Joining the digital world: Embracing new technology


By Kevin Opsahl

Logan, Utah – At 92 years young, Cache Valley native Dorie Thorpe is diving head-first into 21st-century technology.

On her iPad, she might read the news or e-books (political biographies on the Kennedys and “Game of Thrones”), swap pictures with family or ask questions on Google.

And she’s got her own Facebook profile. Thorpe emphasizes she doesn’t post much, but she likes to update friends on her gardening projects; interests listed on her profile include the television show “The View.”

Now, Thorpe’s on her third computer and third iPad.

“It’s my best friend,” Thorpe said of her iPad. “When I think of what’s happened in my lifetime, I’m astounded. I think I’ve lived in the best times.”

Thorpe’s activities are part of a larger trend of more seniors using technology. According to the Pew Research Center, six out of 10 seniors (those age 65 and over) go online. Most of these seniors are “younger, higher-income, and more highly educated” and “use the Internet and broadband at rates approaching — or even exceeding — the general population,” Pew said.

“Once seniors join the online world, digital technology often becomes an integral part of their daily lives,” the Pew report said.

That notion was clearly illustrated recently when a 113-year-old Minnesota woman decided to sign up on Facebook and lied about her age because the website’s profile settings didn’t go past age 99.

Natalie Gregory, a Logan Library assistant, teaches several courses for “Learning (at) The Library” that deal with a variety of electronics, from e-books to email.

She said the classes typically get a handful of senior citizens from Utah State University’s annual “Summer Citizens” program, which offers fun courses for seniors who typically travel from retirement communities in Arizona and other states and stay in dorms for the summer.

However, there are plenty of local seniors in Cache Valley who want to learn too, Gregory said.    The seniors, she noted, want to become familiar with the functionality of electronics because “they realize it’s everywhere”

“From the way they do banking to the way they interact with families and other people,” she said. “It really is that they’re recognizing how pervasive technology is, and they want to become more confident.”

Gregory applauds the seniors that have introduced this kind of technology into their daily lives.

“I think it shows just how tough they can be,” she said. “If you think about all of the things that have changed in the last 60 to 80 years, that’s a lot of change. And I think when they embrace that change, it proves that they’re strong, and they’re not going anywhere fast. It shows they’re smart, and that’s not something that diminishes with age.”

Gregory said seniors learning how to use technology “creates a unity” between generations.

However, Pew reports that seniors are still “lagging behind younger Americans” when it comes to adopting technology. Seniors can face hurdles in adopting these new technologies, Pew said, including health, skeptical attitudes, or difficulty learning how it works. Internet use and broadband adoption each drop off dramatically around age 75, Pew said.

Thorpe said she has few friends of her own age who “embrace the high-tech stuff.”

“My friends that do use it are all 20 years younger than I am!” she said with a laugh.

Even though she’s active online, Thorpe’s careful.

“I don’t like people who expose themselves; I’m too private to post,” Thorpe said. “There should be some privacy in our individual lives.”

As technology consumes younger generations, Thorpe said she’s more likely to participate in a game of Bridge than become engrossed in a round of Candy Crush Saga. She prefers a hearty conversation by phone or face to face over texting.

“I think with Facebook and iPhone, people are losing their ability to communicate,” the 92-year-old said. “For the younger generation, that’s part of life. It takes something away. Communicating face to face is much more satisfying.” — AP/The Herald Journal