Computer training keeps Chicago seniors connected to family
Angie's List member Evie Barber, a former computer consultant in Downers Grove, Ill., says she enjoys helping her senior friends with their computers and teaching them how to connect to family and friends online.
But when her friend, Grace Shramek, 76, experienced computer virus and malicious software problems, she turned to highly rated RD Cutting Edge Tech Solutions in Woodridge, Ill., for assistance. "[Owner Russ Dehlinger] was very patient with Grace's needs," Barber says.
Shramek, also of Downers Grove, appreciated the help, which cost about $148. "I was really happy with how smoothly it runs, and now I use a program to clean out viruses and malware every week or so," she says.
Barber's friends represent a growing trend, as people over age 50 are among the fastest-growing users of the Internet and social media. The Pew Research Center, which tracks Internet traffic, says online use by people ages 50 to 64 increased by 88 percent in 2010. For those 65 or older, it doubled.
AARP research indicates that 61 percent of adults older than 50 feel at least somewhat comfortable with the Internet. Gerardo Cardenas, communications manager for AARP of Illinois, says staying connected with family is the most important reason they use the Internet and social media sites.
"More than half of the adults in our study were introduced to social media or the Internet by children or grandchildren," Cardenas says. "Facebook is very popular, compared to networking sites such as LinkedIn, because it's so focused on family and friends."
Kelley Boylan, owner of highly rated Zen Support in Chicago and one of Angie's List Magazine's 2009 Best Contractors, says he's seen quite an increase in recent years.
"Senior citizens probably make up half my business these days," he says. "They don't always like having to learn to do e-mail, surf the Web or go on Facebook, but it's where the world went, and they usually enjoy it once they figure it out."
Boylan says he charges $125 per hour for consulting, which includes follow-up and phone support.
Dehlinger says his senior clients enjoy sharing photos with family online. "The most common [software] program I install is Picasa for picture sharing," he says. "I set up a lot of webcams for videoconferencing, so they can talk to their grandkids across the country."
Shramek says she avoids Facebook because she doesn't want to share personal information online, but she often uses Picasa to share photos of her travels.
Dehlinger says more senior clients are using tablets such as the iPad. "They're simpler and easier to use than a computer," he says.
Security is Boylan's primary concern. His clients don't always know how to tell legitimate inquiries from potential scams, and he advises his clients to take great care when sharing sensitive information. "Twice just this month I've stopped somebody from a scam that was trying to get their money or their passwords," he says.