Tampa computer repair experts help seniors stay connected online
Senior citizens represent the fastest-growing group of Internet users with more than half currently surfing online. And in Florida, with the highest rate of seniors in the nation, Tampa computer repair technicians say their elderly consumer base’s growth reflects the national trend.
Bryan Swingler, owner of highly-rated computer service company Savvy Enterprizes in Largo, says senior citizens, some of them in their 90s, make up about 85 percent of his clientele. “Some of them are just gung-ho little computer whizzes, and others don’t even have an anti-virus program,” says Swingler. “Most of them want to converse with their grandkids and stuff like that. A lot of them just use the Internet to research things they see on TV, since just about anything on TV these days refers you back to a website.”
The Pew Research Center, which tracks Internet traffic, says people over age 65 comprise the fastest-growing users of the Internet and social media – 39 percent of all seniors went online at least occasionally in 2009, compared to 53 percent in 2012. According to the Pew report, seniors say they use the Internet to keep up with family members and old friends and find support for chronic diseases.
Niecie Halfon of Palm Harbor says she sees more of her friends online now than when she began using a computer 10 years ago. “They use the Internet more frequently than they bother to pick up the telephone to call these days!” she says. The 86-year-old relies on Sheldon Livingston, owner of highly-rated VSL Computer Services in Seminole, to keep her computer in working order. “He’s built in all kinds of security so it doesn’t get infected, and when I get into trouble, he can take over remotely to work out the problems,” she says.
Livingston says many senior citizens view the Internet suspiciously after hearing horror stories of privacy invasions and stolen identities, and as a result, they’re sometimes more cynical and safe on the Internet than people who have grown up with it and take it for granted.“Most of my clients are very cautious about the Internet and don’t get taken in by the dubious or illegitimate things,” he says. “If something weird pops up on their screen, they’re more likely to stop what they’re doing and call me rather than be taken in by it. With remote services, I can get into their computer right away and see if it’s a problem. Younger people are more likely to try to click their way out of a problem and get in over their heads.”
Rates vary by provider, so shop around. Highly rated CPR – Computer Problem Resolutions in Tampa charges $45 per hour. Swingler charges $65 per hour, and Livingston charges $95 for the first half hour and $20 per 15 minutes afterward, or $49.95 per hour for members of his $19.95 monthly maintenance plan.
Livingston says the most common advice he offers senior clients mirrors best practices for all computer users: Back up often, keep current with system updates, and maintain virus protection. His monthly plan includes all three, as well as phone support. “My customers have told me the most important thing to them is having someone to call if there’s a problem,” he says.