Author Archives: Donna Arriaga

5 Social Media Resources for Seniors

The world of social media is huge, and for seniors just starting to take the social networking plunge, it can feel extremely overwhelming. Here are 5 resources to help seniors who are just beginning to delve into social networking.

  1. Grandchildren are a storehouse of savvy social media information. They’ll help install Skype, iron out any problems with the new webcam, and walk (or run) through the steps of setting up an account. They’re also a fantastic source of motivation. Want to see new pics of the kids or grandkids? Chances are, they’re on Facebook.
  2. Common Craft is an excellent resource. Their “In Plain English” videos cover general social media and social networking topics as well as more targeted videos on Twitter, Wikis, and online photo-sharing. The videos deliver high-quality, easily digestible content.
  3. is a fantastic site that offers step-by-step guides on using Facebook, Twitter, blogging, and more. Each guide has a video to walk you through the process. Guides also have easy-to-understand written instructions with screen shots.
  4. OASIS offers a range of courses on computers and social media specifically for people age 50+. The courses are paced for optimal learning and are often accompanied by information-rich coursebooks/handouts. (Full Disclosure: I currently work as a consultant for the OASIS Connections program. OASIS Connections establishes community-based computer learning programs for seniors.)
  5. SeniorNet also offers computer classes (including social media courses) tailored for people 50+. In addition to their learning centers, SeniorNet also offers online learning programs.

Photo by svenwerk

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Posted by on October 16, 2011 in Uncategorized


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Privacy in Social Networks: Updates for August 16

In the age of 1’s and 0’s, things happen in a flash. Privacy controls, security settings, and terms of service (TOS) change before we can bat an eye. They happen whether we do our best to stay on top changes or whether we click “Yes, I’ve read and understand the gazillion-word long TOS”  …even when we, at best, skim the first couple paragraphs and check “I agree”.

So, here are a couple of updates to help you stay on top of the ever-changing digital landscape of privacy and security…

Here’s How To Remove Your Contacts’ Phone Numbers From Facebook’s Clutches, by Mat Honan of Gizmodo

“Facebook loves doing unexpected things with your data. Now it’s culling numbers from your phone and adding them to its online database to ‘help you’ find contacts. Don’t trust Facebook with your mom’s number? Here’s how to fix it.

If you’re syncing, Facebook’s iPhone app will pull the numbers in your phone’s contact file and upload them to Facebook. While it notes that these numbers are only visible to you, Facebook has a way of, let’s say, shifting its policies.

Worse, for many users these numbers are already in its database, and if you’re not comfortable with that (and I’m not) you’re going to need to manually purge them.”

>>See Gizmodo’s full post for step-by step details.

Important: Check your Facebook and LinkedIn security settings, by Maddie Grant of SocialFish

“Two quick things we advise you to deal with ASAP:

LinkedIn has automatically defaulted you to be included in their Social Ads (more here). To opt out of this, hover over your name at the top right and go to Settings, then Account. Under “Manage Social Advertising”, UNCHECK the box that says “LinkedIn may use my name, photo in social advertising.”

Facebook has defaulted everyone to non secure browsing (www or http instead of https). To fix it, go to Account at the top right, then Account Settings, then Security Settings on the left. Check the box for secure browsing.”

>> See the full post by SocialFish

Photo by Rob Pongsajapan


Posted by on August 16, 2011 in Uncategorized


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Rumor: iPhone 5 May Include Hearing Aid Mode

Earlier this week, ElderGadget reported on a rumor that the new iPhone 5 may come with hearing aid compatibility. Not only will the new phone be compatible, but the iOS 5 update will purportedly extend hearing aid compatibility to all iPhone generations. The iPhone 5 and iOS 5 are due for release this fall.

This is fantastic news. Right?

Well, of course it’s fantastic… It’s great that people who suffer from hearing loss will soon have more options when it comes to choosing a mobile device. And it’s wonderful that the iOS 5 update will (or is supposed to) bring all iPhone generations into the hearing aid compatibility mix.

But here’s where the news ceases to be fantastic. Apple is NOT doing anything revolutionary by integrating hearing aid compatibility into their phones. In fact, they’re disappointingly behind the curve on this one. CNET Reviews has an entire section on hearing aid compatible phones. As of this post, the review lists 354 phones! And you can bet your bottom dollar, Android is all over that list.

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Posted by on August 10, 2011 in Uncategorized


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Seniors and Location-Based Services

Foursquare and Facebook Places are among the most popular location-based applications, but how many seniors do you think are “checking in” and earning Foursquare badges? According to recently published comScore data, people 65+ make up only 1.7% of total check-in service users. People 55 to 64 make up 3%.

But there’s more to location-based services than Facebook and Foursquare.

Where’s the grocery store?

There are countless apps that can provide an inside scoop on all-things-local in a matter of a few screen taps. Mobile applications such as AroundMe, Where and Google Places (just to name a few) are all GPS enabled. In seconds, they’ll map out the nearest grocery store, theater, pharmacy, gas station and more.  A storehouse of local information at one’s fingertips can be especially useful for seniors who have relocated to be closer to family.

Of course, to use these apps, one does need a smartphone. And, before making a snap judgement about how many seniors actually use a smartphone, let me provide the stats. Last April, Mashable published data that indicates as many as 15% of people age 55+ are using smartphones.

GeoTagged Photos

Geotagging links a photo to the precise location it was taken. Conveniently enough, most smartphones automatically attach geographical information to photos and videos. Depending upon the device, it may require a simple click to view images on a map. Alternatively, photo sharing sites like Flickr and Picasa both support geotagged photos.

Health & Safety

Location-based services can play an important role in the health and safety of older adults. For example, the Alzheimer’s Association developed Comfort Zone, a web-based location service that allows families to remotely monitor a person with Alzheimer’s. Families can receive automated alerts when a person has travelled beyond a preset safety zone.

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Posted by on June 16, 2011 in Uncategorized


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What’s a QR Code and How Can Seniors Use Them?

These boxy digital codes are popping up all over the place. Just a couple days ago, I saw one on a bottle of dish soap and another on a map of the DC metro bus system.

So what are they? QR codes (short for Quick Response) are 2-dimensional codes that can hold data such as a web address, phone number, email address or geo location.

How do they work? The easiest way to read a QR code is with a smartphone. You’ll need to install a QR code reader on the phone (there are several free QR code readers), and then it’s simply a matter of capturing the QR code with the phone’s camera.

How are QR Codes Used?

Businesses, organizations and city governments are finding new and creative ways to put these codes to use. Companies have used QR codes in billboards to deliver more in-depth product information. The city of Tamarac in Florida rolled out a city wide initiative to use QR codes to reach out to its residents — the codes are used in the city’s quarterly magazine, parks and public art.

Gardeners can obtain in-depth information from QR codes on plant tags. The code takes you straight to a mobile optimized web page with information on plant growing and harvesting details — much more information than is possible to squeeze onto the back of a plant tag.

How Can Seniors and Senior Service Providers Use QR Codes?

Think of QR codes as paper-based hyperlinks. Add these codes to flyers, brochures, and other places to provide a quick portal to additional information. Here are a few suggestions:

  • Business Cards. These cards can often become overcrowded with information printed in font that is too small. A QR code can contain a vCard (or virtual business card) that can easily be stored in the phone’s contacts address book.
  • Nutritional Information on Menus. Special diets require additional attention to dietary needs and nutritional information. Restaurants and care communities may use convenient icons to denote heart-healthy items, gluten-free items, etc. However, by adding a QR code next to menu items, people can have quick access (in larger, easy to read font size) to complete nutritional information.
  • Activities Calendars. Add a QR code next to key activities. The code can take you straight to an event web page with complete information on date, time, location and other details.
  • Brochures. Add a QR code to your brochure and link to a video,  photo album or other web page.

Admittedly, QR codes are only just beginning to make their way into U.S. culture. (They’re very popular in Japan.) But with smartphone usage on the rise — up 60% in the last year — it’s worthwhile to explore how these devices can be used to optimize seniors’ access to information. And, QR codes offer great potential for a wide range of practical uses.


Posted by on June 6, 2011 in Uncategorized


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Older Americans Month: From YouTube to Wii

Older Americans MonthThe theme for this year’s Older Americans Month is Older Americans: Connecting the Community. The theme pays homage to the many ways in which older adults bring inspiration and continuity to the fabric of our communities. And, it highlights how technology is helping older Americans live longer, healthier, and more engaged lives.

Enter: YouTube and Wii Bowling.

Connecting Generations Video Challenge

In celebration of Older Americans Month, the AoA has launched a video challenge, Connecting Generations. The challenge invites teams of two or more to submit videos that creatively demonstrate the role of older Americans in connecting the community. Teams are intergenerational and must include at least one person age 60 or older and one person younger than 60. Teams upload their video to YouTube and post their submission on the contest site. The winning team walks away with some pretty sweet visibility on AoA’s website and Facebook page — an excellent marketing opportunity for senior centers and long term care organizations. But it gets better. just announced that “it will feature ALL entries to the contest on the [ChangingAging] blog and it will award the winner of the Connecting Generations video project with an HD Flip Camera.”

(Okay, yes. Last week Cisco did announce that it will stop making the Flip Camera. See ReadWriteWeb’s post Farewell, Flip Camera. But still. It’s a free video camera — a slick, easy to use video camera. Besides, there are still plenty of people with phones that don’t shoot video… yet.)

Wii Bowling Video Game Challenge

Camera shy? Have no fear. Grab those Wii remotes and prepare for the Community Connection Wii Bowling Tournament! The AoA invites senior centers around the country to participate in the Nintendo Wii bowling video game tournament. AoA will average the top scores of each participating group to identify the senior centers with the highest average scores in each category.

The top three highest scoring senior centers in each category will be publicly announced on the AoA’s web site and Facebook page. In addition, senior centers will receive a signed certificate and letter of congratulations from Assistant Secretary for Aging Kathy Greenlee. Full details are on the Older Americans Month video game tournament site.

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Posted by on April 19, 2011 in Uncategorized


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iPad for Seniors: 3 Major Advantages Over Standard Computer

The new iPad 2 officially went on sale last Friday, and thanks to Carl Burnstein, I had a chance to get some first-hand experience with the new iPad. As I was oooing and aaahhing over the tech, I came to appreciate some major advantages that the iPad offers to seniors.

1. Touch Screen

Limitations in hand dexterity can make it extremely challenging for seniors to control a mouse. It often takes a lot of time and practice for older seniors to become accustomed to a mouse. There are som pretty great training resources out there like Senior Net’s Mouse Training and the City of Seattle’s online mouse training. Still, there are times when training is simply not enough to help seniors cope with dexterity and mouse control challenges. The alternative has often been teaching older seniors key board short cuts to help reduce the need for a mouse. But the iPad changes all this. The iPad’s touch screen makes it extremely easy for seniors to control the device. Launching a program is as easy as tapping large, easily visible icons — a much more senior friendly alternative to controlling a mouse. Websites can easily be enlarged by using the pinch-out zoom feature. This is a powerful capability for seniors, as it allows them to instantly increase characters and text to an easily readable size.

2. Extremely Easy to Share Photos

The iPad makes it extremely easy to email photos and to save photos received via email. This ease of use boils down to one notable characteristic of the iPad — it lacks an accessible file structure. This is often perceived as a major downside for techies. But for seniors, the hidden file structure poses a significant strength.

To email a photo, you locate the picture in your Photos app, tap the “send” menu option and tap email photo. To save a photo you’ve received via email, just click the attachment and an option window will pop up (see right). Then tap “Save Image” and presto, the picture is automatically saved to your “Photos” app.

The lack of a visible file structure means that seniors can easily save and send pics via email without having to tell the computer whether the photo is located (or should be saved to) the desktop, my documents, my computer, etc. Also, when downloading photos, some users’ pictures might end up in a temp folder or in a downloads folder — this can make it challenging for many people to find and retrieve downloaded files.

3. The iPad 2 is Skype Ready

More and more seniors are using Skype to stay connected to loved ones. With the iPad 2 front camera, seniors no longer need to deal with hooking up a web cam to their computers. Getting Skype ready involves setting up an account and downloading the Skype app. Thats it.

Seniors Appreciate the iPad

The iPad isn’t just a trendy piece of technology. Seniors are seeing real benefits. Just a few days ago, Elder Gadget shared a video of seniors living at Balfour Senior Living in Louisville, Colorado who are finding uses for the iPad. Here’s the video…


With all it’s advantages (many of which aren’t even touched on in this post), the iPad does pose some disadvantages for seniors — most of which are directly tied to passwords. Each time a user downloads a new app, s/he needs to enter in a password. Also, the iPad’s browser does not have password memory capabilities. This could pose a hefty disadvantage for older seniors who may have difficulties remembering passwords.

Many thanks to Paul Burnstein for brainstorming with me the advantages and disadvantages of iPads for senior.

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Posted by on March 13, 2011 in Uncategorized


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