All that tech you wrapped and put under the tree seemed like such a terrific idea when you were shopping. A Roku! A new phone! A sweet new laptop! You killed the gift-giving. But now that the presents are opened and everyone is playing with their toys, you are starting to feel like the new guy on the tech support helpline. Answering the first question from Papa was fun. Helping Nana get her new tablet set up was rewarding. But the millionth question? You are seriously considering charging by the minute. Maybe the gift you forgot was an unlimited subscription to online tech support for everyone born before 1993? Because you know what? That’s a thing.
Teaching people to use technology when they are intimidated and haven’t kept up — and so are unfamiliar with everything from Bluetooth to network security — is a specialized skill, which explains that frustration that is making you snappish as you try to help. There are people who have this skill. And they are available, right now, by phone, streaming video, and online chat.
Here’s how to find them.
Help from a Human
When the questions exceed your ability — or patience — send people to JustAnswer, where they can ask any question they have, talk about it for as long as they like, and keep talking about it until they are satisfied. No one will snap at them and the experts know what they are doing. They just log on, ask a question, and get paired with an expert – in seconds.
A monthly subscription – where you can pelt as many lawyers, doctors, tech experts, veterinarians, car mechanics, and more with questions to your heart’s content — is just $74.
Right after Christmas is a busy time for the tech experts at JustAnswer. Last year, they fielded over 50,000 questions about gadgets after Christmas. Most were about TVs and smartphones, but tech noobs also sought help setting up e-readers, stereo systems, hi-tech exercise equipment, and home security systems.
If the tech gifts have sparked a curiosity to learn more from your elder relatives, though, you might want to step in and make some learning opportunities accessible. Technology is a tool. It’s when you learn to use it that it opens doors.
GetSetUp is an online learning site designed to help seniors get up to speed on technology, one task at a time. Whether they need someone to help them figure out how to host a Zoom call, order groceries online, or call a Lyft, there are short classes — taught by real people — on all sorts of tech topics. Some are short and sweet. And some will help elders dig in and learn something substantive, such as editing video, blogging, or setting up an eBay store. Technology is only one of the topics covered at this online platform for seniors. There are classes on financial planning, wellness, creativity, and more. There are also social hours where seniors get together in Zoom chats to socialize and discuss specific topics. The classes are live, online, and have other seniors in them. The price per class starts at free. You can gift a subscription to unlimited classes for $90 a year.
You don’t want to send your elder family members –- or anyone — out into the world during a pandemic to take a class at the YMCA, an Apple or Microsoft store, or anywhere else, even if they need help learning technology in order to survive these isolating times. Fortunately, you don’t have to.
Apple launched a virtual classroom — Today at Apple @Home — back in April. It’s full of short, free, streaming lessons in everything from taking terrific photos and videos with an iPhone to learning to use Garage Band. These are streaming classes you can take at any time.
Microsoft, too, once purveyors of terrific in-store learning for that company’s products, has moved its education efforts online, at least for now. If someone needs help learning to use Microsoft Office, wants to skill up on Minecraft, or more, they can log on and tap into a wide range of free, streaming classes. These are live classes, with a teacher. You have to register and attend at a specific time, but they are free.
The AARP also offers free online technology education to members, and it’s designed specifically for seniors. The course catalog is huge and addresses everything an older friend or family might want to know, whether they are new to technology, new to a particular piece of technology, or just want to up their game. Some of these are live classes and some are video. And there are courses in many subjects other than technology such as health and wellness, spotting fraud, and finances.
The technology you love and decided to give is so much more than a toy, which is why you love it. It’s a window into a world. And it is driving enormous change in education. Helping your elder relatives learn about their technology by showing them how to learn online might open more doors than you anticipated. Maybe Nana will start with a class in getting her new phone set up and discover a passionate online community of friends and teachers that will change everything about aging in place. That’s a lot better than a thank you card.