UMaine faculty shared some of their latest aging-related research projects with students and colleagues.
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AARP tackles tablet training for older adults
AARP TEK – fabulous training for older adults. When an organization becomes as large and influential as AARP, what a party they can throw and how attendees enjoy being brought together at its large events. Life@50+ in Atlanta was clearly fun for the attendees -- but what made it special in the context of technology utilization were several days of continuous training classes (see below) on using tablets. Led by Philip Jordan, of SeniorTechRally who did many of the training sessions himself, 4-H Club participants, dubbed "Tech wizards" sat at each of the training tables to answer questions and demonstrate use of the device. Part of a program called Mentor Up, these young adults were charming – they didn’t patronize trainees, answered questions energetically and ran around the tables showing and telling.
Attendees loved the tablets AND the training. As you can see from the picture, the training was a discovery moment -- what a tablet could be used to do, see, engage – it was one of the most significant technology initiatives that AARP has undertaken and it doesn’t end with the event – "Mentor Up will bring the tech wizards to multiple cities," according to Joann Jenkins, COO of AARP: "The Mentor Up program provides technology and workplace training to help Americans 50 and over secure the skills they need to find jobs in America's data-driven economy."
AARP is the right organization to partner and coordinate training. The organization that sees its mission to help the 50+ reimagine their lives, live their best life, and connect for social aging – has it right. Training is key to getting the remaining 26 million older adults online. For those who have the money and are considering a tablet, I won’t even begin to scan through the millions of links returned when searching for iPad training. Sadly, those links are only viewable to those already online. Okay – then what’s next? Well, Best Buy has iPads for $329 and Samsung’s Galaxy Tab is $169. That last one seems like a reasonable price -- with an upcoming mini-store within BestBuy, perhaps Samsung’s might be appropriate. And the Samsung Experience Consultant may be able to help someone get started in the store – if they haven’t already been online (oops, now there’s a conundrum) to view the videos. Let’s say that the price works, the training is fine, and all is…almost…well.
Carriers must partner with all to provide access outside of AARP…. Perhaps the idea is that older adults will be trained in the store and then wander over to Starbucks, Panera, McDonalds or Dunkin Donuts or the library – where WiFi is available and often with nary a password – you’re on the Internet. As for home plans, not so cost-effective -- here’s a link to a Verizon page. Here’s a discussion about Comcast and lack of discounts. And here’s one about AT&T. Whoa, Starbucks is looking pretty good, actually. One cup of coffee and there it is, brought to you by Google – access to the Internet, not limited in any way.
…Designed for all, older adults need more partners, more discounts and more places. So there’s the secret, which I am certain AARP knows and will leverage: find a sponsor who wants more viewers (including older adults) to see their online advertising. Link with a partner who pays for Internet access -- now prospective customers (including older adults) will bring their own device (BTOD) into the store. Maybe mix in special training programs offered in those shops or at retailers during slower times of the day. For seniors who have been to AARP training sessions and subsequently bought a tablet at a good price – this is a win. AARP has performed a great service to help older adults get started and they should be congratulated.