The Best Way To Make Your Smartphone and Other Digital Devices Do More? Adopt an Adventurous Attitude!

Seniors at Computers

Tips To Tame Technology and Make It Your Friend Instead of a Foe

Figuring out how to navigate the digital world can be intimidating. With more of the world communicating electronically, it’s easy to feel as though you’re getting left behind.

Let’s say your doctor’s office has left a message for you on the patient portal but you don’t know how to access it. Or your granddaughter has sent you an email and attached a video of her new baby—your first great-grandchild—but you don’t know how to open the file.

It can seem as though everyone else knows how to use all of this technology, and they make it look so easy.

It is easy when you’ve grown up with it. But for those of us who grew up sending handwritten cards and letters, and buying record albums instead of downloading MP3s, it’s often more challenging.

How can you feel more comfortable about using your smartphone, computer or digital tablet?

We spoke with a few residents here at Heron’s Key who offer digital assistance to their friends and neighbors. They provided some great tips and advice, which we’ll share with you — so take heart and read on!

First and Foremost: Don’t Be Afraid To Experiment

Learning more about all you can do with your devices can be like the first few months of college: You discover how much you don’t know.

For example, you probably know that you can use your smartphone to send and receive emails and text messages. You probably also know that you can play music on it, even if you don’t know how.

Did you know, though, that your phone can also be used as a flashlight, a timer, an alarm clock and a magnifying glass with or without a light?

One of the residents we spoke with, Karen Coles, has been tutoring people who want to learn more about their smartphones and tablets in one-on-one sessions.

She can show them how to increase the size of the print and the brightness of their screens so they’re easier to read. If someone wants to learn how to take photos on their phone, she’ll walk them through the steps and then teach them how to text or email the photos.

If someone asks about using an app, whether it’s already on their device or not, she’ll help them access it and show them how it works. She also assists people who are ready to buy their first smartphone or tablet.

Her best piece of advice? Don’t be afraid to experiment.

“People are afraid that they’re going to do something wrong,” she says. “They need to realize that they’ll learn more easily if they’re willing to experiment and see what happens.”

“This is the digital world we are living in today. People are realizing that they need to be a part of the current world, and not the world they grew up in,” says Karen.

Begin With the Basics

We also chatted with Al Vazquez, one of the earliest residents at Heron’s Key, about common requests he and other members of the Communications Committee get from residents in our community.

He told us they frequently find that people don’t understand the difference between a browser and a search engine. Some don’t understand email servers, like Apple Mail, Gmail and Yahoo, either. For some people, Al says, “it’s all one big hodgepodge of Google out there, and that’s all they think about” when they’re online.

If you just kind of fumble around online until you eventually accomplish what you want to do, you likely get pretty frustrated at times.

You could ask Al for help if you lived here. As an alternative, he suggested asking a friend to teach you the basics. He explained that a friend may be more patient than a family member—and maybe more empathetic. After all, there are at least a couple of generations now that never knew life without the internet.

In Case You’re Wondering, the Difference Is…

A browser is basically a program you use on a digital device to display websites. Your device has a default browser built into its operating system. These are examples of browsers:

  • Safari
  • Chrome
  • Firefox
  • Opera
  • Microsoft Edge

A search engine is a specific website you use to perform searches. These are examples of search engines:

  • Google
  • Yahoo
  • Bing
  • AOL
  • DuckDuckGo

You have to launch, or open, a browser on your computer, tablet or smartphone before you can access the internet. Where you go from there depends on your device’s settings. Some people set a search engine website (e.g., Google) as their browser’s default homepage. That website automatically loads when they launch the browser.

Understanding the difference between a browser and a search engine can make your life easier.

For instance, if you want to find a nearby restaurant that serves Italian food, you might take these steps:

  1. Launch the browser (by clicking on the icon on your computer desktop or tapping the app on your phone or tablet’s screen).
  2. If you have a search engine website as your default homepage, that will load. In this case, you would type something like “find Italian restaurant near me” in the designated search space (often in the middle of the page or screen).
  3. If something other than a search engine website loads when you launch your browser, newer operating systems let you use the address bar at the top of the screen to conduct a search—you type in whatever it is you want to look for directly in the address bar.
  4. When you submit your search request, another page will load with a list of search results.
  5. You can scroll through the results to see which ones interest you. You can click or tap on a given result to go to the website. Online Safety Tip: Only visit websites that start with “https://”to make sure they are secure.

But what if you want to check your bank balance? You don’t need to do a search because you already have a specific website as your intended destination. In this case, you could take these steps:

  1. Launch the browser.
  2. Type the name of the bank in the address bar (on your computer screen) or the search space (on your mobile device). You may not even have to finish typing the whole name. You’ll probably see suggested results as you type, and you can click on the one you want.
  3. The page that loads should be your bank’s website.

Shortcuts, favorites and bookmarks can also save you a lot of time. Ask a knowledgeable friend or relative to show you how they work.

A Few Words About Passwords

Do you get annoyed by having to constantly look up your log-in information for apps and websites? If so, you might want to consider using a password manager. Some are free, whereas others require a subscription.

With a password manager, you only need to remember one password: the one to access your password manager.

In addition, Al explained that password managers can suggest strong passwords to help you stay safe when using the internet.

Virtual Advantages

Many residents here learned how to use Zoom and FaceTime during the pandemic. It truly was the next-best thing to being there when we couldn’t get together in person with family and friends. Members of the Communications Committee helped their neighbors make the connections.

Committee members also collaborated with management to establish our own in-house TV channel, HKTV 370. As a result, residents throughout Heron’s Key discovered with delight that they could attend all sorts of events from their living room, such as:

  • Live and prerecorded lectures at universities near and far
  • Performances by the Seattle Symphony orchestra, the Pacific Northwest Ballet and other performing arts organizations
  • Town hall events featuring political candidates during the elections
  • Emergency preparedness presentations
  • Fitness classes led by our very own personal trainers
  • The “Who Am I?” series, featuring the fascinating residents within our community

Oscar Roberto, who oversees the tech group responsible for HKTV 370, mentioned that soon we will also be able to enjoy live Broadway shows on the in-house station.

We also held a variety of virtual events for people who wanted to learn more about Heron’s Key. You can still access many of those virtual events and look for upcoming events, too.

Senior Living at Its Finest

If you’re looking at retirement communities in Washington state—including those that offer independent living in Gig Harbor, as well as assisted living and extended care living—we hope you’ll make sure that Heron’s Key is on your list.

We offer an active lifestyle with an impressive assortment of activities for seniors. In a single day, you could go to a water aerobics class, venture out on a group hike, attend a virtual Lifelong Learning presentation and participate in any of more than 40 resident-led interest groups.

We’d love to see you soon!