“But I don’t want anyone to see me looking like this!”

The psychology behind techno phobia

As  boomers share their “quarentinis” with friends on Face Time, work continues via Zoom, and Millennials Instagram selfies of their workouts at home, younger generations plead with their older relatives to get online and video chat. Even the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) guidelines ask younger generations to use social media, phones and videos to support older Americans.

But have you tried? Are you frustrated? Is your parent annoyed and frustrated, too. “I’m just a Luddite – i don’t know how to work this thing.”


Do not blame your elders!!! Have you seen that hysterical YouTube viddeo where 17- year old students cannot figure out how to work a rotary phone! 160,000 people watched this: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oHNEzndgiFI

Those of us who have been riding on the information highway for years have accumulated vocabulary, instincts and habits that inform our intuition  — we instinctively know to touch the top of the screen to find hidden buttons, and such.  But those who were retired  in the 90’s or were not in a situation to have or need the Internet have built up resistance and work-arounds. Others have devices but use them for very limited purposes. “Just call me on the phone, darling; you don’t need  to see my face to know I love you.” One woman in a GoL focus group said “Just put the check in the mail and the grand kids will you call you.” Another was fiercely against learning: “If they get me on this thing [computer] they’ll never come to visit!”.

But then came the Spring of 2020 forced isolation.  Now, everyone is motivated and it’s hard to teach long distance. The younger troops are worried. The grandparents are tired of their nagging. And embarrassed and confused about the technology, even if it means seeing the family.

Perhaps these sound familiar – and perhaps the responses may deflect them.

  1. “It’s too complicated and I’m too old to learn”

You build brain cells by trying!

2. “Let’s just talk on the phone – I’m a mess anyway.”

The camera spins in two directions. Show me the empty street out your window.

3.  “I just have an e-reader. and we don’t have WiFi or whatever.”

Do you have a smartphone?

4.  I can’t remember my password.

You wont need a password.

(Or if you do, start over. Hit can’t remember password and create a new one! write it down. You’ll  be surprised how well you do!) Older adults frequently underestimate the power of their own memories, leading to some bad habits that fail to make the best use of their minds, says Dayna Touron at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro.  Eventually, that lack of confidence may become a self-fulfilling prophecy – as your memory skills slowly decline through lack of use. However, she has found that simply giving the older adults feedback on their performance – and underlining the accuracy of their memory – can encourage them to rely more on their recall, as reported by the BBC.

Of course I’d like everyone to somehow get their parents on to our simplified training app to give them skills and confidence without your help.

Easy Tablet Help For Seniors in Apple App store

Easy Tablet Help For Seniors in Google Play store

(www.generationsonline.org/gol4ipador 4 android.)

But the real point is, to help get your elders online, first get inside their heads, before you try to get inside their space! As with most things, winning the psychological battle often ends the war. And in this war on the Pandemic, we wish you luck and ease to safe, healthy times for you and yours.




Talk about empathy!!!!

Covid-19 Corona Virus has accomplished in three months what spiritual leaders and governments have sought for centuries: bond communities into common connections, heighten mindfulness, encourage empathy.

So here we sit with extra boxes of pasta in our bravado little bubbles, passing along the latest information, and urgent thoughts and support for one another. Have you had the emails from worried kids with admonitions and pleas to cancel trips and take care? Have your conversations included  — if not begun with — “Corona”? Since December 2019, nearly five million searches, inclusion in every newscast all day long, and near daily updates from authorities have dramatically increased the email exchanges among loved ones (I’m guessing). But it’s human nature to connect to others in time of need; isolation is akin to smoking 15 cigarettes a day (I’m not guessing – Brigham Young University study).

As nursing and assisted living homes close their doors this week to lock out the killer contagion, it could also open the window to alternative communication! Grand-kids should pick up their phones to make a real voice-to-voice call. Send an old-fashioned funny greeting card.  Print off that photo before uploading it, and send it to someone who is feeling more lonely and scared than ever. Every retirement and nursing home,  assisted living facility and homeless shelter should have tablet computers as available as soup! And some easy way to attract and show elders how easy it is to see their hometown paper or answers to their most random question. There are good simple training programs, such as (and I’m clearly biased) the free self-guided app Easy Tablet Help for Seniors

But think how much you, yourself, are watching, using, checking, sending —  online —  in this crisis. Isn’t it heartbreaking to imagine the isolation spreading exponentially among the more confined?

Here’s to short-lived problems, long-lived  family, and well-lived lives!!!!

Josie Fletcher at Surrey Senior Center sending her first text to her granddaughter! - Copy

Josie Fletcher at Surrey Senior Center sending her first text to her loving granddaughter

Territory Cases Deaths Recoveries Ref.
 China (mainla 80,790 3,158 61,611 [1]
 Italy 12,462 827 1,045 [1]
 Iran 9,000 354 2,959 [1]
 South Korea 7,755 61 288 [2]
 France[c] 2,281 48 12 [1]
 Spain 2,222 49 183 [3]
 Germany 1,908 3 25 [1]
 United States
(including Grand Princess)
1,109 31 15 [4]
Cruise ship side view.svg Diamond Princess[d] 696 7 357 [1]
 Switzerland 652 4 3 [1]
 Japan 639 15 118 [1]
 Norway 570 0 1 [1]
 Netherlands 503 5 0 [1]
 Sweden 497 1 1 [1][5]
 United Kingdom[e] 460 8 19 [1][6][7]
 Denmark[f] 444 0 2 [8]
 Belgium 314 3 1 [1][9]
 Qatar 262 0 0 [1]
 Austria 246 0 4 [1]
 Bahrain 195 0 35 [10]
 Singapore 178 0 96 [1]
 Malaysia 149 0 26 [1]
 Australia 127 3 24 [1]
 Hong Kong 126 3 60 [1]
 Canada 99 1 9 [1]
 Greece 99 0 0 [11]
 Iceland 85 0 1 [1]
 Israel 79 0 4 [1]
 Czech Republic 81 0 0 [12]
 United Arab Emirates 74 0 17 [1]
 Kuwait 72 0 2 [1]
 Iraq 71 7 15 [1]
 San Marino 66 3 0 [13]
 India 62 0 4 [1]
 Lebanon 61 2 1 [1]
(including MS River Anuket)
60 1 27 [1]
 Thailand 59 1 34 [1]
 Finland 59 0 1 [1]
 Portugal 59 0 0 [14]
 Slovenia 57 0 0 [15]
 Philippines 49 1 2 [1]
 Taiwan 48 1 17 [1]
 Romania 39 0 6 [1]
 Vietnam 38 0 16 [1]
 Brazil 35 0 0 [1]
 Ireland 34 1 0 [1]
 Indonesia 34 1 2 [1]
 Poland 31 0 0 [16]
 Palestine 30 0 0 [1]
 Georgia 24 0 0 [1]
 Chile 23 0 0 [1]
 Saudi Arabia 21 0 1 [1]
 Algeria 20 0 0 [1]
 Russia 20 0 3 [1]
 Argentina 19 1 0 [1]
 Pakistan 19 0 1 [17]
 Oman 18 0 9 [1]
 Ecuador 17 0 0 [1]
 Croatia 16 0 0 [1]
 Estonia 16 0 0 [18]
 Costa Rica 13 0 0 [1]
 Hungary 13 0 0 [1]
 South Africa 13 0 0 [1][19]
 Albania 12 1 0 [1]
 Serbia 12 0 0 [1]
 Azerbaijan 11 0 0 [1]
 Brunei 11 0 0 [1]
 Peru 11 0 0 [1]
 Slovakia 10 0 0 [1]
 Latvia 10 0 1 [1]
 Macau 10 0 10 [1]
 Colombia 9 0 0 [20]
 Belarus 12 0 3 [1][21]
 Panama 8 1 0 [22][23]
 Maldives 8 0 0 [1]
 Mexico 8 0 4 [1]
 Afghanistan 7 0 0 [1]
 Bosnia and Herzegovina 7 0 0 [1]
 Luxembourg 7 0 0 [1]
 North Macedonia 7 0 0 [1]
 Tunisia 7 0 0 [1]
 Bulgaria 6 1 0 [1]
 Cyprus 6 0 0 [1]
 Malta 6 0 0 [1]
 Morocco 6 1 0 [1]
 Dominican Republic 5 0 0 [1]
 New Zealand 5 0 0 [1]
 Paraguay 5 0 0 [1]
 Senegal 4 0 1 [1]
 Bangladesh 3 0 0 [1]
 Lithuania 3 0 0 [1]
 Moldova 3 0 0 [1]
 Cambodia 3 0 1 [1]
 Bolivia 2 0 0 [1]
 Burkina Faso 2 0 0 [1]
 Cameroon 2 0 0 [1]
 Honduras 2 0 0 [24]
 Nigeria 2 0 0 [1]
 Sri Lanka 2 0 1 [1]
 Andorra 1 0 0 [1]
 Armenia 1 0 0 [1]
 Bhutan 1 0 0 [1]
 DR Congo 1 0 0 [25]
 Guernsey 1 0 0 [26]
 Ivory Coast 1 0 0 [27]
 Jamaica 1 0 0 [28]
 Jersey 1 0 0 [29]
 Jordan 1 0 0 [1]
 Liechtenstein 1 0 0 [1]
 Monaco 1 0 0 [1]
 Mongolia 1 0 0 [1]
 Togo 1 0 0 [1]
 Turkey 1 0 0 [30]
 Ukraine 1 0 0 [1]
 Vatican City 1 0 0 [1]
 Nepal 1 0 1 [1]
Total territories (118)[4] 125,060 4,585 67,050 [1]

Thanks to the wonderful Wikipedia- to which we should all send contributions.

Is Grandpa relevant?

Funny how your mind works… for years I could picture a TIME MAGAZINE cover that asked “Is the President relevant?” but when I search for it, the cover is either one of two that year (1996) that is unavailable or else it was simply a feature article in which the president (Bill Clinton) himself made it an issue:

“Clinton downplayed the fact that his press conference was only picked up by one major network, saying ‘I am relevant. The Constitution gives me relevance. A president, especially an activist president has relevance.’ ” (Ten years later TIME published another piece about President George W. Bush’s relevancy.)

One of the gifts of age is focus shifting from self to others. When you hear a grandfather saying, “Here, let me show you how….” it’s not because he wants to show off; it’s because he wants to be of use to the child — to be relevant.

As I searched for that “relevant” cover, I came across the only time the magazine selected the individual as “person of the year”. I’d remembered there was a shiny paper mirror in place of a photo of a head of state or commerce. But I’d forgotten WHY they chose US. The caption says: “Yes, you. You control the Information Age. Welcome to your world.” The year was 2007, a year after the World Wide Web became widespread. “Not the Web that Tim Berners-Lee hacked together [1991] as a way for scientists to share research,” said the piece. “It’s not even the overhyped dotcom Web of the late 1990s. The new Web is a very different thing. It’s a tool for bringing together the small contributions of millions of people and making them matter. Silicon Valley consultants call it Web 2.0, as if it were a new version of some old software. But it’s really a revolution….”

“It’s a tool for bringing together the small contributions of millions of people and making them matter,” it goes on to say. “This is an opportunity to build a new kind of international understanding, not politician to politician, great man to great man, but citizen to citizen, person to person. It’s a chance for people to look at a computer screen and really, genuinely wonder who’s out there looking back at them.”

Seems quaint in its naivete and idealism, doesn’t it? Today, many of all ages are skeptical, suspicious and callous about the chance that connectivity brings “citizen to citizen”. And they do wonder — but now with the squinted eye of a skeptic — “who  is genuinely out there looking back at them”. And tech itself has divided along the lines of digital literacy, and cultural norms. So many elders have told us they feel “left behind” and it’s too hard to catch up. They fear everything is going by way of the gadget. And yet Millenials are back to reading books on paper…perhaps because they grew up on Harry Potter! Older adults needn’t fear technology’s overtaking us, so long as we have a voice in what is relevant.  

The excellent website NextAvenue (“Where grown ups keep growing”) presented both sides of the conversation a few years ago, by writer and advocate Debbie Reslock. Promoting the importance of connections, ahe said, “What changes with age is the sources of one’s relevancy. She cited  a counter thought by Peter Bregman in the Harvard Business Review who pooh poo’s the whole idea!

“People who achieve financial and positional success are masters at doing things that make and keep them relevant,” Bregman wrote. “Their decisions affect many others. Their advice lands on eager ears. In many cases, if not most, they derive their self-concept and a strong dose of self-worth from the fact that what they do and what they say—in many cases even what they think and feel—matters to others…..” Then, he promotes irrelevancy he says comes with retirement.

“Still, there is a silver lining to this kind of irrelevancy: freedom,” he writes. When your purpose shifts like this, you can do what you want. You can take risks. You can be courageous. You can share ideas that may be unpopular. You can live in a way that feels true and authentic. In other words, when you stop worrying about the impact of what you do, you can be a fuller version of who you are,” he writes.

“Notice what happens when you pay attention to the present without needing to fix or prove anything,” says Bregman. “Notice how, even when you’re irrelevant to the decisions, actions, and outcomes of the world around you, you can feel the pleasure of simple moments and purposeless interactions. Notice how, even when you feel irrelevant, you can matter to yourself.”

I don’t buy it! Yeah- maybe we we don’t control our universe —  through technology or other ways  – but I bet to that child, his grandfather is Person of the Year.  The boy may ask Alexa, Siri or Google for the answer to his questions, but he looks up at his grandfather to know what questions to ask. Nothing’s changed. Thank Goodness.

Emails are like whispered secrets when the lights are out at a pajama party…

agatha-christie (1)

Agatha Christie at work

I’ve kept a diary since 1956. (yeah – old enough to spell back then) and have warned my family that if they ever find them, please know I had a wonderful happy life, but tend to write only when I’m upset. This morning a friend who has been on a medically propelled roller coaster with her husband apologized for using our email exchange as a “venue to vent”.  And that got me thinking…

In my work leading older adults in English-speaking countries to overcome their fears of the Internet and email, I realize cyber-use can invoke harmful scams on the elderly. But I still think the good outweighs the bad. Today makes me realize  how many friends and family members I write to on the spur-of-the-moment — a thought, a fear, an idea! I think of how the unconnected 80-year-old in her apartment missed the immediate cyber community of mutual grieving after recent mass murders in Pittsburgh. And didn’t get an email or text from a grandchild asking “Are you OK?” or “I’m SO upset!”.

Emails are like whispered secrets when the lights are out at a pajama party…it’s one way communication until someone responds in asymmetrical time, and often we share thoughts and feelings with a keyboard that we might hold back face to face or phone.

So when dear friend apologized for “going on”  and [using her email] as a “venting venue” — while adding “But that’s what good friends are for”,  I saw so clearly that we could be there for one another — in a sudden spurt of truth. That one can pour out a thought at 2 in the morning to anyone else, anywhere. so long as they’re connected.

The other day, an elderly man who was tethered to an oxygen tank in a nursing home learned to use SKYPE for the first time. “Oh, man! I can do this with my kids!? I can see my kids all over the country??!!”  When asked how many grown children he had, he said “Twelve – I got 12 kids, and I’m gonna get one of these things [a tablet] so I can see them!!!”  He also learned to use email. Wonder if he’ll share his secret joys and sadness.

Yeah – venting venues are good places to go.


Was it the hair or the humor? Why was Barbara Bush so popular?

800px-Barbara_Bush_at_LBJ_Presidential_Libraryphoto by Lauren Gerson; public domain

In the white house and after, Barbara Bush  was admired and adored. 83% of Americans rated Bush favorably throughout her time as first lady, making her by far the most favorably viewed first lady in recent U.S. history, says Gallup.

Makes me wonder if she was as popular to the masses when she was younger. In this 1966 picture when George Bush won his seat for Congress, she looks somewhat startled and passive, smiling with her mouth but not with her eyes!


According to The New York Times, after she became first lady, she said her support for the Bush administration had limits: “I won’t dye my hair, change my wardrobe or lose weight.”  I bet that’s when she gained her popularity! An inspiration for us to revel in aging – to let the decades give us license to speak our minds and look as we wish.

Another outspoken octogenarian, Madeleine Albright, former first female Secretary of State, uses salty language unapologetically and says she found her voice only at age 55.  Do you think there’s hope for us – that Baby Boomer and younger women can one day brag about the wrinkles rather than Botox them? As Dr. Albright says on her book tour — “See something? ; say something; DO something!”

You can’t be worrying about what others think of you when you’re busy doing something significant.

Or is that just my excuse?

Medicare 101: What You Need to Know

A guest blog from Boomer Benefits

Most people know that Medicare is a national health insurance program for people age 65 and older and for certain individuals with disabilities or serious health conditions. Outside of that though, we don’t really have to think about Medicare much until we are turning 65 ourselves. Then we learn that Medicare has 4 parts and 10 standardized supplement plans and literally dozens of drug plan choices in every state.

Figuring out all these moving parts can be overwhelming because most of us have never had to make such complex health insurance decisions before.

Fortunately, while it seems confusing at first, Medicare actually works a lot like the coverage that we’ve each had before from a former employer. It includes hospital, outpatient, and drug coverage. There are premiums that we pay for certain parts, and there are some deductibles and copays as well.

Let’s break it down into pieces to make it simpler.

Original Medicare Benefits and Premiums

Back in 1965 when Medicare was created, they broke into two parts. We still call this Original Medicare today. Parts A and B are the basic building blocks of Medicare coverage. Part A covers inpatient hospital expenses including skilled nursing facilities. Part B covers outpatient medical benefits, such as preventive care, doctor’s visits, lab work and even surgeries. If Medicare is the primary insurance, people need both parts.

As long as an individual has worked and paid FICA taxes for at least 10 years in the U.S, Part A will cost nothing.  Those taxes have pre-paid the Part A coverage. People who don’t have the 10 years work history can qualify under their spouse’s work history if it is sufficient. They can also buy into Part A.

Part B has a monthly premium that is based on the modified, adjusted household gross income. For most new enrollees, this premium is $134/month, but it can be higher if earnings fall into a higher income bracket. Check out this chart to see the four tiers of income and their associated premiums: Medicare Costs page.

Medicare Cost-Sharing

Whenever beneficiaries access their Medicare benefits, there will be some cost-sharing that they are responsible for. Medicare Part A has a $1340 deductible in 2018. If someone has more than one hospital stay in a year that is separated by at least 60 days outside of the hospital, they could pay this deductible more than once. Also, if a hospital stay lasts longer than 60 consecutive days, Medicare begins to charge a daily hospital copay that is quite expensive. Benefits run out at 150 days.

Part B also has a deductible, but it is a much smaller annual deductible. After that deductible has been met, Medicare will pay 80% of approved outpatient expenses. The Medicare beneficiary is responsible for the other 20%

For this reason, many people enroll in some form of additional coverage. There are Medicare supplement plans that pay after Medicare to help fill in the gaps. These plans have no networks. Policyholders can see any Medicare provider in the nation, which is nearly 900,000 providers.

When a person first enrolls in Medicare, they have an opportunity to get a Medigap plan with no health questions asked. This is called the Medicare Supplement Open Enrollment.

There are also Medicare Advantage options, which are called Part C of Medicare.  These plans offer al the same Part A and B benefits, but that care is provided by a private insurance company instead of through Original Medicare. These plans usually have smaller networks in local areas but may have lower premiums than Medicare plans. Read more about those options here: Medicare Advantage vs Medigap.

Part D Drug Plans

For over 40 years, people on Medicare did not have outpatient drug coverage. Luckily Congress created Medicare Part D and rolled it out in 2006, so we now have very good Part D options.

Part D functions kind of like a pharmacy card. It gives beneficiaries access to a formulary of medications. Instead of paying the entire cost of the medication, enrollees pay just a copay. Beneficiaries enroll in Part D directly with an insurance company.

Every state has multiple Part D plans to choose from, but Medicare’s website has a Plan Finder Tool to help individuals find one that is cost-effective and carries all the needed medications.

Part D is voluntary, but we strongly encourage enrollment for anyone that doesn’t have another means of drug coverage, such as VA benefits. There are many expensive medications these days for conditions like cancer and chemotherapy that cost thousands and would be likely out of reach without Part D coverage.

No One Has to Go It Alone

It would be great if Medicare offered classes to teach us about how all this works. Since it doesn’t, you learn as much as you can through reading and researching. Start by visiting your local insurance agent or checking out Medicare’s website at www.medicare.gov.

 Danielle Kunkle is a co-founder at Boomer Benefits, where her team helps Baby Boomers navigate their entry into Medicare.


Caught in the Web of Time

autumn-1072827_960_720As the leaves turn, the sky changes, and school begins anew it always brings back childhood memories for me. Think of the autumns  you lived through. If you keep even the most erratic form of a diary or calendar books, you have some perspective. Have you changed? We scrutinize ourselves for lines or spots or receding hairlines, clothes that now tug, or shoes that don’t fit, but what about the INSIDE? Have you really changed over the years  – your dharma  – the essentials that make you, you?

Twenty years ago, when I was exploring why some people age so well and others don’t, I learned from the Baltimore Longitudinal Study that in aging we actually just enhance our essential selves. Hard wiring gets more fixed — though we create many more offshoots. That means that two 75-years olds are far different from one another than they would have been at age 18.  Nonetheless, the curious person becomes more curious; the grouchy one, more grouchy.

One advantage of the World Wide Web is to have an easy way back in time. To see the songs and books popular in our youth, the actual facts our memories may condense or blur. OMG is it REALLY 55 years since Marilyn Monroe died? Ah, i THOUGHT it was a Sunday when I was born! But had forgotten that the Berlin Wall was erected overnight in 1961.

Long-term memory remains even as we forget the name of the person we just met ten minutes ago. So although the Web is fantastic for instant facts and data, it’s more fun to try to name all the presidents with their vice presidents throughout your lifetime without any assistants, screen or Siri.

I’m astounded at the memories our older learners at Generations on Line recall. And very happy to provide them with onscreen instructions for those lapses in the unimportant though useful thoughts, such as how to make the @sign for an email address.

Here’s to autumn, to happy memories, to perspective, to hard wiring, and to the World Wide Web – whose first website was posted in 1990! (I had to look that up!)


That Einstein quote – and who really wrote it!

The other day someone sent me one of those circulating jokes titled “What Einstein Feared Most Has Arrived”.  NO! it wasn’t about Nukes. it was a series of photos showing a family at the beach….sitting on bench together — all staring down grim faced at their phones. A couple on a date, food in mouth, typing on their individual devices. Three young women clearly in a Museum of Art, seated on a bench, doing email. And Einstein’s quote: “I fear the day that technology will surpass our human interaction. The world will have a generation of idiots.” But the grammar threw me, and I wondered if A.E. really ever said that. So, once again, through the fast free power of the Web I consulted the Quote Investigator (https://quoteinvestigator.com/2013/03/19/tech-surpass/) who debunked the attribution.

So who would issue this “fake” quote? Perhaps one of the 17 million older, wiser Americans whose perspective brings this phone fixation into greater clarity. We all talk about tech compulsion but since we also do it, we don’t rage. They do!

Our elders who are by chance or choice offline are building up defenses that makes them reluctant to join us, despite the obvious advantages of free instant information and connections.  I’ve met many of them over the past two decades as we created Generations on Line (www.generationsonline.org.)

Who are they, and why are they mad? “If I get one of those things, my grandkids are never gonna visit me — they’ll just ‘text’,” was one answer from a woman with warm eyes and a resolved smile. As we approach the contrived holiday of “Grandparents’ Day” September 10, perhaps a lovely compromise would be the gift of sharing this wondrous tool called the Internet with them along with a commitment to use it with them only to enhance and not replace the face to face to connection. FaceTime, anyone?

This author and her team have created free apps with large type and familiar language instructions on every screen. “Easy Tablet Help For Seniors” in Google Play and “Generations on Line” in iTunes and Apple APP store. I think A.E. would approve.


What makes a woman beautiful?

How to look better at 75 than 50?

It’s in the eyes!

I looked around the table at 12 older women in a low income subsidized residence building last week.

At first I saw the posture, revealing or signaling a range of attitudes — from hunched helplessness to ramrod pride.

Then I noticed the mouths – frowning as though it was the normal state for that mouth. Or open in wonder, ready to laugh. Or tightly shut — perhaps so not to let the wrong words out. These mouths had worn this frame for decades.

Hair styles or scarves –one even in a shower cap  – can’t escape notice.

But what really told the story was the eyes.

The hooded, half closed ones that seemed to stop just behind the pupil with no visible interest in the present.

The crinkly, smiley ones that looked with obvious seeing.

Those smiling eyes moved with the moment. they revealed curiosity.

After studying aging – and why some people seem to age so well and others not for nearly two decades, I’ve learned the key to successful aging: it’s curiosity! The curious stay flexible in mind and spirit. They look beautiful because they are looking at you.

Here are some of my favorite beautiful women pictures.