Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Donate Computer Equipment to a Senior Center!

In a Press Release entitled "Department of Aging Offers Surplus Computer Monitors to Senior Centers", dated May 14, 2007, the Pennsylvania Department of Aging noted its special program to recycle functional, surplus computer equipment for use at senior centers in the Commonwealth.

Secretary of Aging Nora Dowd Eisenhower said today that the Rendell administration will provide 150 state surplus computer monitors to senior community centers across Pennsylvania.

“The computers available for use at many senior community centers provide older adults with access to a wealth of information that can help them to better manage their lives,” Eisenhower said. “A growing number of older adults use the Internet for communicating with friends and family, as well as conducting financial transactions and continuing their education.

“I would like to express my appreciation to the leadership of the state Senate, who felt it was important to make these surplus computers available to older Pennsylvanians,” she added.

A surplus distribution program in November 2005 organized by the department distributed personal computers to senior centers through 17 Area Agency of Aging offices. The centers were located in Beaver, Berks, Chester, Clearfield, Dauphin, Franklin, Indiana, Jefferson, Mifflin, Juniata, Monroe, Montgomery, Northampton, Pike, Somerset, Union, Snyder and Westmoreland counties.

The new computer monitors will be available to senior centers across the state.

On May 15, 2007, I sent email messages to Harriet B. Withstandley, Esq., the Chief Counsel of the PA DoA, and to Nora Dowd Eisenhower, the PA Secretary of Aging, inquiring whether senior centers could also accept donations of usable computer equipment from other sources.
I know that most law firms are replacing older CRT monitors with flat screen LCD monitors.

Would there be a conduit for lawyers or law firms to donate such monitors to senior centers too? If so, I would like to mention this on my Blog.

Harriet replied affirmatively.

* * * I think that mentioning it in your blog is a great idea.

[Y]ou could certainly recommend that lawyers and others contact local senior centers before discarding old monitors or other equipment, such as printers.

Nora replied, simply: "Great idea!"

Announcement of the redesign of the PA DoA's website (see: PA Aging Dept Unveils New Resource Website, 08/21/07) reminded me about the need for computer equipment in senior centers -- and also about the "great idea" that I failed to mention on this Blog since May. I correct that now.

The last paragraph of the Press Release issued August 20, 2007, noted the use of computers at senior centers:

Older adults who do not have a computer at home can access the Department of Aging’s Web site by using a computer at a senior center, local library or family member’s home.
There are many other benefits to senior citizens who utilize computers. The Senior Journal has reported about some:
  • "Senior Citizens Who Master Computer Have Less Depression" (Aug. 18, 2005) – Senior citizens who become adept at using a computer appear to have fewer depressive symptoms than those older adults who aren’t so technologically connected. That’s the finding of a research study, Depression and Social Support Among Older Adult Computer Users, presented August 18, [2005,] at the 113th Annual Convention of the American Psychological Association. * * *

  • "Senior Citizens Play Computer Game to Determine Memory Loss" (July 18, 2006) – Scientists said today they are using a popular computer card game – FreeCell – to help distinguish between senior citizens with memory problems and those without cognitive problems. Scientists with the Oregon Health & Science University's Oregon Center for Aging & Technology, or ORCATECH, found that a Solitaire-like game called FreeCell, when adapted with cognitive performance assessment algorithms, may be able to distinguish between persons with memory problems and cognitively healthy seniors. * * *

  • "Senior Citizens Seeking Discounts Should Not Overlook Coupons Online" (July 13, 2007) – When looking for senior discounts, be careful not to overlook one of the oldest sources of savings -- coupons. [M]any Internet sites offer meaningful discounts on everything from travel to electronics, as well as your favorite brand of chicken noodle soup. * * *

Seniors should adopt -- and many have already adopted -- use of the computer & the Internet as an essential component of living today.

One online software distributor, TuCows, posted an article, dated December 9, 2005, entitled "Computing for Seniors", noting that "many seniors shy away from computers". It then provided "some insights on why seniors and computers should get together."

There are many things seniors can use computers for.

SeniorNet suggest writing memoirs, tracing genealogy, starting a home business, planning finances, managing investments and banking, surfing the Internet, peer counseling, monitoring health and homes, and keeping up with the grandkids. * * *

E-mail is one of the greatest innovations of the modern age – if the people you know also use e-mail. The beauty of it is that you can write something brief, and it is immediate. Heavy computer users have e-mail conversations, sending short messages back and forth several times a day. Others check once a week, answering when they get a moment.

It is a wonderful way to keep in touch with children and grandchildren because younger people love computers and will be motivated to write to you often if they get mail from you.

Then there's shopping. Go to a shopping site and you are likely to get more information about a product than you would in a store. On top of that Web sites often have better deals because they have less overhead than a brick and mortar store. Finally, your purchases are delivered to your door. How great is that?!

One passage in that article reminded me how a computer, hooked to the Internet, can allow a disabled person "mobility":
The thing is that if you ever get to the point where mobility is an issue, the computer could become your window to the world.

Shopping, games, contact with friends and family are all possible with an Internet connection and a modest computer.

Learning some basic things you like to do is an investment in the future when you may depend on the machine to keep the texture of your life rich and varied. * * *
However, a significant danger facing "wired seniors", like all computer users, is online fraud, which occurs both though "spyware" and also by online "phishing".

The article "Wired Seniors" Sitting Ducks?", dated April 12, 2006, by Susannah Fox, of the Pew Internet & American Life Project, delves into the problem in great detail. This article followed her prior survey report, "
Older Americans and the Internet", dated March 28, 2004.

She concluded in her article:
Currently, the vast majority of Americans age 65 and older do not go online.

But that will likely change in a big way as the "silver tsunami" of internet-loving Baby Boomers swamps the off-line senior population in the next 10 years.

That demographic shift, paired with a rising tide of viruses, spyware, and other online critters, is cause for concern since there is evidence that older users are less likely than younger ones to take precautions against software intrusions and fraud. * * *
The seniors' computer learning, their online access, and that newly-acquired freedom could be provided at a senior center -- but only if it could offer
adequate computer hardware & software.

If you can donate
functional surplus computer hardware (CPUs, monitors, cable modems, printers, pointing devices, or other usable peripherals) to a senior center in your area, do it.

Urge your office to do it. Urge your professional associations or community groups to support doing it.

A participant at a Pennsylvania Senior Center could benefit greatly.