Older adults can find help through programs aimed at those who are not technically savvy.
For older adults who didn’t grow up with computers, getting your laptop or desktop fixed can be a challenge. A simple problem such as your computer stopped communicating with your wireless printer can cause much frustration.
You can Google your problem, but the directions you find on a tech support website may include terminology you’re not familiar with and cause even more headaches. Other websites could offer to fix the problem but might ask for personal information or a small fee, with no guarantee that they can repair the issue or that the whole thing isn’t a scam.
So if your computer keeps freezing up or is running slow, where can you go for help?
In Colorado, a company called GroovyTek offers “personal technology training sessions” for older adults. Its name—and the psychedelic design of its advertisements — targets baby boomers—the generation that came of age in the “groovy” era of the 1970s. GroovyTek believes “people over 40 are being mistreated and ignored by Silicon Valley.” For $90, a representative will come to your home and give you a personal consultation, speaking “on your own terms”—presumably in language not too technical.
Programs Aimed at Seniors
Besides GroovyTek, other programs offer support and education for older adults, either for free or for a fee. AARP has partnered with Best Buy’s Geek Squad to offer AARP members access to support technicians by phone, online or in the store. “Tech Support for AARP Members” includes a personal tech shopper; setup and installation of computers, tablets and peripherals; and troubleshooting and repair services. It’s no surprise that AARP partnered with the Geek Squad, as more than one-third of Geek Squad’s service subscribers are between the ages of 55 and 64.
Several nonprofit organizations focus on teaching computer skills. SeniorNet has been training older adults about the computer and Internet since 1986. Its yearly membership fee gives you access to learning centers in 17 states and to the SeniorNet website’s members-only parts. It claims to have worked with two million boomers and seniors.
Oasis Connections provides computer, Internet and mobile technology classes in 30 U.S. cities. It partners with local libraries, job help centers, senior centers and faith-based organizations.
In New York City, Older Adults Technology Services (OATS) has worked with government agencies, community-based organizations, national advocacy groups and major corporations to build the country’s largest and most comprehensive municipal technology program for seniors, serving over 20,000 people each year and sustaining 24 technology labs across the city.
In addition, libraries, senior centers and local colleges offer computer and personal technology classes for older adults. You can call your Area Agency on Aging to find out what’s available near you (to find your local number AAA number, call the Eldercare Locator at 800-677-1116 or check the website). Lifelong Learning Institutes, which are usually affiliated with colleges and universities, often offer technology courses. To find one, contact your closest colleges.
Support From Your Computer Maker
Many people turn to their computer’s manufacturer, using online tech support—either the company’s website or a chat or email with a tech support person. When Consumer Reports surveyed users about different companies, it found that Apple tech support was by far the most effective of any computer brand’s. With most Windows PCs, it found only a 50-50 chance that the manufacturer’s tech support could fix the problem. Consumer Reports also found that those who made a phone call, versus going to the website, were more satisfied with the results.
Consumer Reports discovered that computer owners had generally good experiences when they used a walk-in store. Apple’s Genius Bars rated the best, with Best Buy’s Geek Squad and Staples’ EasyTech not far behind. Business News Daily gave the Geek Squad its top award in providing online tech support for business owners and also praised Support.com, another online tech support business.
“Where to go for computer tech support,” May 28, 2015, Consumer Reports.
“The Top Online Tech Support Services,” Oct. 9, 2013, Business News Daily.
“GroovyTek: Heck yeah, we’re from Centennial,” April 25, 2016, Denver Post.
“Tech Help for Granny? Geek Squad to the Rescue,” April 25, 2012, Business News Daily.
Blog posting provided by Society of Certified Senior Advisors