Seniors and Technology by Ann Pearce


I was headed home the other day, when I noticed my gas gauge said empty, not just sort of close to empty, but EMPTY. So, instead of turning left and going up the hill, I turned right and headed for the nearest gas station. I was slightly apprehensive about the prospect of filling up my car due to the fact that upon occasion, brand new gas pumps confound me, and I had never been to this particular station. Yes, I am so old that I remember a time when you only had to drive up to the pump and a friendly young man would come up to the car and ask, “Fill it up?” That same friendly young man would check your oil and clean your windshield, but I digress. I told myself, all I have to do is read the LED screen and follow the directions. I found the slot for my credit card, remembering to remove it quickly, grabbed the nozzle, and punched the number for regular. The LED screen said to start fueling, which I attempted to do and nothing happened. I tried again, but nothing happened. I waited so long, the LED screen read, “cancelling transaction.” Now, you really can’t argue with an LED screen, and it doesn’t look good to the other customers if you do. So, I simply started the process all over again hoping for a different result. Up to this point, all of my attention had been on the screen, but this time around when I punched the number 87, low and behold there was a second hose hanging on the right side of the pump. Grabbing the gasoline nozzle instead of the one for ethanol was all it took. Needless to say, I was elated to successfully complete the transaction and head for home.

Technology can be fun, exciting, useful, necessary, aggravating, slightly annoying (as my example above demonstrates) and sometimes downright overwhelming. It is also ubiquitous and constantly evolving. As a senior, where does one go to find answers to technology questions? Most of us call our children or grandchildren with varying degrees of satisfaction. However, another resource is “The Senior Sleuth’s Guide to Technology for Seniors” by David Peterka.

This easy-to-read guide introduces the reader to computers, the Internet, and gadgets galore to enrich daily living. The word ‘introduces’ should be stressed here. If you already have a Facebook page along with your dog, you watch your favorite movies streaming over the Internet, and you order all your airline tickets online, this may not be the book for you. However, if you are unsure of what technologies there are available, and you are curious to find out, this would make a good read.

Peterka points out that over the last few years, the senior technology market is booming. Even the International Consumer Electronics Show, which is held every January and is the largest show of its kind, features a growing number of technologies targeting seniors in their Silvers Summit. The reason for this growing interest is obvious: There are 78 million baby boomers in this country, and they are just reaching their full earning and spending potential.

One area of concern for seniors is health management. As we age, health management can become more complicated. There are more doctors’ appointments to schedule, more medications to take, and more chronic illnesses to manage. Taking the correct medications at the right times is extremely important. So how do you make this chore easier to manage? If you need a simple reminder, you can choose between a watch that features several alarms and can list the medications to be taken, a pill box that beeps or vibrates, or a phone service that calls at the appropriate time. A more high tech solution is a medication dispenser. It is not only programmed to beep, but it dispenses the correct medication. If you don’t take the pills, then a caregiver or family member is notified.

On the lighter side, Peterka covers entertainment, from purchasing a digital camera to uploading your latest family video to YouTube. There is even a rather lengthy section on the much loved, much hated remote. And since technology is the topic, Peterka lists several web sites for further exploration including his own at

For a close up look at some technologies and services available here at the library, stop by our booth Wednesday, September 21 at All Faiths Chapel on the K-State campus. At 7:00 p.m., Dr. William Thomas will give a lecture entitled, “Eldertopia: How Elders Will Change the World.” Funding for this lecture is provided by the Beach Museum of Art, the Office of the President of KSU, the Center on Aging, K-State Libraries, the College of Human Ecology, and Meadowlark Hills Retirement Community. Other cooperating agencies are the KSU Department of Interior Architecture and Product Design, the Manhattan Area Chamber of Commerce, and Manhattan Public Library.