change your password, immediately.
Even if you don't use Yahoo email, or if your account wasn't breached in this attack, you still should follow some basic security precautions.
We are sure to see more of this type of breach of personal information, the best thing you can do is monitor your accounts and regularly update your passwords.
That's all for now.
Yahoo FAQs about this issue:
Here is a NY Times article that covers how the hack impacts Yahoo's future:
"You have so much to say, mom", my daughter would insist. Well, that much is certainly true, but whether anyone wants to hear it is another story entirely (take my daughter for instance). "And you have so much to share", again, she was right. But I'm still left wondering who will actually be interested in my random musings.
But the thing that got me seriously considering it is the last time I was at the hairdressers. My hairdresser is a bit older than me but looking a lot younger (all those fab hair products at her fingertips!) - and it so happened that the client and hairdresser in the chair beside me also fell into the ''older adult' category. Over the course of my cut and my chair neighbour's colour we got to chatting. About kids. The disappointments and the successes. About grandkids (or lack thereof). The joy. The frustrations. About spouses (or lack there of), and health.
And then it got really interesting. We started talking about technology. My chair neighbour uses Facebook a lot to connect with friends, but was getting frustrated with how superficial it all was becoming. "It's like everyone just posts inspirational sayings and pictures of their grandkids, enough already." She wanted to feel more connected, to learn more about things that mattered. I suggested Twitter and all three of them (the hairdressers included) fell silent. They didn't know anything about it. My hairdresser said that she had looked into it some time ago in an attempt to connect with her son who worked for a news agency, but she never got past the sign-up page. I told them about my experiences with Twitter. News at my fingertips. Relevant, grassroots, feet-on-the-ground type of news. Unique access to relevant information. New opinions. They were all intrigued. I promised my hairdresser I would send her an email on how to dip your toe into the world of Twitter and she promised to share it with her colleague and my chair neighbour.
From there the conversation continued on to other tech topics. My chair neighbour (Patricia) has a daughter in university and two sons who live in the states. "I never hear from them," she complained. "I call but they never answer, and god forbid if they ever return my emails." I asked Patricia if she had tried texting her kids. "Isn't that the same as email?" she asked. I explained the difference and told her that nobody under the age of 40 emails any more. And they certainly don't talk on the phone. Text them. Snapchat them. Or (maybe) FaceTime them. "You're talking a foreign language to me," Patricia said and that got me thinking some more.
On the walk home - and looking like a million bucks I might add - I got to thinking about what my daughter said. I have a lot to share. And it seems I do. After years of working in and around technology I know enough about the world to wade through with some level of confidence. But at the same time I grew up without the internet and am surrounded by friends that didn't work in technology, and now feel completely overwhelmed in this digital world. These are friends that aren't that old.
With more seniors having access to technology and free time on their hands, there should be many more tech-savvy retirees out there. But the digital world has raced by us. We barely got the hang of our flip phones and then there were smart phones. The world wide web turned into Web 2.0. Virtual reality, drones, Netflix, Amazon Prime, social media... the list goes on and on with new things on the market and new things to learn. How is anyone supposed to keep up? Especially those of us who grew up without the internet or had successful careers that didn't involve sitting in front of a screen?
Technology is a great tool for everyone, but I think especially for older adults who want to stay engaged with things they love. Connect with people they love. Make new connections and explore new things. The ways that technology can enrich our lives is truly mind-blowing. But we need to get there. We need to stop being intimidated and start trying it.
So by the time I got home I had decided. I would start a blog. I would write down my personal thoughts and experiences for anyone who happened to be interested. But I would do it with a technology angle. Specifically for seniors. What are all these new digital terms and devices, but more importantly how we can use them to enrich our lives.
I was so excited about my decision to become a blogger I called my daughter to tell her. I got her voice mail.